A commenter asked a while back, quite sincerely and honestly, I thought, how I could call myself a Christian and have an ACLU banner on my website. I’ve been meaning to repsond for a while now, and am prompted to finally do so by this article by Fran Quigley, the executive director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union.
But before I quote her article, allow me to quote Mr. Blue Gal. He knows a thing or two about the ACLU, as he has been in a leadership position within the ACLU of Alabama for some time now, making me, Mrs. Blue Gal, extremely proud in the bargain. I mentioned the “how can you be Christian and ACLU” comment to him (we’ve had this conversation many times on the way to and from church, actually) and he made the following point. I apologize to my readers for whom this sounds like Con Law for Dummies, but I needed this primer and maybe others do, too.
There are two clauses in the Constitution related to the separation of Church and State. One is called the Establishment Clause. This clause prevents the Government from establishing a State-sponsored church. There will be no “Church of America” as there is a “Church of England.” I usually roll my eyes when people involve the Founding Fathers in their political arguments, but in this instance there is no question: the Founding Fathers did not want a “Church of England” style relationship between any religious institution and the American government. Therefore, “Congress shall make no law establishing” such a church.
The other clause is the “free exercise” clause. This clause tells the government that they cannot interfere with anyone’s personal religious expression, as long as that expression does not interfere with the rights of others. A government employee, for instance, can wear a cross around her neck to work. Or a Star of David. Or a diamond-studded flying spaghetti monster. There are numerous other examples of free exercise of religion. This blog, for instance. If I decided to turn this into a blog where I pretend (?) to be Jesus H. Christ and answer emails from surfers about whether anal is okay, that sure is free exercise. Some may find it offensive, but it’s protected speech AND free exercise (known by ACLU lawyers as a “twofer”).
This gets to the point of not only why I, as a Christian, support the ACLU, but why I can’t imagine any Christian NOT supporting them. Mr. Blue Gal pointed out to me that the ACLU defends a great many more free exercise cases than establishment cases. That means their main activity in terms of religion is helping the little guy practice his or her religion the way they and their God see fit. And I’m not just talking high-profile peyote cases, the only kind of case the MSM seems to cover.
The problem for the ACLU is that when they defend a Baptist preacher who wants to preach on the sidewalk (and they have done so) it does not get nearly as much press as when they ask a judge in Alabama to take his handmade Ten Commandments plaque off of the wall behind his chair. That, of course, just gets him elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, for a few months anyway.
Here is what Fran Quigley of the Indiana ACLU has to say:
As part of our justice mission, we work hard to protect the rights of free religious expression for all people, including Christians. For example, we recently defended the First Amendment rights of a Baptist minister to preach his message on public streets in Southern Indiana. The ACLU intervened on behalf of a Christian valedictorian in a Michigan high school, which agreed to stop censoring religious yearbook entries and supported the rights of Iowa students to distribute Christian literature at their school.
There are many more examples, because the ACLU is committed to preserving the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom for all.
And that is why I am a big supporter of the ACLU. If you are a Christian who has been taught that the ACLU is your church’s enemy, ask yourself why you can’t believe in Jesus Christ AND ALSO support this country’s “constitutional guarantee of religious freedom for all.” How can you not?