Constitutional Rights

PFAW and Others File Case Challenging ‘Profoundly Problematic’ NSA Surveillance

WASHINGTON – Today People For the American Way, together with a broad spectrum of other organizations and represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the law firm of Keker & Van Nest, filed a lawsuit to challenge the unconstitutional NSA surveillance program that collects millions of Americans’ telephone records.  The case, First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA, challenges the surveillance program as an unconstitutional violation of the organizations’ First Amendment right to freedom of association.

“The NSA’s unchecked collection of Americans’ telephone records, including the telephone records of organizations like PFAW, is a blatantly unconstitutional attack on our civil liberties,” said People For the American Way President Michael Keegan. “The Supreme Court has long recognized the right of membership organizations like ours to freely associate with their members and keep their lists private. That’s incompatible with a surveillance scheme that captures the identity of every person who calls to join our policy briefings or who gets contacted by our membership team. There’s no question that this creates a dangerous chilling effect and impedes our associational rights, as well as those of our members.  Our Constitution protects the freedom to gather together in groups to advocate around a set of beliefs without undue government interference.  The sweeping collection of Americans’ telephone records is a profoundly problematic infringement on fundamental constitutional rights.”

People For the American Way has long been an advocate for protecting our civil rights and liberties. Earlier this year, PFAW launched a petition to repeal the dangerous provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, which granted overly broad powers regarding surveillance to the executive branch.  The petition has garnered nearly 67,000 signatures to date. In addition, affiliate People For the American Way Foundation has filed two amicus briefs in related NSA surveillance cases, including one in support of the Hepting v. AT&T plaintiffs in 2006 and one in support of the Jewel v. NSA plaintiffs last year.

The filed complaint is available here

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PFAW Calls for Renewed PATRIOT Act Debate

In the wake of revelations about the scope of government surveillance programs, People For the American Way called for a renewed debate about fixing or repealing the deeply flawed PATRIOT Act. People For the American Way President Michael Keegan issued the following statement:

“The revelations that have appeared in the media in recent days underscore the urgency of a new and vigorous debate about the PATRIOT Act. The powers the PATRIOT Act grants to the executive branch were dangerously broad when it was passed, and they’re dangerously broad now.  While it remains to be seen whether the government complied with the law, it seems evident neither the standard of judicial review for the authorization of surveillance activities nor the one-sided nature of the process has adequately protected our constitutional right to privacy.

“Even worse, the law as it is written and interpreted cripples our public debate about how we balance our security and our liberty. Congressional critics of the PATRIOT Act have been prevented from speaking publicly and ordinary citizens have been left in the dark about what’s being done in their name. That’s no way to run a democracy.”

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The Citizens United Era: How the Supreme Court Continues to Put Business First

A new PFAW Foundation report examines how the Supreme Court's conservative majority is working to reshape our Constitution and elevate corporate interests above the rights of individual Americans. Beginning with the 2010 decision in Citizens United, the Roberts Court has handed down a steady stream of decisions that allow enormous corporations to use their significant resource advantage to influence the law in their favor.

The True Spirit of the Union

If you ask people what part of the U.S. Constitution has been most critical for advancing social progress, many would say the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee. But a powerful case can be made that the most important constitutional instrument for social progress in our history has been the Commerce Clause

The First Amendment Only Applies to Christians? PFAW Asks Candidates to Tell Bryan Fischer that the First Amendment Protects All Americans

People For the American Way today asked GOP presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, and Haley Barbour to publicly tell the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer that the First Amendment applies to all Americans, when they appear on his radio show later today.

As Smithsonian Continues to Duck Controversy, PFAW Report Draws Lessons On How Not to Respond to Political Bullies

A new report from People For the American Way draws lessons on ways institutions can respond to right-wing-generated controversies, by evaluating the chain of events that led to the Smithsonian’s removal of a work of art from the National Portrait Gallery.

How Not to Respond to Political Bullies: Lessons from the Smithsonian’s Response to the Manufactured Right-Wing Controversy Over Hide/Seek

A new report from People For the American Way draws lessons on ways institutions can respond to right-wing-generated controversies, by evaluating the chain of events that led to the Smithsonian’s removal of a work of art from the National Portrait Gallery.

