American Civil Liberties Union

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

The American Civil Liberties Union, commonly known as the ACLU, was founded in 1920 by a group of citizens which included Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, and Albert DeSilver. The ACLU describes itself as "our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States."

Tha ACLU has been particularly active in cases involving the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments of the US Constitution. On the First Amendment, it tends to favor reduced restrictions on speech and greater separation of church and state. On the Fourth Amendment, it tends to favor increased protections on citizen's privacy; and on the Fifth and Eighth Amendment, it favors increased rights of the accused.

The ACLU is not particularly active in cases involving the Second or Tenth Amendments. It states that the Second Amendment is "primarily a collective right" to bear arms, not an individual one. It does not appear to have had much involvement with attempts to invoke the Tenth Amendment to limit the power of the federal government.


Besides individual memberships, the ACLU has also taken or solicited funds from various organizations. Some anti-tobacco activists have criticized the organization for quietly taking funds from the tobacco industry.

The ACLU has been strongly criticized by corporate accountability activists for using its resources to advance corporate claims to enjoy Bill of Rights protections. Its advocacy for the Nike Corporation in the Kasky vs Nike lawsuit is a recent example.

Staff and Leaders

Accessed October 2007: [1]

Tobacco industry

Tobacco industry documents reveal that the industry considered ACLU to be an ally in fighting legislation and regulations to limit smoking. In a January, 1988 briefing to the Chair of the Institute by Samuel D. Chilcote, Jr., President of the Tobacco Institute, Chilcote described how the Institute successfully "defeated or postponed 93 percent of all the bills we faced [between 1979 and 1987]..." He also stated, "A very wide assortment of non-tobacco groups now routinely speak out on our behalf on every issue we face. They testify at hearings, write letters to legislators and to editors, hold press conferences, provide intelligence, help us expand our ranks, and some have even helped fund our efforts....Our allies include labor unions, farm groups, veterans and active military associations, racial and ethnic minorities, fire fighters, the ACLU..." [2]

Related SourceWatch resources


American Civil Liberties Union
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004


Other Related SourceWatch Resources

External links


  1. Staff, American Civil Liberties Union, accessed October 24, 2007.
  2. Briefing of Gerald Long, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Tobacco Institute, Samuel D. Chilcote, January 20, 1988, Bates No. TIMN0283614

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