Mystery Solved! Now We Know What The ACLU Has Been Doing While State Governments Were infringing On Basic Civil Rights

It was rotting.

The non-profit organization that is supposedly dedicated to protecting the rights of all Americans against government incursions, as the Bill of Rights holds in both letter and spirit, made no effort to protect the citizens whose liberties have been arbitrarily manacled by power-mad governor and mayors, though the pandemic over-reach seemed to be a perfect battleground for the once non-partisan and idealistic group.

However, once Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spearheaded a much-needed revision of Title IX designed to protect the due process rights of male students accused of sexual misconduct on campus, the ACLU sprung into action—to try to block her.

It is hard for me to imagine how any objective reader could  peruse the revised federal guidelines on how sexual assault allegations should be handled on college and K-12 campuses and conclude that they are hostile to the Bill of Rights in any way. Nevertheless, the  federal lawsuit filed yesterday, with the backing of the ACLU, claims  the changes would “inflict significant harm” on victims and “dramatically undermine” the civil rights of accusers—you know, those women who must be believed when they want men to be punished.

The suit was filed on behalf of four advocacy groups for such women, including Know Your IX and Girls for Gender Equity. The objective is to block the Education Department’s fixes, made necessary by the Obama Education Department’s unethical “Dear Colleague” letter that threatened universities with the loss of funds and other sanctions if they didn’t make it easier for women to get male students kicked out of school in she said/he said disputes.  The  reform regulations will go into effect by August 14 unless they are rejected by the courts.

The rules championed by DeVos  bolster  the due process rights of those accused of sexual assault and harassment, allowing for live hearings and cross-examinations.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York-based law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, is Orwellian. “This new federal effort to weaken Title IX makes it more difficult for victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault to continue their educations and needlessly comes amid a global pandemic.”

What does the pandemic have to do with anything? I guess it’s because the ACLU had a retreat or something and decided that the Wuhan virus  suspended civil liberties. Says Yahoo!, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/6/2020: Another KABOOM!, Two Deranged Op-Eds, And Kansas City Police Adopt The Nuremberg Defense

Feeling blue, beleaguered and dispirited: time for my favorite “Good morning” video again:

1. Yes, it’s another KABOOM! to begin the day. The same critics who attack the President every day for his response to the virus, whatever he does or says, have been alternately praising China for its handling of the pandemic or defending it. Now look at these photos  from two days ago, April 4, showing Chinese citizens heading for the Huangshan mountain park to enjoy the great outdoors, as CNN put it.

2. Today in leadership ethics…on this date in 1841, President William Henry Harrison, then the oldest man by far to take the Presidential oath of office (America take note),  died after just 31 days from a cold he caught by grandstanding to show he wasn’t so old (he refused to wear a top coat in freezing weather, and delivered what is still the longest inaugural address in our history). He was the first President to die in office. He also died after being elected in a year ending with a zero,  launching a creepy 120 year tradition of every POTUS elected in such a year also dying in office (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Harding, FDR, JFK)  until Ronald Reagan beat it, though just barely.

Vice President John Tyler was sworn into office amidst mass confusion: the Constitution was unclear about what happens when a President dies. It directed that in case of the President’s death “the Powers and Duties of the said office” “shall devolve upon the Vice President” until a new President is elected. Here the most unlikely of leaders, an obscure figure from the opposition party (Tyler was a Southern slave-holding Democrat  put on the Whig ticket, maybe because “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!” scanned) who had no constituency, looked like Ichabod Crane…

…and who later joined the Confederate cabinet, made a bold decision that changed American history in too many ways to imagine.

While many experts and legal scholars argued that he was only a temporary, acting-POTUS until a special election could be held, Tyler decreed that he was, in fact, the President, and would serve out Harrison’s full term. Congress couldn’t figure out how to stop him, and thus the United States, by accident and the unilateral decree of an otherwise minor political figure, adopted the smooth manner of transition that has served it so well. It wasn’t until the 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967,  that there was anything in the Constitution saying directly that the Vice President permanently assumes the job and finishes out the term upon the death, resignation or removal of the President.

Fun fact:  President Tyler, who was born in 1790, has a grandson living in Virginia. Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Jr., born in 1924, is 96 years old. I once saw him from afar when he was still living at the Tyler plantation, dubbed Sherwood Forest. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: “Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019”

What new fresh Hell is this?

