American Civil Liberties Union

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a U.S. organization dedicated to preserving the civil rights of persons in the U.S., especially those rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights -- most notably those in the First Amendment (freedom of speech and religion) and the Fourth Amendment (prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure). It educates the public and conducts litigation in the judicial system and has divisions on different subjects such as voting rights, gay rights, privacy, and drug policy. Notable past and present members of the ACLU include Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, lawyer Clarence Darrow, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, and progressive leader Jane Addams.

Since its founding in 1920, the ACLU has frequently been embroiled in controversies over its stances on various hot-button issues, such as its advocacy of removing religious references from government buildings, supporting gay rights, and opposition to Intelligent Design: ACLU lawyers represented Scopes at the "monkey trial" in 1925. The ACLU has also been criticized for failing to protect the Second Amendment rights of gun ownership, fueling views of it as a "leftist" and "lib-lab" (= politically liberal and pro-organized-labor) organization -- thousands of its members (many of them Jewish) resigned in 1978 when the ACLU championed the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois.