Ringing the Bell for Christ and the ACLU — Again!

Recall, if you will, my call for lawyers who are Christian and work for the ACLU to come forward to refute the belief a correspondent of mine had, that there were no Christian lawyers at the ACLU. I’ve already rung the bell, but I’m ringing it again, because I’ve hauled in a big one:

Will the judgmental soul who doubted there were Christian lawyers with the ACLU please prepare to pony up another $50. I am a lawyer, law professor more precisely, and the immediate past President of the ACLU of Alabama. I am currently on the ACLU of Alabama Board of Directors and additionally serve on its Executive Committee. And, yes, I am a Christian.

I know of my own personal knowledge that the ACLU brings just as many lawsuits under the Free Exercise clause supporting various religious groups (including Christian churches as shown earlier in this thread) in their ability to practice their faith, as it does under the Establishment Clause attempting to prevent the overt endorsement of religion by government.

The true client of the ACLU is the Constitution of the United States. We represent specific, individual clients in order to promote constitutional rights. When we act to defend helpless individuals against oppressive government (a common scenario), I believe the ACLU acts in a truly Christian manner (although this is not intended as such, and my non-Christian colleagues on the ACLU Board would distance themselves from this). After all, Christ enjoined us to help the least among us, and often the ACLU finds itself representing the friendless and the scorned.

For myself, my beliefs are not so fragile that they require blaring public pronouncement, and especially public pronouncement by less-than-honest politicians. So what if there are no public statutes or monuments to any particular religious faith? Of what value is a belief system that needs such constant reinforcement?

I also ask myself what I would feel if I were a Muslim or a Hindu, living in the United States and constantly being made to feel second class by virtue of the religious prattle that comes out of the mouths of public officials. I would not want that for myself, and, as Christians, how can we possibly force onto others that which we would not want for ourselves?

David J. Langum

Whoever issued this challenge can please direct the $50 to: Office Manager, ACLU of Alabama, 207 Montgomery Street, Suite 825, Montgomery, Alabama 36104.

I’d already donated the $50 in question to the national organization, but I’m feeling good about this one, so I think I’ll tip in another $50. It also covers the other ACLU Christian lawyers that popped up in the thread — and my sincere thanks to them as well.

Anyway: Mission Accomplished. I feel good.

13 thoughts on “Ringing the Bell for Christ and the ACLU — Again!

  1. See, now, that’s the thing. You are playing dirty. How dare you confront popular mythology with fact!

    There are certain things one is expected to know without ever questioning. It is one of the defining characteristics of human groups.

    You must STOP THAT! or forever be branded as an “outsider,” another characteristic of human groups.

  2. Scalzi Uncovers Christians at the ACLU

    I find this pretty funny. Someone told John Scalzi that there were no Christian lawyers who worked for the ACLU because the ACLU hates Christianity and wants to stamp it out (typical right wing nonsense, of course). So Scalzi promptly…

  3. I am the defendant in a landmark case in Cook County, IL. Doe vs. Dilling #00L5079. There is a 2 million judgment against me alleging that my 44 year old son gave Doe AIDS. My son is dead and Doe has put me into bankruptcy. Do you think the ACLU could come to my defense?

  4. I was arrested for preaching in a parking lot. I was put in jail for 109 days. I am looking for someone to represent me. I want to sue the county. Can you help me?

    Shawn Miller

    I spent 109 days in jail. I know that there are misguided Street Preachers (like Saul before he was Paul). I read that JESUS was a friend of the sinner. How can we win anyone if we are yelling at them? JESUS said the world is already condemned.
    ACLU Defends Portales Street Preacher
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
    Thursday, August 4th, 2005
    CONTACT:
    Peter Simonson, Executive Director, ACLU of New Mexico at 505-266-4622 or (cell) 505-620-0775
    Portales–Some deft legal work by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico succeeded in freeing street preacher Shawn Miller from the Roosevelt County jail yesterday. Portales police arrested Miller for disorderly conduct on April 17th because allegedly he was yelling at passing cars. Miller maintains that he was merely “preaching the word of God.”
    ACLU Executive Director Peter Simonson said, “Mr. Miller has a guaranteed right to stand on a street corner and proclaim his faith in God to all who pass by. He wasn’t harassing or intimidating anyone. He certainly should not have spent time under lock and key for such a minor incident.”
    The ACLU became involved after Miller’s wife, Theresa, sent a letter requesting assistance. She and her two children had been with Miller on the day he was arrested. He was preaching in the lot of an abandoned gas station that is commonly used by street vendors. “I was preaching the word of God and not hurting anybody,” said Miller.
    The ACLU’s defense of Miller produced an unlikely collaboration with the American Family Association, a group that is at times at odds with ACLU positions. Attorneys from both groups consulted with each other and Miller, working together to defend him on First Amendment grounds.
    “Both organizations are highly principled in their philosophies and policy positions,” said ACLU Staff Attorney George Bach. “Where those principles overlap, we are eager to collaborate.”
    Miller was released on bond and still faces charges of disorderly conduct, in addition to resisting arrest.

