When I went to work as the legislative director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin in 2003, I was unprepared for...
I’m sure you know what the ACLU is all about: It’s in business to defend our civil liberties and the Bill of Rights.
So it was more than a little ironic that law enforcement in Tennessee considered the local ACLU chapter to be engaged in terrorism or similarly threatening activities.
And you know what raised the ire of Tennessee’s law enforcement?
The fact that the ACLU of Tennessee sent out a letter to the 137 public school superintendents in the state on December 7, reminding them that it is unconstitutional for public schools to engage in religious indoctrination.
The letter, which cited three Supreme Court cases as precedent, said: During the holiday season, it is especially important that we all embrace the constitutional guarantees of the First Amendment in order to ensure that religious freedom flourishes. We ask that if you hold holiday celebrations at your schools, please make sure that they are inclusive.”
Amazingly, the Tennessee Fusion Center, which is supposed to share information about terrorism threats among different levels of law enforcement, highlighted the letter on its website map of “Terrorism Events and Other Suspicious Activities.”
“It is deeply disturbing that Tennessee’s fusion center is tracking First Amendment-protected activity,” said Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of the ACLU-TN, who signed the letter to the superintendents. “Equating a group’s attempts to protect religious freedom in Tennessee with suspicious activity related to terrorism is outrageous.”
The person in charge of the Tennessee Fusion Center apologized to Weinberg after the story broke, according to the City Paper of Nashville.
Dave Mitchell, who heads the Tennessee Department of Safety and Office of Homeland Security, phoned Weinberg to say the fusion center was taking the group off the terrorism map.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his other "McCarthyism Watch" pieces by clicking here.
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