Perhaps not quite what it appears to be. The mainstream media, hostile as ever to religion, and of course to Republicans, making this a happy twofer, widely described the bill recently passed in the Ohio House as “Under the law, students can’t be penalized if their work is scientifically wrong as long as the reasoning is because of their religious beliefs. Instead, students are graded on substance and relevance.”

Well, that would be crazy. Such a bone-headed law would allow a religious student to state a non-fact as fact (no, the Earth just isn’t 6,000 years old no matter what Williams Jennings Bryan said) but a non-religious student repeating the same error would be graded down. But is this really what the “Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019” requires?

Here’s what it says:

Sec. 3320.03. No school district board of education, governing authority of a community school established under Chapter 3314. of the Revised Code, governing body of a Sec. STEM school established under Chapter 3326. of the Revised Code, or board of trustees of a college-preparatory boarding school established under Chapter 3328. of the Revised Code shall prohibit a student from engaging in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments. Assignment grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns, and shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/16/2018: The Integrity Edition

Good Morning!

1. James Comey, Cognitive Dissonance Dunce. The anti-Trump obsessed won’t be able to see it, but rogue ex-FBI director James Comey is doing an immense favor for President Trump and Republicans by single-handedly framing his campaign against the man who, it is increasingly obvious, correctly fired him (as Hillary Clinton would have done even faster) as that of a classic vengeful disgruntled employee and nothing more, or better. Even Time op-ed writer Charles Blow, whose every column since the election has been some paraphrasing of “I hate Donald Trump,” was forced to observe that Comey is an especially dislikable foe (as is Blow himself). The sheer number of loathsome Trump-bashers has a natural Cognitive Dissonance Scale effect that the President’s critics can’t seem to fathom.

Normal, fair-minded people whose natural instinct is to run from the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Ted Lieu, Hillary Clinton, David Hogg, Joy Reid, Bill Maher, James Comey, Robert DeNiro, Alec Baldwin, Stormy Daniels and the rest will find themselves, almost unconsciously, siding with the President rather than this basket of deplorables, because, you see, he is the President, and who wants to be identified with that crew?

In his ABC interview, which successfully marked Comey as Just Another Trump-Deranged Resistance Warrior, he actually said that Trump was “morally unfit” to be President. First of all, it is the electorate, not James Comey, that decides who is morally fit to be President.  Comey’s assessment is no more or less valid than that of anyone else. Second, the statement is ridiculous on its face. If Comey had an interviewer with any knowledge of Presidential character and the history of the office, plus the wit and integrity to expose  an ignorant opinion when one is broadcast coast to coast, he would have been asked..,

Was Thomas Jefferson morally fit to be President? Has Donald Trump kept his wife’s sister as a concubine and slave? Was Andrew Jackson morally fit to be President? Has Donald Trump killed anyone in an illegal duel? Was Grover Cleveland morally fit to be President? Did Donald Trump ever have a woman committed to an institution to silence her about their sexual relationship? Was Woodrow Wilson morally fit to be President? Has Donald Trump endorsed the Klu Klux Klan? Was Franklin Roosevelt morally fit to be President? Has President Trump ordered U.S. citizens into prison camps? Was Richard Nixon morally fit to be President? LBJ? Bill Clinton?

The Presidency is self-defined by its past occupants, and “moral fitness” is not a characteristic that comes to mind when considering what qualities are identified with successful, popular or effective Presidents.

2. Whither the ACLU? Alan Dershowitz has authored a searing attack on the ACLU’s lack of integrity demonstrated by its failing to condemn the Justice Department’s raid on lawyer Michael Cohen’s home and office. He writes in part, Continue reading

Wearing Black Lives Matter Pins In The Courtroom Matters To This Judge

Q: Which of these can a judge ban from a courtroom? A: All of them.

Q: Which of these can a judge ban from a courtroom? A: All of them.

Youngstown (Ohio) Municipal Court Judge Robert Milich ordered NAACP attorney Andrea Burton to remove the Black Lives Matters pin she was wearing. The attorney refused, and was declared in contempt of court.

Good.

She was.

Judge Milich  sentenced the grandstanding lawyer to five days in jail, though the sentence has been stayed while she appeals the decision, as   as long as she obeys Milich’s order not to wear items that make a political statement in court. When she loses her appeal, and she will, she will have to serve the five days in jail.