    And in two newspapers:

    My wife, our two children, and I had been going for three months to this same abandoned gas station without any incident. We were simply having a quiet Bible study on Sunday morning. The bank across the street is closed. There are two churches (Baptist & Methodist) on opposite corners from us. There is a minimal amount of car traffic and no pedestrian traffic. We are NOT there to be heard. We are simply there trying to let our light shine. We are NOT yelling at anyone because there is no one around. Sure, cars pass and see us, but there is no way we are disturbing them since we are 15 feet away from the sidewalk. This police officer decided to pick on us that day for some unknown reason. Officer Smart, Officer Wilson, and an animal control officer were in the parking lot adjacent to us at about 9:45 and they stayed for about 20-30 minutes. Then they all left. A sheriff’s deputy watched us for about five minutes a week before that day. Many police cars had driven by throughout the previous months WITHOUT incident. Officer Smart then came back at 11:05. I went over to him and extended my hand and said, “What is the problem, officer?” He said, “You need to tone it down.” I said, “I am preaching to my family and we are not bothering anyone. This is free speech and you can not stop me.” He said, “We have been getting phone calls about you pointing and yelling at cars.” I said, “I was not yelling at cars and was not pointing and I was not bothering anyone. This is free speech and you can not stop me. If you have a problem with me being on this property, I will go to the sidewalk.” He said, “I do not have a problem with you being here, you just need to tone it down.” I said, “If you are going to arrest me, I am going to go to the sidewalk because it is public property.” So I went to the sidewalk (for the first time). By this time, Officer Wilson arrived. Officer Smart looked at Officer Wilson as I was walking away to the sidewalk and they both shrugged. I was standing on the sidewalk looking at the officers. Officer Smart said, “Come back here.” I did not want to get arrested for trespassing, so I stayed where I was. I said, “No, I am staying on the sidewalk because it is public property.” He then came towards me. I have seen the TV show “COPS.” I thought it best to get on my knees and put my hands in the air to show that I was not resisting arrest. At this time, a University police officer also drove up. So, there were three police cars at this abandoned gas station, obviously causing much attention and causing people to rubberneck. Officer Smart came and handcuffed me and took me to his car. I said, “There are drug dealers and bars in this town and people getting killed, but that’s ok, I’ll gladly be arrested for preaching the Gospel.” When I got to his car, I asked, “Why am I being arrested?” He said, “For disorderly conduct and obstruction. You can not walk away from me if I am asking you questions.”
    ——————————————————————————————-
    Here is a list of disputable statements that Officer Smart made in his statement of probable cause when he arrested Shawn on April 17:
    (1) Officer Smart states that at approximately 1105 hours he was dispatched to 2nd St. and Ave C in reference to a subject “yelling” at vehicles driving by:
    –Officer Smart’s statement does not mention anything about being at the self-pay gas station next to where we were earlier that morning; he doesn’t state why he was there at that time: was he dispatched, or was he there out of his own choice?
    –Was Officer Smart dispatched as a result of a 911 call? Is there a recording of the call or can a transcript of the conversation be obtained?
    (2) Officer Smart states Shawn was “standing in the area”:
    –What area exactly was Shawn standing in?
    (3) Officer Smart states Shawn appeared to be attempting to call out to vehicle occupants as the drove by:
    –Shawn was facing Matthew, Michelle, and me as we sat in a semi-circle in our folding chairs facing him. The three of us had our backs to 2nd St. and Shawn was facing the street, but we were between him and the street. Officer Smart would have been able to see that Shawn was talking to us because he pulled into the abandoned gas station parking lot right next to where our chairs were positioned and where Shawn was standing. Officer Smart would have been able to see that we were interacting with Shawn as well as Shawn talking to us.
    (4) Officer Smart states he attempted to advise him of his presence:
    –How exactly was he attempting to advise Shawn of his presence? Shawn was aware of Officer Smart’s presence; Shawn had walked over to Officer Smart’s police car when Officer Smart got out of his car.
    (5) Officer Smart states he repeatedly told Shawn to calm down and listen and Shawn continued to get louder with his objections each time Officer Smart tried to discuss the issue:
    –What was the issue that Officer Smart was trying to discuss with Shawn?
    –The only thing Shawn told Officer Smart was that he had the right to free speech and he had the right to preach out on the streets.
    (6) Officer Smart states Shawn walked back to the curb:
    –Shawn had never been at the curb to have walked back to it; Shawn has never stood on the curb during any of our street meetings.
