Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

ACLU Defends Churches in Ypsi

19. August 2005 • Ari Paul
Email this article

An interesting move by the ACLU of Michigan, considering many of the patriotic group’s critics charge that it is anti-religion.

From the ACLU press office:

In a letter sent yesterday to the Ypsilanti mayor and city council, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and its Washtenaw Branch has advised that a city zoning ordinance unconstitutionally discriminates against religious groups. The letter also urges that the city reverse a decision to evict a Pentecostal church group from a building in the business district.

“Religion flourishes in this country when government remains neutral,” said Michael J. Steinberg, Legal Director of the ACLU of Michigan. “Government may not favor religion over non-religion, but by the same token, it may not discriminate against religion. Ypsilanti’s zoning ordinance discriminates against religion by allowing secular community groups to meet in the business district but not religious groups.”



  1. The ACLU’s critics tend to think of separation of church and state as being a one-way street; that the church can’t interfere with the state. The ACLU actually fights to make sure that neither can interfere with the other, such as when the ACLU fought to get a Bible verse back in a yearbook.
       —George Hotelling    Aug. 20 '05 - 10:40AM    #
  2. The ACLU is one of the most misundertood groups around (Hi, George!).
       —tom    Aug. 22 '05 - 10:51AM    #
  3. Hey, every few years the ACLU has to take on a token case to show that they really do want to “protect” religious rights. Of course, they don’t fool all of us who know they hate religious “red-staters” in general.

    And the ACLU is certainly not an American patriotic group! They may be patriotic to the hammer & sickle, but certainly not to the stars & stripes!
       —Garry K    Aug. 22 '05 - 01:01PM    #
  4. Garry,

    I don’t know whether to ignore you as a nutcase or congratulate you on your satire.

    Best,
    Murph.
       —Murph    Aug. 22 '05 - 01:26PM    #
  5. Well, I’m not a nutcase, and it’s not satire, so it must be the truth!

    The ACLU is almost always on the wrong side of what is right.
       —Garry K    Aug. 24 '05 - 11:03AM    #
  6. Forgive me, Garry, if you don’t seem the best one to judge whether or not you’re a nutbag.
    The ACLU does a huge amount to protect the freedoms of ALL Americans. That you can’t realize that is sad, but it speaks more to your bias than an informed opinion of the ACLU.
    But hey, you’re welcome to put up a specifica argument about what you don’t like about them. Just as I’m free to keep shooting you down every time you try.
    Isn’t freedom great?
       —js    Aug. 24 '05 - 11:56AM    #
  7. Oh, I’m sorry about the ACLU. They’re not really against all religions. They just seem to hate Christians, while they seem quite fond of radical Islamists these days.

    And don’t challenge me to a battle of the wits because you’ll find you’re unarmed! :-)

    But seriously, what the **** is up with the ACLU trying to ban displays of Christmas on “public” property? Why then don’t they try to get all of the government workers (who are mostly Christians) to have to go to work on Christmas day, for example?

    And the ACLU goes after the Boy Scouts for having the guts to want to approve their own leaders, which doesn’t include gays. Now before you say the Boy Scouts should be forced to have gay scoutmasters, then you must also agree that the NAACP must have David Duke as a leader, and the Rainbow folks must allow Gary Glenn to be one of their leaders. The fact is, private organizations have the right to choose leaders that are acceptable to them. It’s either right for all, or for none, but not just for some.

    I could mention that the ACLU also ignores the 2nd Amendment rights of folks to own firearms; indeed, the ACLU fights like heck against the 2nd Amendment.
       —Garry K    Aug. 24 '05 - 05:48PM    #
  8. Garry: Yeah, private organizations have the right to pick and choose who they want in their organization. The ACLU has fought for the right of golf clubs to exclude women.
    But, the Boy Scouts get public money. They shouldn’t be getting public money if they discriminate on the basis of religion. See the difference?
    As far as displays of Christian symbols on public property, I think the objections to that are the same as why there shouldn’t be giant crescent moons on public property: it implies public endorsement.
    If you want to argue ACLU is against firearms, you’ll have to do some citing, Garry.
    And, intellectually, I think you’ll find that you’re bringing a knife to a gun fight.
       —js    Aug. 24 '05 - 06:16PM    #
  9. From :

    ”...We believe that the constitutional right to bear arms is primarily a collective one, intended mainly to protect the right of the states to maintain militias to assure their own freedom and security against the central government. In today’s world, that idea is somewhat anachronistic and in any case would require weapons much more powerful than handguns or hunting rifles. The ACLU therefore believes that the Second Amendment does not confer an unlimited right upon individuals to own guns or other weapons nor does it prohibit reasonable regulation of gun ownership, such as licensing and registration.

