Tag Archives: ACLU

Intent of the Day: We are the Peace-Makers


To keep up with the news these days is to be heartbroken. Families grieve the loss of fathers that should’ve come home that day. Politicians speak words of hate about ethnicities who live and thrive in this country and will vote in November. Women suffer assault and the perpetrators of those crimes will have their athletic accolades included in backstory of their act. It can make you wonder if anyone is fighting for peace, kindness, gentleness.

Today our intent is to be those people.  You can be one of those people.
You can make your intent to be a person who furthers love and patience instead anger and hatred. You can choose to grow and change into a human who accepts and pursues good instead of a person who is self-seeking and narrow-minded.

How? There are lots of ways to dig in. Here are a few things that might help with today’s climate:

  1. This video from ACLU deputy legal director Jeff Robinson calling for policing reform.
    In the wake of two more police shootings, we revisit this video shared after the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Robinson calls us to find a better way.

  2. This Easy Guide to Contacting Your Elected Representatives About Gun Control.
    Shared originally on Huffington Post, this guide helps you identify your senators and representatives, shares form letters and has information for effectively calling and tweeting at elected officials. As easy as it easy to do, you have no reason not to take a minute to share your support or opposition when it comes to causes that matter most to you.
  3. These wise words from Deepak Chopra.
    In choosing to be a peace-maker, it also means dealing with the resentment and anger in your heart. There is much to be upset about. There is much change that awaits us. This does not mean a root of bitterness should be fostered in the process. Choose to pursue change because you desire a better future, not because you wish to remain trapped in the past. Forgiveness does not mean you have to forget where you’ve come from. It can mean accepting the freedom to take a different path.

How are you pursuing peace?

Do Homeless People Have Rights?

If you think the public debate about universal health care is loud and sometimes acrimonious, just think about what would happen if we ever start talking about whether homeless people have rights.

What rights would we be talking about?  I couldn’t say it better, so here it is from the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776), the unanimous declaration from the thirteen original colonies:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

However, the Declaration of Independence does not contain a list of our rights. We know some of our rights because they are contained in:

             (1) U.S. Constitution, particularly the first ten amendments referred to as the Bill of Rights. 

            (2) Congressional legislation, such as the Americans With Disabilities Act 1990 (ADA) 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.[1] and

            (3) Court decisions through which the courts, ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court, interpret the Constitution and identify rights, such as the right to privacy in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965).[2] 

The terms, “homeless person” or “homeless people” do not appear in the U.S. Constitution. So how to we know what rights, if any, homeless people have?

Today, some of the rights of chronically homeless people[3] are being determined through the courts.  For example, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU/SC) has filed lawsuits against the three Cities of Laguna Beach,[4] Santa Barbara[5] and Santa Monica [6] alleging that their ordinances against sleeping in public places and the enforcement of said ordinances violate the rights of chronically homeless residents who have no other place to sleep. 

In each of these lawsuits, the ACLU/SC

            • claims that while there is an insufficient number of homeless shelter beds in each of these cities, the police are intimidating, harassing and arresting their chronically homeless residents for the natural and involuntary act of sleeping in public when there is no way for them to comply with the law; 

            • seeks injunctive relief to prevent the Cities and their police forces from enforcing said ordinances against chronically homeless people; and 

            • requests a declaration from the court that the ordinances in question and the enforcement of said ordinances, violate chronically homeless people’s rights to equal protection under the law,[7] their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment,[8] their rights to due process of law,[9] their rights to be free of illegal searches and seizures,[10] and their rights to freedom from discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)[11]

There are a few differences among the lawsuits.  The Laguna lawsuit[12] was brought on behalf of five named plaintiffs, while the Santa Barbara[13] and Santa Monica[14] lawsuits were brought on behalf of named plaintiffs and also as class actions. 

Further, in the Santa Barbara lawsuit,[15] the ACLU/SC seeks to protect chronically homeless people’s rights from illegal takings of their private property without just compensation.[16] And unique to the Santa Monica lawsuit,[17] is the claim that the referenced ordinances and their enforcement violate the rights of chronically homeless to travel and move freely.

