Civil rights consistency

The New Hampshire Union Leader brings us another entry in the annals of cognitive dissonance among civil libertarians. The library in Lebanon, New Hampshire has withdrawn from a pilot program that allowed patrons to surf the Web anonymously on library computers. Law enforcement isn’t thrilled with the program. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire takes a different view. Devon Chaffee of ACLU-NH said, “The bottom line is that we can’t shut down public parks because sometimes crimes are committed in public parks and we can’t stop selling ski masks because sometimes crimes are committed by people wearing ski masks.”

This follows by only a few days the news that ACLU-NH may sue the city of Franklin over a curfew for people under 16 years of age. From the Union Leader’s coverage: “The ACLU’s primary complaint against the curfew, [ACLU-NH attorney Gilles] Bissonnette said Wednesday, is the potential for children to be scrutinized for their conduct in situations ‘that have nothing to do with criminality.'”

And then there’s the organization’s position against New Hampshire’s late, unlamented “ballot selfie” law.

In jarring contrast to all this, ACLU-NH lobbied for New Hampshire’s buffer zone law, the now-enjoined statute that would allow private business owners who perform abortions to define where and at what hours public sidewalks are actually open to the public.

Personally, I think we can’t shut down public sidewalks because sometimes crimes are committed on public sidewalks. And I’m not a big fan of scrutiny of conduct in situations that have nothing to do with criminality.

Maybe ACLU-NH is teetering on the edge of defending the civil rights of peaceful pro-life demonstrators. Consistency might exert just strong enough a push. That’s more optimistic than thinking that some sincere civil libertarians are hopelessly lost to Roe-v.-Wade Derangement Syndrome.


Author: Ellen Kolb

New Hampshire-based writer, pro-life activist, hiker.