By Matthew Rothschild on December 27, 2010

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.

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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