What is the ACLU, and are they here in South Carolina?

What is the ACLU, and are they here in South Carolina?

This past weekend the Trump administration very controversially prohibited all refugee resettlement actions into the United States and suspended or prohibited entry into the country by any person with a passport from seven predominantly Muslim countries, countries where none (that’s right, none) of the people originated who committed terrorist acts in America from 9-11 to present. Caught up in this sudden but not entirely unexpected move were men, women, and children already en route to the United States, including non-citizens who are legal American residents. Those who were in flight on the way here were stopped on arrival and either sent back to their place of origin or detained at the airport. The administration announced that Christians, but not Muslims, would be given priority for entry.

There are genuine concerns about the Constitutionality of government actions like that. One of several organizations voicing those concerns is the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union. I have heard the ACLU described as a “left wing activist group.” A few years ago my wife and I decided to find out for ourselves, right here in South Carolina.

The South Carolina ACLU has a website (aclusc.org) and headquarters in Charleston, but is active throughout the state. In attending ACLU meetings, one finds that there are anywhere from 20 to 50 attendees whose age and demographics appears to be pretty typical of our voting population. There was a meeting just this weekend, a meeting that had been scheduled for several weeks. Rather than in Charleston; it was hosted by Furman University in Greenville. Although the news of the past week was certainly an item of discussion, the focus of the meeting was exactly what one finds on their website: “defending our rights to equality, liberty, and justice.” It turned out that Greenville County had been denying routine voting registration to Furman Students unless they had “proof of residence” beyond that required of most county voters, and directly in contravention with South Carolina state law; the ACLU had provided legal advice to the students that resulted in a court ruling allowing them to vote. Did the ACLU make the decision that university students should be allowed to vote in the locality of their studies? No, the state decided that (with, I suspect, some federal prodding); the ACLU directly helped just three students to exercise their right to vote, but indirectly helped many others.

In a similar vein, at the national level the ACLU helped some small number of those detained at American airports to seek legal relief, and they were successful there as well.

Do actions like those make you think of a “left wing activist group”? I see them in a different way; the ACLU takes actions that help all of us. At one time or another, many of us will need help and/or advice on issues threatening such constitutionally guaranteed American values such as equality of opportunity, liberty within the law, and justice for all. Support the ACLU, and in particular support the South Carolina ACLU. They are there for you.

Robert Scott