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I come from a civil rights family which instilled in me a healthy concern about how members of minority groups are treated in all societies.  Minority can mean ethnicity, race, religion, belief, age group, nationality, health status, and so on.  My parents made us aware of the plights of all kinds of minority groups around the world, and historically.

I teach social work at Rhode Island College.  In almost every course I teach, a civil rights issue comes up.  This is because social workers often encounter abuses of minority group members, as well as vulnerable people of any status.  When this happens, I discuss the historic role of the ACLU, and my students' option of involving the ACLU if their clients' rights are violated.  As an academic, I've also done some research and published articles about civil liberties issues facing specific populations (students, low-income people and the elderly).  In 1992, I starting hosting the RI ACLU's public access TV program, Rights of a Free People.  In its infinite wisdom, the affiliate has not sought to replace me with a more attractive or articulate emcee.

My own ACLU court case, resulting in a favorable US Supreme Court decision banning prayers at public school graduations (Weisman v. Lee, 1992) stands out in my mind.  That same year there was an ACLU case on behalf of a young bikini-clad woman who sold hot dogs beside the road to the beach in South County, singled out by police for harassment.  It's hard to forget that one.  I also think the "driving while black"/racial profiling issue is very important, as are same sex marriage and medical marijuana.  In fact, any ACLU case or action can appear trivial to those not directly-affected.  The current Cranston school prayer banner case appears to affect only a few students and their families.  But each civil rights violation is threat to all minority group members if allowed to stand.  Unless you're the very privileged, and sometimes even then, the ACLU is there for you, and needs your support.

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