The ACLU is our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country. In its more than five decades of existence, the ACLU-WV has become widely recognized as the state’s foremost advocate of individual rights.
The ACLU of West Virginia is at an incredibly important cross-roads. The political environment in West Virginia can sometimes present significant threats to civil liberties that cannot be taken lightly. However, the intense attack on civil liberties has caused a wave of support for our cause and a dramatic rise in civic engagement. The challenges facing civil liberties in West Virginia are undeniably acute. However, the opportunities to build a movement for a more just and free country are equally acute.
The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU-WV) is a non-partisan, non-profit membership organization whose mission is to fulfill the promise of the Bill of Rights for all West Virginians and expand the reach of its guarantees to new areas. These rights include:
- Your First Amendment rights - freedom of speech, association and assembly; freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.
- Your right to equal protection under the law - protection against unlawful discrimination.
- Your right to due process - fair treatment by the government whenever the loss of your liberty or property is at stake.
- Your right to privacy - freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into your personal and private affairs.
The ACLU also works to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including people of color; women; LGBTQ; prisoners; and people with disabilities.
The American Civil Liberties Union has had a presence in West Virginia since 1920, its first year as an organization, when miners were attempting to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining with coal mine owners and operators. The state tried to thwart that initiative by jailing the miners and any other sympathizers, and the ACLU sent lawyers to West Virginia to represent them. In 1943, at the height of nationalism during World War II, the ACLU represented several West Virginia school children in the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent the school board from requiring them to dispute the teachings of their church by pledging allegiance to the American flag. We won in both those instances and in many others.
Today, the ACLU-WV confronts both traditional and new threats to civil liberties on many fronts. Advanced technologies presage new systems that have the capacity to either diminish or expand rights. Meanwhile, our society’s most intractable problems remain age-old ones: racism, sexism, homophobia, and religious intolerance. During periods of national crisis and war, First Amendment rights, privacy and due process are typically among the first casualties. The ACLU-WV’s mission remains realizing the promise of the Bill of Rights for all and expanding the reach of its guarantees to new areas.