    IN BRIEF
    The national ACLU is neutral on the issue of gun control. We believe that the Constitution contains no barriers to reasonable regulations of gun ownership. If we can license and register cars, we can license and register guns. ...”

    Let’s see, the ACLU interprets the Bill of Rights et al all as INDIVIDUAL rights, while it says the 2nd Amendment is only a “collective” right. Well, consistency is not their strong suit. And check out .

    And displaying Christian symbols on “public” property does NOT imply “public endorsement.” What it implies is that a MAJORITY of the population celebrates a particular holiday at a certain time of the season, and that does not stop anyone else from enjoying their own holiday (or even no holiday)! What’s so hard to figure out about that? And like I said before, the ACLU figures it’s easier to try to ban religious (i.e., Christian) displays than it would be to ban the celebration of Christmas itself and try to force government offices to stay open on Christmas day.

    One could also say, “no harm, no foul.” So where’s the real harm in putting a creche on the lawn at City Hall? It might offend some poor atheist?

    Yes, the Boy Scouts discriminate, but not on the basis of religion (except to the fact that one must believe in some higher power, not necessarily a Christian God). But ALL organizations discriminate. The word discriminate means simply to decide between options. Would the NAACP allow a white-supremacist to be in their organization? NO? What about gay groups-would they have homophobes in them? NO? Well, then, since they’re “discriminating” against certain individuals who have different belief systems, they too should be denied all public funds. Some of the commies tried to ban the Boy Scouts from using public schools for meetings, but the commies found out they’d have to then ban all groups or face a discrimination lawsuit themselves! (I don’t have time to find the link-as Casey Stengel used to say, “you could look it up!).
       —Garry K    Aug. 25 '05 - 01:13AM    #
  10. the second amendment is a collective right, it seems, not just by the aclu, but in the wording of the amendment itself…

    piece now,
    ari p.
       —Ari P.    Aug. 25 '05 - 07:54AM    #
  11. 2nd Amendment. Guns. Piece. Cute, Ari!
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 25 '05 - 09:52AM    #
  12. “Let’s see, the ACLU interprets the Bill of Rights et al all as INDIVIDUAL rights, while it says the 2nd Amendment is only a “collective” right. Well, consistency is not their strong suit. And check out .”
    Read your constitution, Garry. “Well formed militia.” Is a militia collective, Garry? Further, it’s insane to say that there should be no limits on firearm ownership, Garry. I’m willing to bet that you are against average citizens having access to military ordinance (as they have been since the 1930s, when machine guns were outlawed for public ownership because of the gangster’s use of tommy guns). Very few rights in the Bill of Rights are absolute. You’ll notice that free speech is abrogated with regard to public safety (“fire in a crowded theater”).

    “And displaying Christian symbols on “public” property does NOT imply “public endorsement.” What it implies is that a MAJORITY of the population celebrates a particular holiday at a certain time of the season, and that does not stop anyone else from enjoying their own holiday (or even no holiday)! What’s so hard to figure out about that? And like I said before, the ACLU figures it’s easier to try to ban religious (i.e., Christian) displays than it would be to ban the celebration of Christmas itself and try to force government offices to stay open on Christmas day.”
    Ah, but Garry, we respect minority rights in this country. That’s what makes us a Republic, not a democracy. You might do well to read your Federalist papers, where they warn against the assumption of majoritarianism and the idea of controlling factions. If I recall correctly, that’s Federalist 12, by Madison (though I might be off on the number).
    And yes, it is easier to restrict the religious displays than to make people go to work on Christmas. Is your argument that the ACLU should focus on cases that are harder to win? I’m not sure I follow your logic, Garry.

    “One could also say, “no harm, no foul.” So where’s the real harm in putting a creche on the lawn at City Hall? It might offend some poor atheist?”
    What’s the harm of burning a cross on the city hall lawn? It might offend some black people?

    “Yes, the Boy Scouts discriminate, but not on the basis of religion (except to the fact that one must believe in some higher power, not necessarily a Christian God).”
    Doesn’t matter. Still religious. In fact, it’s not even the broader “higher power” that AA requires.

