Wednesday’s letter from Gene Mills contains a host of inaccuracies that must be corrected. He references the earlier letter from ACLU Executive Director Marjorie Esman, in which she quoted directly from the text of HB707. Mills, who himself cites no provisions of that bill, claims that because he doesn’t like her interpretation of the provisions she quotes directly, “it’s hard to believe Ms. Esman has even read the bill.”
Yet Mills says nothing to refute Esman’s interpretation of the clear language of HB707, which by its terms would supercede “any other law to the contrary” and protect anyone whose “moral conviction” about the “institution of marriage” might lead to action that would be otherwise unlawful. Mills may not like that conclusion, but attacking the messenger doesn’t change the message.
Mills further engages in an attack on the ACLU, which he should know is false. In an effort to discredit the ACLU and its long and distinguished history defending the religious rights of everyone, he claims that the ACLU should “add the disclaimer we have all come to expect: Orthodox Christians need not apply.”
In fact, the ACLU, in Louisiana and around the country, has defended the rights of “Orthodox Christians” and other religious people whose rights are trampled. Mike Johnson, the author of HB707 and Mills’ friend, asked the ACLU of Louisiana for help in defending the rights of a preacher wrongly arrested for preaching on the sidewalk. Johnson won that case only after the ACLU of Louisiana submitted a brief in support of the preacher. The case, Netherland v. Zachary, stands as authority for the right to engage in street evangelism.
The ACLU of Louisiana has represented the rights of Christian protesters to speak and Christian employees seeking religious accommodations at work. Around the country, ACLU offices have defended the rights of Christians to distribute religious pamphlets (Nebraska), a student’s right to distribute invitations at school to a Christmas party at her church (Pennsylvania) and students who wanted to include Christian messages in their holiday gift bags (Texas), among many other instances. This information is readily available to anyone with very little effort, and Mills could easily have learned it if he didn’t know it already.
Mills is welcome to his opinion about the ACLU and any other issue, but he should support those opinions with facts rather than falsehoods.
Jared K. Frank
president, board of directors, ACLU of Louisiana