Former ACLU leader slams organization for pursuing ‘progressive’ agenda over defending free speech

Get the latest BPR news delivered free to your inbox daily. SIGN UP HERE

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) apparently has gone woke and is no longer primarily a stalwart defender of free speech absolutism.

Instead, it has devolved into more of a “political partisan, progressive organization,” its former longtime executive director claims.

During an interview with Bill Maher on the latter’s HBO show, Ira Glasser also revealed that the organization has adopted a gatekeeping approach for potential litigation.

“They just produced a couple of years ago new guidelines for lawyers in deciding what free speech cases to take. This is a requirement now for the national ACLU lawyers that before they take a case defending someone’s free speech, they have to make sure that the speech doesn’t offend or threaten other civil liberties values,” he asserted.

“In other words, before they’re gonna defend your free speech, they want to see what you say…what is the ACLU doing saying that?,” Glasser asked rhetorically.

Referring to the ACLU, Maher chimed in to say that “but your value is free speech.”

In an extreme example of advocating for unpopular causes, Maher recalled how in 1977 the ACLU even defended a group of neo-Nazis who sought to march in Skokie, Ill., in a case that went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I’m guessing the Nazis did not reflect your values,’ Maher said.

“That’s a good guess,” the affable Glasser replied, jocularly. “Actually, most of the speech we defended didn’t reflect our values…That’s the point.” Glasser served as executive director of the organization from 1978 to 2001.

Upon his retirement, the ACLU said that Glasser “transformed the American Civil Liberties Union from a ‘mom and pop’-style operation concentrated mainly in a few large cities to a nationwide civil liberties powerhouse”

“Organizations have a right to change,” Glasser admitted, “but the problem is, there isn’t any other ACLU. And if there isn’t somebody who is prepared to defend what you say, and prepared to defend what the Nazis say, and prepared to defend what people for abortion say, and are prepared to defend what people who are against abortion say, then the government gets to decide who can speak, and that’s the most dangerous thing of all.”


“If you’re hiring a lawyer to defend the First Amendment, you want to have a reasonable assumption that he likes the First Amendment. That he supports the First Amendment,” Glasser asserted in the context of the ACLU’s current hiring practices and its prevailing philosophy.

Maher began the discussion by acknowledging that he owes his career as a comedian to the right to free speech, which ACLU lawyers traditionally protected.

Although he has criticized the excesses of the left (particularly over COVID), the Trump-loathing liberal later in the discussion couldn’t resist an opportunity to take a shot at the GOP.

“Organizations do drift, right? I mean, the Republican Party used to be about small government and lower taxes. And now it’s become an authoritarian personality cult. I would [call] that a drift,” he claimed.

Separately, according to Reason magazine, the ACLU favors medical ID but not voter ID:

The [ACLU] has “waged war on the concept of voter ID laws—the idea that you should have to provide a photo ID in order to vote…But when it comes to vaccine passports—a roughly equivalent restriction on people’s civil liberties—the ACLU has not denounced them. On the contrary, it wholeheartedly supports them.”

Last fall, the ACLU raised eyebrows when it reportedly opposed a Loudoun County, Va., Circuit Court’s decision ordering the reinstatement of one or more teachers who were unwilling to use gender-affirming pronouns in class.

“The ACLU is taking the side of people that are looking to control the speech of teachers…We’ve lost free speech if we’ve lost the ACLU,” Fox News host Will Cain claimed at the time.

The nonprofit organization also prompted controversy in September 2021 when it altered a quote from the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to make it gender-neutral.

The ACLU subsequently apologized for the editing, although current executive director Anthony Romero  claimed that “Having spent time with Justice Ginsburg, I would like to believe that if she were alive today, she would encourage us to evolve our language to encompass a broader vision of gender, identity and sexuality.”


Please help us! If you are fed up with letting radical big tech execs, phony fact-checkers, tyrannical liberals and a lying mainstream media have unprecedented power over your news please consider making a donation to BPR to help us fight them. Now is the time. Truth has never been more critical!

Success! Thank you for donating. Please share BPR content to help combat the lies.
Robert Jonathan


We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, profanity, vulgarity, doxing, or discourteous behavior. If a comment is spam, instead of replying to it please click the ∨ icon below and to the right of that comment. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain fruitful conversation.

PLEASE JOIN OUR NEW COMMENT SYSTEM! We love hearing from our readers and invite you to join us for feedback and great conversation. If you've commented with us before, we'll need you to re-input your email address for this. The public will not see it and we do not share it.

Latest Articles