    “But ALL organizations discriminate. The word discriminate means simply to decide between options. Would the NAACP allow a white-supremacist to be in their organization? NO? What about gay groups-would they have homophobes in them? NO? Well, then, since they’re “discriminating” against certain individuals who have different belief systems, they too should be denied all public funds.”
    The NAACP doesn’t get public funds, Garry. Please try to limit your arguments to ones that are somehow relevant. Perhaps you need to rearm yourself for this battle of wits?

    “Some of the commies tried to ban the Boy Scouts from using public schools for meetings, but the commies found out they’d have to then ban all groups or face a discrimination lawsuit themselves! (I don’t have time to find the link-as Casey Stengel used to say, “you could look it up!).”
    Commies, Garry? You really should avoid trying to argue while drunk on John Birch wine. And no, Garry. You’re making the assertion. You look it up. Show me some cites, otherwise you’re just another nutbag shouting “Goddamn commies!” everywhere. You want to have more credibility than a bus station pamphleteer, don’t you Garry?
    (You might also want to look into the Mormon connection with the Boy Scouts, as they’re a big reason why the Boy Scouts discriminate and why Congress tried to slip funding to the Boy Scouts under the rubric of a defense spending discretionary fund instead of through open session).
    Are you done bein’ whupped yet, Garry? Or would you like me to rub your nose in it a bit more?
       —js    Aug. 25 '05 - 10:00AM    #
  13. js – If I hadn’t secretly wanted to date you before, rattling off Federalist Papers references would have done it.

    Carry on.
       —Murph    Aug. 25 '05 - 10:09AM    #
  14. I’m delighted the ACLU is going to help defend that Ypsi church! The Ypsi city government has been on a crusade recently to “clean up” the downtown and bring in organizations that will pay more taxes. The city doesn’t want nonprofits (including churches) downtown.
    But the city stubbed its toe when it sent that eviction notice to a church. It’s only a storefront church, used twice a week. It doesn’t use up a lot of parking, and doesn’t negatively impact the city in any other way.
       —Dave Cahill    Aug. 25 '05 - 10:24AM    #
  15. It was the People’s Republic of Ann Arbor school board who tried to ban the Boy Scouts from using the “public” i.e., taxpayer-funded (meaning me, but probably not you) schools. One link (I’ll try it without the universally-accepted except here angle brackets this time) “http://www.credopub.com/archives/2001/iss20011029/20011029p07.htm”

    “In the wake of public backlash, the Ann Arbor School Board has reversed a policy adopted in early October that tried to shut the Boy Scouts of America out of Ann Arbor public schools.

    The rules were targeted at the Boy Scouts because of their longstanding policy against allowing known homosexuals to become Scout leaders. But federal law required the school board to ban all non-school organizations if they wanted to ban the Scouts. Those organizations included the Girl Scouts, Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation, the Public Library and the YMCA, to name a few.”

    The Boy Scouts happen to have “old fashioned” morals, and that’s something that modern “progressives” (a word really meaning “socialists”) just can’t seem to abide. I happen to identify with those old fashioned morals, being an Eagle Scout myself, and you folks in trying to frame the argument as one of “religious discrimination” by the Boy Scouts are missing out on the fact that PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS HAVE THE ABSOLUTE RIGHT TO CHOOSE LEADERS THAT ARE ACCEPTABLE TO THEM. No matter how much you may try to convince some folks that they must accept someone else telling them what to believe, those folks have a right to resist the garbage you’re trying to force down their throats.

    Get real, man. Like I said before, when does David Duke get to be in charge of the NAACP? Certainly you don’t believe that the NAACP should be allowed to discriminate against someone based on that person having a different belief system, now do you? Or are you going to hold the NAACP to a different standard than you’re trying to hold the Boy Scouts? That’s the trouble with you modern “progressives”—you try to have different rules for different folks like the pigs in Animal Farm!

    And no, I’m not a troll, just letting you folks know you’re way off base in some things. You may think everyone in the People’s Republic (of Ann Arbor) thinks the same way you do, but they don’t (and that’s a good thing!).
       —Garry K    Aug. 25 '05 - 12:38PM    #
  16. Garry –

    How about the question of public funding? The NAACP / Boy Scouts analogy is flawed because they are not “similarly situated”, and, therefore, do not necessarily require similar treatment. You can look to the “modern progressive” 14th Amendment (that’d be 1868) if you want to try making an equal protection type analogy between the NAACP and Boy Scouts.

    You also may want to dig a little deeper into Orwell’s politics before using your never-opened copy of Animal Farm to bludgeon imagined socialists. I recommend “Homage to Catalonia”.
       —Murph    Aug. 25 '05 - 01:19PM    #