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The ACLU is our nation's guardian of liberty. We work daily in courts, legislatures and communities 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.


"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." --Barry Morris Goldwater

"Constitutional rights may not be infringed simply because the majority of the people choose that they be."
--Westbrook v. Mihaly (1970) 2 Cal.3d 756

"No man survives when freedom fails; the best men rot in filthy jails. And those who cry appease, appease, are hanged by those they tried to please."
--Hiram Mann

"The Republic was not established by cowards; and cowards will not preserve it ... This will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave." --Elmer Davis


About the ACLU

The information below is about the ACLU, but please also read about the Monterey County Chapter.

The ACLU is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public interest organization devoted exclusively to protecting the basic civil liberties of all Americans, and extending them to groups that traditionally have been denied them. In its eight decades in existence, the ACLU has become a national institution and is widely recognized as the country's foremost advocate of individual rights. The ACLU has 500,000 members nationwide.

The American Civil Liberties Union is not a public defender like Legal Services or Legal Aid. It does not handle criminal cases or civil disputes or choose clients according to financial criteria. Nor do we take political sides; we are neither liberal nor conservative, Republican nor Democratic.

Why We Do What We Do

The ACLU is frequently asked to explain its defense of certain people or groups - particularly controversial and unpopular entities such as the American Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Nation of Islam. We do not defend them because we agree with them; rather, we defend their right to free expression and free assembly. Historically, the people whose opinions are the most controversial or extreme are the people whose rights are most often threatened. Once the government has the power to violate one person's rights, it can use that power against everyone. We work to stop the erosion of civil liberties before it's too late.

Since we can't take on every worthy case, we usually select lawsuits that will have the greatest impact, cases that have the potential for breaking new ground and establishing new precedents that will strengthen American freedoms.

And How We Do It

The ACLU, the nation's largest public interest law firm, is a 50-state network of staffed, autonomous affiliate offices. A national board of directors sets policy, while a national office in New York coordinates work - aided by a legislative office in Washington that lobbies Congress and a legal department in New York that supervises Supreme Court litigation. A number of national projects address specific civil liberties issues -- read about your rights for more information.

More than 60 ACLU staff attorneys on the national and affiliate levels collaborate with at least 2,000 volunteer attorneys in handling close to 6,000 cases annually. We appear before the U.S. Supreme Court more than any other organization except the U.S. Department of Justice.

We rely on support from people like you. If you believe your civil rights have been violated, or if you wish to join the ACLU, contact us.

Also read "Three Things to Know About the ACLU"

--From the ACLU Position Paper "Freedom Is Why We're Here."

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This site was updated 2010-07-03.