ACLU stains its cause

By Todd Cohen

The American Civil Liberties Union, a champion of free speech, seems bent on muzzling itself.

The crackdown is ugly and not worthy of an organization that has won praise and scorn, left and right, by defending others’ right to voice any idea, however unpopular.

If the ACLU does not quickly halt its inquisition against its own board members who choose to criticize the organization outside the board room, it will erode the trust on which its effectiveness depends.

Its witch hunt also bares traces of a nasty virus that infects the broader nonprofit world: The philanthropically-correct elites who rule the philanthropic-industrial complex cannot stand criticism, especially from within their own ranks.

Yet effectively addressing the overwhelming social and economic problems we face requires the free exchange of ideas.

Charity plays a critical role in delivering social services, conducting research and development for civil society, and shaping public policy.

That work, essential for social progress, depends on a charitable marketplace that is civil and fosters competition among diverse strategies and perspectives.

Instead of stifling dissident voices in its own house, the ACLU should welcome them.

By practices what it preaches, this free-speech advocate also can light a path for all charities.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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