Milich is on firm ethical and constitutional ground, not that this episode won’t subject him to being called a racist. It is well-established that judges can ban political expressions in the courtroom, and in 1998, the Supreme Court let stand the rulings of a federal district court and the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, in Berner v. Delahanty, that a the judge’s prohibition of political buttons was a reasonable method of “maintaining proper order and decorum” in a courtroom. In that case, the judge prohibited lawyer Seth Berner from wearing  a button saying “No on 1—Maine Won’t Discriminate,” a declaration against an upcoming state referendum.

As long as a judge doesn’t allow one form of political advocacy while banning others, there is no free speech issue. Judges have gotten themselves involved in controversy when they have allowed buttons, as in the 2006 Supreme Court case of Carey v Musladin, in which Court ruled  unanimously that murder trial spectators were free to wear buttons with a picture of the victim in front of the jury that convicted the defendant. The justices agreed with California prosecutors who said the buttons were a harmless expression of grief by family members at Mathew Musladin’s trial.

I really don’t like that decision. A wise judge will avoid the issue by prohibiting any advocacy in court of of any political, social or case-related opinion. Continue reading

Privacy, Facebook, And School Abuse of Power

Riley StrattonIt can a bit late to the party, in my view, but the ACLU just delivered a crucial blow to Big Brotherism in the schools. Addressing an issue that Ethics Alarms flagged in 2011, Minnewaska Area Schools (in Minnesota) agreed to pay $70,000 in damages to Riley Stratton, a 15-year-old high school student,

for violating her rights. It also agreed, as part of the federal court settlement, to rewrite its policies to limit how far a school can intrude on the privacy of students by examining e-mails and social media accounts created off school grounds.

In 2012, the ACLU Minnesota Chapter filed a lawsuit against the Minnewaska School District after it suspended Stratton for a Facebook post, written and published outside of school, in her home, in which she expressed hatred for a school hall monitor who she said was “mean.”  After the suspension, Stratton used Facebook to inquire which of her “friends” had blown a whistle on her. School officials brought the young teen into a room with a local sheriff and forced her to surrender her Facebook password. Officials used it to searched her page on the spot; her parents were not consulted.

“A lot of schools, like the folks at Minnewaska, think that just because it’s easier to know what kids are saying off campus through social media somehow means the rules have changed, and you can punish them for what they say off campus,” Minnesota ACLU attorney Wallace Hilke said. “They punished her for doing exactly what kids have done for 100 years — complaining to her friends about teachers and administrators. She wasn’t spreading lies or inciting them to engage in bad behavior, she was just expressing her personal feelings.”

Not that it was any of the school’s business if she was spreading lies or inciting others to bad behavior. This phenomenon, where schools decide that they have a right to punish students for non-school activity, words and thoughts  was discussed on Ethics Alarms, and condemned as unethical, here, here, here, and here, and more recently here.

Minnewaska Superintendent Greg Schmidt protested (the school settled without admitting any wrongdoing) that the school only wants to make sure kids understand that actions outside of school can be “detrimental.” “The school’s intent wasn’t to be mean or bully this student, but to really remedy someone getting off track a little,” Schmidt said. Not your job, you officious, censorious, child abuser. This is the sole realm of parental authority. I have seen enough wretched judgement from your breed, Mr. Schmidt—like (I’m picking examples randomly) here, here, here, here and here—to convince me and anyone with a cerebral cortex that school administrators lack the training, wisdom and judgment to know what “going of track a little” is for a 13-year old.

Stay out of my kids’ life and my family’s life. You have enough trouble running schools properly…work on that.

________________________

Sources: Daily Caller, ACLU, Minnesota Star Tribune

Ethics Hero: The ACLU Jumps Off The Train Wreck…

And not a moment too soon...

And not a moment too soon…

It appeared that the American Civil Liberty Union would continue its descent from its original role of non-partisan Bill of Rights watchdog and defender to its evolving position as a liberal/progressive advocacy group when it called for Eric Holder’s Justice Department to pursue a civil rights prosecution against George Zimmerman. In a post on the group’s website following the verdict, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero wrote…

Today, our thoughts are with Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, whose young son was taken from them far too soon. Last night’s verdict casts serious doubt on whether the legal system truly provides equal protection of the laws to everyone regardless of race or ethnicity.This case reminds us that it is imperative that the Department of Justice thoroughly examine whether the Martin shooting was a federal civil rights violation or hate crime. We call on Attorney General Eric Holder to release strengthened guidance on the use of race in federal law enforcement. We also urge Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act. These specific actions would go a long way to ameliorate the widespread problem of racial profiling. We need solutions not only in Trayvon Martin’s case, but also systemic reform. Continue reading