The government of the United States is built on two basic principles: (1) majority rule through democratic elections; and (2) protection of individuals from any attempts by the majority to curtail individual liberties and rights, as spelled out in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The Constitution and Bill of Rights set the ground rules for individual liberty, which include the freedoms of speech, association and religion, freedom of the press, and the right to privacy, to equal protection of the laws and to due process of law.
The ACLU was founded to defend and secure these rights and to extend them to people who have been excluded from their protection.
Our work can be categorized as follows:
The rights of free speech, free association, and assembly, freedom of the press and religious freedom, including the strict separation of church and state.
The right not to be discriminated against on the basis of certain classifications, such as race, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, age, disability, etc.
The right to be treated fairly, including fair procedures when facing accusations of criminal conduct or other serious accusations that can lead to results like loss of employment, exclusion from school, denial of housing, cut-off of certain benefits or various punitive measures taken by the government.
The right to a zone of personal privacy and autonomy.
The extension of all the rights described above to those who are still fighting for the full protections of the Bill of Rights, including women, immigrants, the poor, people of color, transgender people, members of minority religions, people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, or bisexual people, the homeless, prisoners, and children in the custody of the state.
We accomplish the above by public education, lobbying, and litigation. We educate and empower individuals about their rights. We advocate for and against federal, state, and local measures. And, when necessary, we file federal and state court lawsuits. We do all this to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.