The rights guaranteed to the accused, defendants, offenders and prisoners are fundamental political rights that protect all Americans from governmental abuse of power.
Due process is what separates a democracy from a police state. As the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution states, the government shall not "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property" without first giving individuals a fair chance to defend themselves.
Freedom of speech, of the press, of association, of assembly and petition -- this set of guarantees, protected by the First Amendment, comprises what we refer to as freedom of expression.
The fundamental constitutional protections of due process and equal protection embodied in our Constitution and Bill of Rights apply to every "person" and are not limited to citizens. The framers of those documents as well as the authors and ratifiers of post-Civil War amendments all understood the essential importance of protecting non-citizens against governmental abuse and discrimination.
The struggle of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people for full equality is one of this generation’s most important and galvanizing civil rights movements. Despite the many advances that have been made, however, LGBT people continue to face discrimination in many areas of life.
The courts have recognized that the public’s right to know what the government is doing is protected by the First Amendment.
Police have the vital and difficult job of protecting public safety. Performing this job effectively does not require sacrificing civil liberties.
Although the state is permitted to deny a person certain rights to liberty and property under criminal justice laws, prisoners retain their rights to other basic protections and freedoms - among these are freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, freedom of religion, the right to legal representation, and the right to due process.
From using the telephone to seeking medical treatment to applying for a job or sending an e-mail, Americans' right to information privacy is in peril. Personal and business information is being digitized through an ever-expanding number of computer networks in formats that allow data to be linked, transferred, shared and sold, usually without our knowledge or consent.
Though generations of civil rights activism have led to important gains in legal, political, social, employment, educational and other spheres, the forced removal of indigenous peoples and the enslavement of those of African descent marked the beginnings of a system of racial injustice from which our nation has yet to break free.
Americans enjoy a degree of religious freedom unknown in most of the rest of the world, and they take full advantage: the United States is home to more than 1,500 different religious bodies and 360,000 churches, synagogues and mosques.
Since 1920, the ACLU has recognized that personal privacy and reproductive rights are among our most important constitutional liberties. The ACLU was the first national organization to argue for abortion rights before the Supreme Court, and has been the principal defender of those rights since 1973, when the Court recognized the right to choose in Roe v. Wade.
Throughout this country's history, the phrase 'national security' has often been used as a pretext for massive violations of individual rights. In the name of national security, President Franklin Roosevelt interned 120,000 Japanese Americans and more recently, the terrorist attacks on September 11 mobilized much of our country in the fight against terrorism.
In spite of the Supreme Court's ringing endorsement of students' rights in the landmark Tinker decision, constitutional violations are far too common in public schools across the country. Lockers and backpacks are searched without reasonable suspicion. Minority students are disproportionately directed to lower track programs. Female students are excluded from certain extracurricular activities, and LGBT students are intimidated into silence.
Nothing is more fundamental to our democracy than the right to vote. The ACLU of Pennsylvania is committed to ensuring that all citizens are able to cast their votes and have them accurately counted.