    (7) Officer Smart states that Shawn continued “yelling” out at vehicles:
    –There were only two things Shawn said when he was standing on the curb and both statements were to Officer Smart:
    1) He told Officer Smart he had the right to preach on the sidewalk because it was public property;
    2) When Officer Smart told Shawn to come back to where he was, Shawn told Officer Smart that he would stay on the sidewalk because it was public property (in Officer Smart’s statement, he doesn’t even mention this part of the conversation with Shawn)
    –Shawn did not yell anything out to the vehicles that were passing; his comments were only directed at Officer Smart.
    (8) Officer Smart states that he once again advised Shawn to stop and at that point he got down on his knees and began waving his arms above his head:
    –Shawn got on his knees and raised his hands over his head as soon as Officer Smart took a step toward him to let Officer Smart know he was not resisting him or anything. Shawn was not waving his hands over his head; and the only thing he said when he got to his knees was that he had the right to preach on the sidewalk.
    (9) Officer Smart states that as Shawn’s actions were disrupting the flow of traffic he advised Shawn if he did not stop he would arrest him and Shawn’s reaction was “I don‘t have to listen to you”:
    –Officer Smart never told Shawn that if he didn’t stop he would arrest him; Officer Smart just walked over to where Shawn was on the sidewalk, got out his handcuffs, and arrested him.
    –As previously stated, the only thing Shawn said when he was on his knees was that he had the right to preach on the sidewalk.
    Two other quick points concerning Officer Smart:
    (1) Officer Smart did not read Shawn his Miranda Rights; you can see that on the arrest report and Shawn has stated that he was not read his rights.
    (2) Officer Smart does not mention his conversation with me: after he arrested Shawn and put him in the back of his police car, Officer Smart handed me Shawn’s keys and told me Shawn was being arrested for obstruction. He said when someone complains, he has to do something about it. I told Officer Smart that Shawn was not yelling at the passing cars; the four of us were simply having our bible study out here on the streets. Officer Smart then told me he had no problem with us practicing religion on the streets but people can’t walk away from him when he’s talking to them. From my standpoint, it appears that Officer Smart got mad that Shawn walked away from him to the curb. Shawn told him he was walking to the curb as he walked away, and Shawn walked to the curb so he wouldn’t get in trouble for trespassing again since the trespassing charge in January was not yet cleared up. I did not tell this to Officer Smart at the time; I don’t know if it would have helped if I had.
    —————————————————————————————-
    Trial date set for street preacher
    Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
    Tony_Parra@link.freedom.com
    The trial of a Portales street preacher accused of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest has been set for Jan. 27.
    Shawn Miller, 33, was arrested on April 17. Roosevelt County Magistrate Court Judge Jane Martin is presiding over the case and presided over Miller’s pre-trial conference on Wednesday afternoon.
    Miller was released in early August from the Roosevelt County Detention Center after more than three months in custody. He posted a $3,000 appearance bond.
    Miller is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
    Portales Police Department officer Charles Smart was dispatched at 11:05 a.m. on April 17 in reference to a subject yelling at passing vehicles.
    Miller repeatedly told Smart he didn’t have to listen to him because he was preaching the word of God and wasn’t doing anything wrong, according to the police incident report. Miller walked away from the police officer and continued yelling out at vehicles when he was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
    Authorities have said Miller’s preaching was creating a disturbance to passing motorists, and he was arrested because he did not give a responding officer any opportunity to remedy the situation.
    On Wednesday, Miller said he doesn’t believe he was treated fairly during his arrest. He said he had to sit in jail for 109 days.
    “If it wasn’t for the ACLU, I’d still be in jail,” Miller said. “The whole thing is a joke. I thank God for my wife. I give my wife a lot of credit for believing in me. She kept calling and e-mailing the ACLU.”
    Miller has at times held a sign and preached on the Roosevelt County Courthouse in front of Portales City Hall. Miller chants his messages to drivers on First Street. He said his sign reads, “Where is God in Portales?”
    “We have constitutional rights,” Miller said. “I was not doing anything. I wasn’t bothering anybody. I had never been arrested until I got to this town.”
    Miller said jail wasn’t a “pleasant” place to be in, but he kept his faith in God.
    “The whole experience concerned me,” Miller said. “God revealed himself to me while I was in jail and encouraged me. God has blessed me and my family.”
    http://www.pntonline.com/engine.pl?station=portales&template=storyfull.html&id=5759
    —————————————————————————————
    October 17, 2005

