Living in a free society is a benefit as well detraction. In our country the First Amendment of the constitution gives us freedom of speech. However this right to free speech comes with the sacrifice of having to hear opinions that are repugnant to the majority. So we have the incongruous situation, like oil and water, of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defending the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
The ACLU defends our First Amendment right to free speech, as well as our other rights. The ACLU goes to court to fight those who would deny us these rights. Interestingly enough, it is usually the same government, which has given us these rights that tries to take them away. The ACLU defends free speech for all people and organizations no matter what their message or how reprehensible their views might be. The ACLU believes that the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and press would be meaningless if the government could pick and choose the persons to whom these rights apply, said Chris Ahmuty, Executive Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin.
The KKK is trying to deny constitutional rights to minorities. This is what the ACLU tries to prevent. The KKK uses their right to freedom of speech to spread their message of hate and racism. There are many cases where government agencies have tried to stop the KKK from speaking in public. In February of 1998, the town of Cicero, IL denied a rally permit to the KKK to hold a rally in their town, Cicero claimed that the planned rally could incite violence and also that it be to costly to effectively police. The ACLU agreed to fight this case for the KKK because it is a violation of their First Amendment rights. By providing representation in this case, we are upholding a long tradition of defending freedom of speech for all a tradition in which we have represented civil rights activists and hate groups alike, said Harvey Grossman, Legal Director of ACLU Illinois. We proudly view our client as the First Amendment, Grossman added. Just like any other group, the KKK has the right to speak in a public forum.
If the ACLU did not defend the KKK s First Amendment rights, the ACLU would endanger the First Amendment by allowing the selection of what can and can not be heard. Still today the government tries to prevent the KKK from speaking. In April of 1997, about 50 KKK members and assorted other right wing groups held a rally in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the end of the rally, Jeff Barry, introduced as a National Wizard, thanked the ACLU saying, They are all a bunch of Jews, but what can I say? This is America. The KKK has twisted the intent of the First Amendment to spread their hate, and even used one of their biggest adversaries in their defense, then insulted them with racial slurs but that is their right to freedom of speech that the ACLU has defended for them.
The latest case involving the ACLU and the KKK was in New York where the city had tried to block a KKK rally. The ACLU was once again called upon the to defend the First Amendment for their biggest adversaries the KKK. The ACLU once again won the right for the Klan to speak out in public. The one thing different about this case was that the city had an obscure 1845 law that prevented the KKK from wearing their traditional masks. The rally planned about 80 Klansmen, but only about a dozen showed up. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, We should be ever vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions we loathe.
In defense of representing the KKK in New York, the ACLU s Norman Siegel says, The Klan however repugnant deserves the First Amendment victory.
It s a no-brainer to take this case in the sense of the First Amendment principle. Did I want this case? Did I want to receive that phone call? He told a group of protesters outside his office Hell no, but once it came , it was a no-brainer.
The right to free speech is guaranteed in our Constitution. These rights can not be denied to anyone by anyone regardless of our opinions or views. The ACLU feels compelled to defend the First Amendment even for groups at cross purposes of their own. By defending the KKK s unworthy message the ACLU defends the Constitutional first amendment right to free speech for all.