Indiana Court Declares State's Voter ID Law Unconstitutional

Following the Indiana Court of Appeals unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel that the state’s voter ID law is unconstitutional, People For the American Way Director of Public Policy Tanya Clay House said, "It’s been a long time coming, but this is exciting news for Indiana voters and all of us concerned with protecting the right to vote of all Americans. Indiana's voter identification law was the most stringent in the country, and the Indiana Court of Appeals' decision to strike it down is correct. The court rightfully recognized the need to ensure voter security for all Indiana voters by reexamining the voter identification law, which would disproportionately harm minorities, the poor and the elderly."

Wendy Gonaver's Fight for Free Speech and Religious Liberty

When Wendy Gonaver was fired for standing up for her religious beliefs, she took action.

Republicans Block Emergency Ballot Bill in the House

In response to the failed vote on Rep. Zoe Lofgren's Emergency Ballot Bill, People For the American Way Director of Public Policy Tanya Clay House released the following statement:

Senate Sides with Bush and Against Rule of Law on FISA

In response to the Senate’s vote on the FISA Amendments Act, People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert said, "Today a majority of the Senate sided with the Bush administration and against the rule of law."

People For the American Way Encouraged by Obama Commitment to Apply Constitutional Principles to Partnerships with Faith-Based Groups

People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert said, Senator Obama’s speech on government partnerships with faith-based and grassroots social service groups included a clear commitment to constitutional principles, something that has been sorely lacking during the Bush administration. Sen. Obama stated clearly that his administration would not allow federal funds to support discrimination in providing services – or in hiring. In so doing, the Obama campaign is embracing civil rights protections that the Bush administration actively tried to undermine.

Obama Talks SCOTUS and Women

At an event today in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Senator Barack Obama spoke about his support of the Fair Pay Restoration Act, which would reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear. That decision severely curtailed the right of women and other employees who are victimized by unlawful wage discrimination to obtain back pay. Senator Obama criticized Senator John McCain’s refusal to support the same legislation.

People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement:

McCain on Gitmo Decision: Pandering, Flippant, or Just Out of Touch?

Senator John McCain today called the Supreme Court decision protecting the right of habeas corpus for prisoners in Guantamo Bay “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”

People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert released the following statement:

Supreme Court Rebukes Bush on Habeas Corpus in 5-4 Ruling

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Boumediene v. Bush People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert said, The Supreme Court has rebuked President Bush’s vision of the presidency as an office of limitless power, and declared that the president of a free nation cannot simply lock people up and throw away the key like some third-world dictator. This is a stinging blow to the administration’s lawless policies and its allies in Congress."

California State University and People For the American Way Foundation Reach Agreement in Fullerton Lecturer Case

(Fullerton, CA) — The California State University (CSU) and Wendy Gonaver, represented by attorneys with People For the American Way Foundation, have worked out an agreement over a dispute concerning the requirement that all state employees sign a "loyalty oath" as required by the California Constitution.

Fired Teacher Calls on Calif State University to Change "Loyalty Oath" Policy

Gonaver
People For the American Way Foundation
PFAW Foundation has taken up the case of fired Quaker teacher Wendy Gonaver, insisting that the California State University restore her to a teaching job.

The Case Against the Confirmation of John Ashcroft As Attorney General of the United States: Part II

An examination of John Ashcroft's record as Governor and Attorney General of the state of Missouri.

The Case Against the Confirmation of John Ashcroft as Attorney General of the United States: PART I

On January 4, People For the American Way published an overview of John Ashcroft's six-year record in the United States Senate. The report shows clearly that John Ashcroft does not meet the high standards of fairness and integrity required of the Attorney General. He has not demonstrated a sufficient commitment to equal justice under the law to be entrusted with upholding the Constitution and our nation's civil rights laws.

Editorial Memorandum: John Ashcroft’s Relentless Assault on Civil Liberties

This editorial memorandum examines how U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has failed to pursue a responsible and balanced approach to achieving security and preserving liberty, but has promoted legislation and instituted policies at the Department of Justice (DOJ) that could threaten civil liberties and undermine civil rights for years to come. These recent actions continue a dangerous trend that was already evident in his first six months on the job.

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