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ACLU: Subverting the Constitution, Swearing in Pennsylvania, and More

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From: ACLU Online <>
Date: Fri, Jan 7, 2011 at 3:10 PM
Subject: Subverting the Constitution, Swearing in Pennsylvania, and More

ACLU Online

In This Issue

Unconstitutional Bill Aims to Subvert 14th Amendment

State Legislators Considering Unconstitutional and Un-American Immigration Laws

What Do These Three Things Have in Common?

Government Should Investigate Denials of Emergency Care at Religiously-Affiliated Hospitals

Thanks for the Shout Out, Mr. Vice President!

It's Your Move, Congress: Stand Up for Net Neutrality

Thanks for the Shout Out, Mr. Vice President!

Earlier this week, when swearing-in newly-seated Senator Rand Paul, Vice President Biden, who serves as President of the Senate, said, "I never get along with any interest groups in the United States Senate. The only one that I really respect, and I don't agree with them most of the time, is the ACLU. Because they never, never vary. They have principles."

We certainly appreciate the shout out from Vice President Biden. He understands what the ACLU has always been about at our core: we are committed to preserving and defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and ensuring that our rights and liberties are afforded to all, regardless of background or political belief. These principles have guided us well as an organization for over 90 years — and our country for over 200 years. We are proud of being the nation's foremost advocate for the rights of all, and we appreciate the Vice President's respectful acknowledgement of our work.

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It's Your Move, Congress: Stand Up for Net Neutrality

Late last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed a new rule clarifying the FCC's legal authority to enforce network neutrality principles. Network neutrality, also known as "net neutrality," principles protect free speech online by prohibiting the owner of a network from prioritizing some types of content on the Internet while slowing down others.

First, the good news: the new rule prohibits wired broadband owners — usually telecom companies like Comcast and Verizon that provide cable and DSL service to homes and offices — from discriminating against information by throttling, slowing or otherwise tampering with the transfer of any data on the wired Internet.

Now, the bad news, and it's pretty bad: the rule is on shaky legal footing and it doesn't apply to wireless Internet — the kind you access on your cell phone. The legal question is particularly frustrating. After the D.C. Circuit rejected the FCC's last efforts to establish open internet rules — largely because of questions over FCC authority — the ACLU and many other groups argued that broadband providers offer a telecommunications service and should therefore be regulated like telephone companies. Such a change would provide robust protections. Sadly, the FCC bowed to industry pressure and refused to adopt this change.

"By creating two sets of regulations — one for the wired Internet and one for wireless broadband — and failing to ground them in the strongest legal protections available, the FCC has failed to protect free speech and Internet openness for all users," said Chris Calabrese, ACLU Legislative Counsel. "The ACLU will continue to fight for full network neutrality protections. Internet openness is key to protecting our First Amendment rights."

Now that the FCC has voted, this issue is in Congress's hands.

>> Take action! Tell your members of Congress we need strong net neutrality protections for the entire Internet, not just the wired one.

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January 7, 2011

Unconstitutional Bill Aims to Subvert 14th Amendment

Ask your representative to reject attacks on the 14th Amendment.

On Wednesday, a day before members of Congress recited the Constitution on the House floor and affirmed their commitment to defend and uphold it, an unconstitutional bill designed to subvert the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment was introduced.

The bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), attempts to subvert the 14th Amendment by rewriting the citizenship clause to restrict citizenship to only three categories of people: children of U.S. citizens or nationals, children of permanent residents and children of non-citizens in active-duty military service. The proposed legislation violates the constitutional guarantee that all people born in the U.S. and under its jurisdiction are U.S. citizens entitled to equal protection under the law. Further, it would violate long-established Supreme Court precedent. In addition, this radical proposal would deny citizenship to large segments of U.S. society including U.S.-born children to parents with lawful status such as refugees, foreign investors, scientists, engineers, artists, athletes, scholars and graduate students.

Also on Wednesday, a group of state legislators announced that they will introduce bills intended to deny Americans the fundamental protections of the 14th Amendment by requiring their states to deny standard birth certificates to many U.S. citizen babies born in the U.S. to immigrant parents.

"Citizenship for all born on U.S. soil has been one of the Constitution's most essential engines of equality and fairness under the law," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "It is too important to be defined by the political whims of any era."

