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EDITORIAL: The ACLU’s selective defense of the Constitution

Updated June 27, 2019 - 12:58 pm

The ACLU was founded nearly 100 years ago with the noble intent to “defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person by the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States.” But over the past century, it has devolved to advocate for certain constitutional “rights and liberties” more than others.

On Tuesday, the Nevada chapter of the ACLU announced that it plans a foray into presidential politics through its Rights for All campaign, which will entail nailing down White House hopefuls on policy positions as they move through Nevada, a potential swing state. “We are hoping to train (volunteers) to engage the candidates on civil liberty issues in a thoughtful and respectful way,” ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Tod Story said.

Such an exercise would be useful and instructive. The rights articulated in the Constitution form the foundation of this country’s commitment to liberty and individual freedom. Hearing candidate viewpoints on such vital matters would be informative for Nevada voters.

Not surprisingly, however, the ACLU of Nevada has opted for a selective approach. While Mr. Story maintains the group will take a nonpartisan tack, the volunteers will, in fact, be querying candidates on hot-button topics for progressives — criminal justice reform, voting rights, immigration and abortion.

No doubt these issues will be front and center during the upcoming presidential campaign. But the subject matter speaks volumes about the local ACLU’s priorities. One would think that a group dedicated to preserving the Bill of Rights might have an interest in asking candidates about …

■ the First Amendment. Which candidates believe “hate speech” should be exempt from constitutional protection? Which promote the notion that we must amend the Constitution to allow the government to regulate political speech?

■ the Second Amendment. Do those seeking the nation’s highest office believe Americans have a right to carry a firearm for self-protection? Do they believe in a right to bear arms at all?

■ the Fifth Amendment. Which candidates believe civil forfeiture is consistent with the right to due process? What are their views on the regulatory state, property rights and the Takings Clause?

■ the Sixth Amendment. Do candidates believe that those accused of sexual assault have a right to confront their accusers? Do college tribunals in assault cases comport with the Constitution?

■ the Ninth and 10th amendments. Where do candidates come down on states’ rights or the role of the federal government in our democratic republic?

The ACLU of Nevada’s campaign has promise. But there’s more to defending the Constitution than opposing voter ID, supporting abortion on demand and protecting those in the country illegally.

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