    Dear Shawn,
    Good news:
    The D.A. issue a “nolle prosequi” in your case, which means she “will no further prosecute” it (you may hear it called a “NO LE PROS”). More informally, it is generally taken to mean that a district attorney either did not feel pursuing the case was in the interest of justice or that there wasn’t enough there substantively to pursue it. Technically, they retain the right to re-charge you at some point, but that is highly unlikely in your situation.
    I can fax you a copy of the document if you need – and will mail you one today.
    At some point, I will take a look at the NM law to see when exactly, we can also request that your arrest record be expunged so that you are not dealing with even that in terms of background checks. But for now, you are currently free of all charges, pending trials, bail, etc.
    I have various meetings this evening, but please give me a call tomorrow at work or let me know when a good time to call you is.
    Best regards,
    George Bach
    Staff Attorney – ACLU of New Mexico
    P.O. Box 566 Albuquerque, NM 87103-0566
    (505) 243-0046 FAX: (505) 266-5916
    —————————————————————————————–
    Thank you,
    Shawn Miller
    331 Cook Rd.
    Moselle, Ms 39459
    601-544-3968

  5. Regarding your neglect and as you would say “you can be whomever you feel like”, please refer to your Jan 2005 response to my 84 YEAR OLD MOTHER. I would appreciate if you could explain how you are an advocate for Christ, the ACLU, and whomever else you have abused. Before you get angry do some follow up on my mother’s plea, we are still litigating after my brother died, my father died, and keep tuned.
    Eloise T. Dilling

  6. Eloise Dilling:

    The response I gave was proper: I have no idea. She should contact the ACLU herself. Or, alternately, you can do it. I’m not a case worker, and frankly I’m a little confused as to why you would be relying on me, a random person on the Internet, to do anything.

  7. Thank you for responding so timely. My only advice is to know the facts before you give someone hope,faith or wisdom. I can only hope you might look up DOE VS. DILLING, Cook County, Illinois most recent opinion was March 27, 2007, I am now curious how you suggest we do our best to save our 84 year old mother, and also not create a new law so parents can be responsible for who their adult children sleep with. We are already working with the ARDC regarding other legal issues pertaining to the origination of this frivolous suit. My only request would be to refrain from slandering my family. Happy holidays. Via con dios. Eloise Dilling

  8. Eloise Dilling:

    “My only advice is to know the facts before you give someone hope, faith or wisdom.”

    To my knowledge I have given none of the above to your mother or you, precisely because I do not know the facts nor have the time to learn them. Moreover I am not aware how any communication I may have had with your mother or you can be even remotely construed as slandering your family (or more accurately, libeling them). I know nothing about your family, its legal case or the disposition of that case other than what you have mentioned.

    Finally, I have no advice for you on how to do anything regarding your mother or your legal case, other than to seek adequate legal representation, which I am not in the least qualified to suggest to you. Once again I would point out that asking for legal advice from someone you don’t know and who is not a lawyer is not likely to be fruitful to you.

    I would suggest you spend no more time here looking for answers and instead focus on finding representation that would be useful to you.

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