The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization whose stated mission is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States."
A nonprofit organization is an organization with the purpose of which is something other than making a profit.
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It works through litigation, lobbying, and community empowerment.
Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of officials in a government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies.
A lawsuit is "a vernacular term for a suit, action, or cause instituted or depending between two private persons in the courts of law."
Founded in 1920 by Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, Walter Nelles, Morris Ernst, Albert DeSilver, Arthur Garfield Hays, Jane Addams, Felix Frankfurter, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the ACLU has over 750,000 members and an annual budget of over $100 million.
Arthur Garfield Hays was an American lawyer who became prominent in civil liberties issues; he was a co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union and served as general counsel beginning in 1920.
Jane Addams was a pioneer American settlement activist/reformer, social worker, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in women's suffrage and world peace.
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was a labor leader, activist, and feminist who played a leading role in the Industrial Workers of the World.
The ACLU provides legal assistance in cases when it considers civil liberties to be at risk.
Civil liberties or personal freedoms are personal guarantees and freedoms that the government cannot abridge, either by law or by judicial interpretation, without due process.
Legal support from the ACLU can take the form of direct legal representation or preparation of amicus curiae briefs expressing legal arguments when another law firm is already providing representation.
An amicus curiae is someone who is not a party to a case and is not solicited by a party, but who assists a court by offering information that bears on the case.
When the ACLU was founded in 1920, its focus was on freedom of speech, primarily for anti-war protesters.
Freedom of speech is the right to articulate one's opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship, or societal sanction.
During the 1920s, the ACLU expanded its scope to include protecting the free speech rights of artists and striking workers, and working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to decrease racism and discrimination.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is an African-American civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909 by Moorfield Storey, Mary White Ovington and W. E. B. Du Bois.
Racism is a product of the complex interaction in a given society of a race-based worldview with prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination.
During the 1930s, the ACLU started to engage in work combating police misconduct and for Native American rights.
Police misconduct refers to ill-appropriated conduct and or illegal actions taken by police officers in connection with their official duties.
Most of the ACLU's cases came from the Communist party and Jehovah's Witnesses.
Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity.
In 1940, the ACLU leadership was caught up in the Red Scare, and voted to exclude Communists from its leadership positions.
A "Red Scare" is the promotion of fear of a potential rise of communism or radical leftism.
During World War II, the ACLU defended Japanese-American citizens, unsuccessfully trying to prevent their forcible relocation to internment camps.
World War I, also known as the First World War, or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945, although related conflicts began earlier.
During the Cold War, the ACLU headquarters was dominated by anti-Communists, but many local affiliates defended members of the Communist Party.
The Cold War was a state of political and military tension after World War II between powers in the Western Bloc and powers in the Eastern Bloc.
By 1964, membership had risen to 80,000, and the ACLU participated in efforts to expand civil liberties.
In the 1960s, the ACLU continued its decades-long effort to enforce separation of church and state.
The separation of church and state is a concept defining the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state.
It defended several anti-war activists during the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, and known in Vietnam as Resistance War Against America or simply the American War, was a war that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975.
An anti-war movement is a social movement, usually in opposition to a particular nation's decision to start or carry on an armed conflict, unconditional of a maybe-existing just cause.
The ACLU was involved in the Miranda case, which addressed misconduct by police during interrogations; and in the New York Times case, which established new protections for newspapers reporting on government activities.
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper, founded and continuously published in New York City since September 18, 1851, by The New York Times Company.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the ACLU ventured into new legal areas, defending homosexuals, students, prisoners, and the poor.
Homosexuality is romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behavior between members of the same sex or gender.
In the twenty-first century, the ACLU has fought the teaching of creationism in public schools and challenged some provisions of anti-terrorism legislation as infringing on privacy and civil liberties.
Creationism is the religious belief that the universe and life originated "from specific acts of divine creation," as opposed to the scientific conclusion that they came about through natural processes.
Terrorism is, in its broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence in order to achieve a political, religious, or ideological aim.
In addition to representing persons and organizations in lawsuits, the ACLU lobbies for policies that have been established by its board of directors.