FAN 199.7 (First Amendment News) ACLU Targets Panhandling Laws Across the Nation

The sampling of  the  stories listed below reveals that the American Civil Liberties Unions and its various chapters are engaged in an all out assault on panhandling laws across the nation. While commercial speech has long been given First Amendment protection, life-sustaining speech (e.g. begging) has not received anywhere the same kind of constitutional attention . . . until now. 

  1. ACLU: Panhandling ordinances in three Iowa cities are unconstitutional, DesMoinesRegister
  2. New Mexico ACLU targets panhandling laws, Santa Fe New Mexican
  3. ACLU of Iowa targets panhandling ordinances, Sioux City Journal
  4. ACLU demands cities scrap panhandling ordinances, WAND
  5. ACLU challenging panhandling laws in northern Colorado, The Denver Channel
  6. ACLU of Vermont asks towns to repeal anti-panhandling laws, San Francisco Chronicle
  7. ACLU challenges Rockford, state panhandling ordinancesWIFR (Chicago)
  8. Groups challenging Illinois panhandling ordinances, Chicago Sun-Times
  9. ACLU files lawsuit against City of Greensboro over panhandling, (North Carolina)

→ See also 

Related — Clash within ACLU over First Amendment defense of NRA

It is a trusism: any organization that defends robust free-speech freedoms must be prepared for some dissension in its ranks. And any group with such policy must stand ready to receive criticisms of its reasons for defending any given form of speech or for not defending it. So it is, and has long been, with the American Civil Liberies Union.

A recent FAN post was titled “ACLU’s David Cole defends NRA’s political speech rights” (see also Matt Ford’s “Andrew Cuomo’s Trumpian War on the NRA,” The New Republic, Aug. 28, 2018).

Fate being what it is, there is dissent in the ACLU big tent. A story in Slate by Mark Joseph Stern provides some backdrop behind the story of the national ACLU’s defense of the NRA’s First Amendment claims and some of the responses to it:

“Shortly before the American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief in support of the National Rifle Association on Friday, David Cole, the ACLU’s national legal director, sent out a short email to staff. Cole explained that he felt that New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo had ‘explicitly target[ed] the NRA’ based on its “constitutionally protected political advocacy” by advising banks and insurers not to do business with the pro-gun group. ‘If the state can penalize gun promotion advocacy groups by threatening their service providers,’ Cole continued, “it can do the same to other groups”—including Black Lives Matter. Thus, the ACLU had decided to urge the courts to ‘carefully scrutinize’ whether Cuomo has tried to unconstitutionally punish the NRA based on ‘hostility to [its] viewpoint.'”

“Within hours, the organizationwide listserv had lit up. Staffers at both the national office and state affiliates wrote back to register their frustration with Cole’s decision. The ACLU of New York sent out a statement on Monday explaining why it had declined to support the national office’s position. Some attorneys vigorously defended the group’s brief; others cautiously endorsed it, while complaining that its authors had failed to seek input from other stakeholders before committing to a contentious stance. Privately, some litigators fumed, concerned that the organization had needlessly tarnished its reputation by devoting limited resources to help the NRA, a formidable lobbying group with the means to defend itself.”

_______________Unrelated — Floyd Abrams in the News __________________

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