County ACLU National and Illinois
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These web pages, maintained by the Champaign County ACLU, were last updated on 13jan21 by bi
WHAT IS THE ACLU?
A brief description of the American Civil Liberties UnionACLU - Guardian of Liberty
The American Civil Liberties Union is the nation's foremost advocate of individual rights--litigating, legislating and educating the public on a broad array of issues affecting individual freedom in the United States. This is a general introduction and history to the ACLU, the first in a series of "briefing papers."Other briefing papers, produced by the ACLU Office of Public Education, explain the organization's position on a range of specific civil liberties issues.
The American system of government is built on two basic, counter-balancing principles: 1) that the majority of the people, through democratically elected representatives, governs the country and 2) that the power of even a democratic majority must be limited to insure individual rights. In every era of American history, the government has tried to expand its authority at the expense of individual rights. The American Civil Liberties Union exists to make sure that doesn't happen, and to fight back when it does.
The ACLU 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 Democrat. The ACLU is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 250,000-member public interest organization devoted exclusively to protecting the basic civil liberties of all Americans, and extending them to groups that have traditionally been denied them. In its over seven 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 Mandate
The mission of the ACLU is to assure that the Bill of Rights--amendments to the Constitution that guard against unwarranted governmental control--are preserved for each new generation. To understand the ACLU's purpose, it is important to distinguish between the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Constitution itself, whose bicentennial we celebrated in 1987, authorizes the government to act. The Bill of Rights limits that authority.What rights are guaranteed in the Bill