Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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ACLU Acting Outside of Its Mission

Anil Adyanthaya argues in today’s Boston Globe that the ACLU is acting outside of its mission by suing on behalf of non-American detainees who allege abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. While this is an interesting argument, I think there is an equally salient example from our own soil. The ACLU has intervened in Terri Schiavo’s case. The case shows the problem of the slippery slope in right-to-die jurisprudence. Beginning with the premise that an individual has the right to refrain from receiving lifesaving medical care, the ACLU then must make the leap that where a party has not made such intent known, and where there is colorable doubt as to 1) the individual’s true intent, and 2) the individual’s medical status, then the default should be in favor of the right to die, or in this case, in favor of the party who has economic incentives to assure that the individual dies quickly.

This case does nothing to reaffirm the right to have medical treatment withheld insofar as that right is held by the individual to whom the medical treatment is at issue--a qualification that used to be important to the ACLU. Rather, it simply reinforces what can go wrong when this "right" is applied by the court: those who are zealous to expand these "last rights" (pun intended) may be prone based on their predispositions to ignore issues such as the self-interest of the guardian that no jurist or officer would ignore if they were forced to examine a suspect death after the fact. Only then, we would call it motive . . . .

Discussions - 6 Comments


The ACLU is an extremist organization, not a responsible part of the political community. It inhabits its own bizarre philosophical universe, not the United States of America or indeed the real world. It has no loyalty to the first and no understanding of the second. The best response to the ACLU is vigorous opposition. Those of us who aren’t able to do that should respond with the next-best thing: contempt. Rather than worry about whether this extremist organization is "acting outside its mission," we should recognize that their actions, not their supposed mission, are what matters. Speaking of their supposed "mission" simply preserves whatever residual legitimacy they have in the eyes of the American people. We should be aiming to destroy that legitimacy. If we don’t, these people will continue their destructive, and quite successful, activity.

Mr. Alt, you put your finger on it: The disturbing thing in this case is the literally "pro-death" bias of the FL courts and their helpers, like the ACLU.

As I pointed out in conversation the other day to someone who was making the usual MSM-derivative complaints about "busybody" pro-lifers, one can believe in DNR ("Do Not Resuscitate") orders, living wills, the right to refuse treatment, and so on [I find at least the first two problematic, but that’s another story] and STILL have grave problems with the very dubious fact pattern in this case. And the ambiguity of the medical evidence is only the beginning.

Why, for instance, is Terri Schiavo’s husband, who wants to marry another woman by whom he already has children, being given absolute decisionmaking rights regarding her case as over and against her parents and siblings?

And why is there not more comment in the MSM on Michael Schiavo’s financial conflict of interest, since he won a huge legal settlement ostensibly to pay for Terri’s rehabilitation and therapy but has refused to use the money to finance those things, and instead has waged a legal campaign to end her life (which of course will leave him w/ a lot more assets)?

The "hard" issues of individual choice regarding one’s fate, etc., aren’t even reached here, since the only evidence anyone has of Terri’s wishes is hearsay from a strongly interested party (Michael Schiavo).

We can see arguably reasonable practices such as "the right to refuse treatment" morphing into "the judicially and administratively enforced duty to die" right before our eyes. And even the president and the U.S. Congress may not be able to stop it in this case. Terrifying.

Seems like all the ACLU can do nowadays is take on crosses, city seals, and the Boy Scouts. I’m constantly amazed that so many (otherwise) intelligent people would have anything to do with such a trivial organization.About how the ACLU has managed, once again, "to work over" the Boy Scouts Of America

"Seems like all the ACLU can do nowadays is take on crosses, city seals, and the Boy Scouts." That’s rubbish. Here’s an excellent example of the ACLU working to DEFEND and SUPPORT the rights of believers, fighting for street preachers to be able to hand out fliers and initiate conversations with people on the Las Vegas strip! A funny quote from the article:

"The preachers openly despise the ACLU, which they view as an insufferably liberal institution, albeit one that had lately seemed like their only friend in town." (italics mine)

There are plenty of other times when the ACLU has defended the religious, but I won’t waste my time, as it’s most likely that you’re mired in the anti-ACLU dogma. So, carry on with your "contempt" and "vigorous opposition," even if they are, at times, on your side.

If Terri Schiavo were a convicted serial killer facing a capital sentence, the ACLU would be straining every nerve to preserve her life. Instead, she’s an innocent woman enmeshed in a case where there is at the very least wide room for doubt on several scores, and the ACLU is leading cheers from the peanut gallery while she is being starved to death. Sickening.

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