I joined the ACLU because I share the same beliefs as the organization on a variety of issues, especially with regard to protecting individuals’ Fourth Amendment rights, right to due process and freedom of/protection against the governmental establishment of religion. While attending law school, I read multiple United States Supreme Court cases involving the ACLU. In fact, I was surprised by how many religion cases involved the Rhode Island affiliate!
While I knew about the existence of the ACLU well before joining, I did not really think about how I could become involved until I started my first job at a law firm. Both attorneys that I worked for were cooperating attorneys for the Rhode Island ACLU, and I started working on one of their cases regarding election law. After working on a second civil liberties issue for the firm, I realized that I could also become a cooperating attorney and help advocate for the protection of civil liberties in Rhode Island. I have been fortunate enough to not only participate as a cooperating attorney, but to also serve on the Board of Directors, and to testify on behalf of the ACLU at the Rhode Island State House on a variety of criminal justice bills.
Before joining the ACLU, the biggest RI ACLU case that stuck out in my mind during law school was Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992), in which the United States Supreme Court struck down clergy-delivered prayers at public school graduations as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. After becoming more involved in the Rhode Island Affiliate, I had the chance to meet Deborah Weisman and her parents. I have to admit – as a fan and student of the case, I was a bit star-struck to meet the actual plaintiffs! I was honored to be able to meet a family who, through their involvement with the ACLU, was able to change the law of the land!
The ACLU fights to protect so many of our everyday rights and freedoms. Regardless of how much or how little of a contribution or time commitment you think you can make, simply becoming a member and spreading the message of the ACLU is crucial for this fight to continue.