Since its creation, the Constitution has guaranteed U.S. citizenship to every child born in the U.S., with very limited exceptions. Constitutional citizenship represents America's commitment to equality, fairness and justice under the law. Adopted in the aftermath of the Civil War, the 14th Amendment negated one of the Supreme Court's most infamous rulings, the Dred Scott decision of 1857, which held that neither freed slaves nor their descendants could ever become citizens. The Amendment, which guaranteed the constitutional rights of citizenship for all who were born in this country was enacted in response to laws passed by the former Confederate States that prevented African Americans from entering professions, owning or leasing land, accessing public accommodations, serving on juries and voting.

In 1898, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the guarantee of the 14th Amendment and affirmed the fundamental principle that children born on American soil are U.S. citizens without regard to their parents' status. In United States v. Wong Kim Ark, the Court held that a baby born in San Francisco to Chinese parents who were subjects of China and were prohibited by law from becoming U.S. citizens was a citizen at birth under the 14th Amendment.

This principle has been the settled law of the land for more than a century.

>> Take action! Ask your representative to reject attacks on the 14th Amendment.

>> Learn more about the ACLU's efforts to defend citizenship under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

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State Legislators Considering Unconstitutional and Un-American Immigration Laws

Tell your governor: What happens in Arizona stops in Arizona!

Several state legislators around the country are considering proposing anti-immigrant legislation in the coming session, according to an article in The New York Times last week. In some states, the legislation would be similar to the recent Arizona racial profiling law, even though the worst provisions of that law have been suspended by a federal court. The ACLU, which brought a lawsuit challenging Arizona's racial profiling law, called on state legislators to reject the bills when they are introduced.

"Laws like Arizona's that cause racial profiling or deny other basic rights are unconstitutional, unfair and quintessentially un-American," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office. "The courts were correct to reject Arizona's draconian legislation, and other states should think twice before attempting to pass similar laws that have no place in an America that believes in fairness, equality and human rights. The ACLU will fight these misguided attempts across the country to upend our most fundamental American values."

>> Take action! Tell your governor that you won't tolerate unconstitutional racial profiling in your state or anywhere in the United States.

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What Do These Three Things Have in Common?

  • Swearing at the clogged toilet in your home
  • Flipping off a police officer in a dispute over a parking space
  • Yelling "asshole" at a motorcyclist who swerves close to you
They could get you cited for disorderly conduct in Pennsylvania. Or even worse, thrown in jail — until now. The ACLU of Pennsylvania successfully defended about a dozen individuals against these kinds of charges — and won. This week, the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) agreed to stop citing individuals for disorderly conduct for the use of profanity. Additionally, PSP will provide mandatory training to its officers about free speech.

According to information obtained by the ACLU through a Right to Know request, the PSP issued more than 750 disorderly conduct citations for profanity in a recent one-year period.

"Besides being a waste of police resources, these types of citations are often used by police to 'punish' people who argue with them. We are very happy the state police will proactively address this problem," said Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

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Government Should Investigate Denials of Emergency Care at Religiously-Affiliated Hospitals

Tell Secretary Sebelius to stop religiously-affiliated hospitals from putting women's lives at risk.

The ACLU has asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to investigate potential denials and delays of emergency abortion care at religiously-affiliated hospitals in violation of federal law, specifically the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act and the Conditions of Participation of Medicare and Medicaid.

The request followed the decision by St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix to continue providing life-saving abortions when necessary despite pressure from the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix to discontinue the practice. The Bishop of Phoenix stripped the hospital of his endorsement when St. Joseph's correctly defended its decision to provide a life-saving abortion to a young mother of four in need of emergency care last year and asserted that it would continue to provide life-saving services.

"The hospital did the right thing by upholding its obligations to provide necessary health care, but this incident just underscores the need for the government to make crystal clear that hospitals — regardless of religious affiliation — must provide necessary life-saving care to patients," said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "A hospital's first duty is to its patients. No woman should ever have to be afraid that she will not receive the care she needs when she goes to a hospital."

A 2008 article in the American Journal of Public Health highlighted a worrying pattern of religiously-affiliated hospitals denying emergency reproductive care to patients. The article cites instances in which miscarrying women were forced to travel to another facility after religiously-affiliated hospitals refused to terminate their pregnancies — and a woman who was denied care until the moment her fetus' heartbeat stopped, placing her in grave peril.

"Religiously-affiliated hospitals are not exempt from federal law that requires them to provide emergency care to their patients," said Vania Leveille, ACLU Legislative Counsel. "The government must ensure that all hospitals that receive federal funding are in compliance with the law."

>> Take action! Tell Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to stop religiously-affiliated hospitals from putting women's lives at risk.

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