While the lawsuits against the Cities of Santa Barbara[18] and Santa Monica[19] are still pending, the City of Laguna lawsuit[20] was settled this June.  As part of the terms of this settlement, the City of Laguna agreed

            (1) to repeal and did repeal those sections of the municipal code relating to camping and sleeping in public places within the City

            (2) to expunge the records of arrests and convictions made pursuant to the City’s ordinance against sleeping in public and

            (3) not to cite, arrest or harass people under State law simply for sleeping in public places in cases where there are no reasonable public health or safety concerns.[21]

After the City of Santa Monica passed their ordinance against sleeping in all public places, I asked a high-ranking Santa Monica official a question.  I said, “Of course, homeless people cannot sleep on private property, that’s against the law of trespass.  However, now that the City of Santa Monica has passed a law against sleeping in all public places, where are homeless people to go?” 

He answered, “Into the sea.” 

If every city with an insufficient number of shelter beds were to pass an ordinance against sleeping in all public places, there would be no place for a homeless person to sleep.  This is the real danger facing homeless people.

The rights that the ACLU/SC is seeking to protect are the rights that belong to all of us – in this case, the rights of disabled persons who are homeless to sleep in public places and to exist in these United States.

I look forward to your comments.

Thank you, 


[1] Article VI, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution:  “This Constitution and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof…. shall be the supreme law of the land;  and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

[2] In the U.S. Supreme Court case of Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803), the Court established the concept of “judicial review.”

[3] A “chronically homeless person” is “either (1) an unaccompanied homeless person with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, or (2) an unaccompanied individual with ah disabling condition who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.”  HUD, Office of Community Planning and Development, Defining Chronic Homelessness:  A Technical Guide for HUD Programs (Sept. 2007), at 3.

A homeless person is a person “without a fixed regular and adequate night-time residence, or a person who resides in a …place not ordinarily used for sleeping accommodations, such as the streets, automobiles, abandoned buildings, etc.  Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. Ss 11302.

[4] Sipprelle, et al. v. City of Laguna Beach, et al. U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Case No. SACV08-01447 CJC (AGRx), filed on December 23, 2008 settled as to the parties in June 2009.  See Settlement Agreement filed in Sipprelle, June 2009.

[5] Ryden, et al. v. City of Santa Barbara, et al., U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Case No. CV09-1578 (SVW (SSx), March 6, 2009.

[6] Chubna, et al. v. City of Santa Monica, et al., U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Case No. CV09-5046 CBM (Ex), July14, 2009.

[7] Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

[8] Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

[9] Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

[10] Fourth Amendment through the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

[11] Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. Ss 12101 -12181 (ADA).

[12] Ibid., Sipprelle, et al. v. City of Laguna Beach, et al.

[13] Ibid., Ryden, et al. v. City of Santa Barbara, et al.

[14] Ibid., Chubna, et al. v. City of Santa Monica, et al.

[15] Ibid., Ryden, et al. v. City of Santa Barbara, et al., at 22.

[16] Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

[17] Ibid., Chubna, et al. v. City of Santa Monica, et al., at 18.

[18] Ibid., Ryden, et al. v. City of Santa Barbara, et al.

[19] Ibid., Chubna, et al. v. City of Santa Monica, et al.

[20] Ibid., Sipprelle, et al. v. City of Laguna Beach, et al., Sipprelle Settlement.

[21] Ibid., Sipprelle, et al. v. City of Laguna Beach, et al., Sipprelle Settlement

The Army Fights “With God on Our Side”

An article in the Washington Post On Faith section in response to their question:
The ACLU has asked the U.S. Naval Academy to end prayers at mandatory meals, and yet all branches of the service employ chaplains. What is the proper role of religion in the military?

Speaking realistically, patriotism can’t be divorced from religion. Every war is fought with God on our side — on both sides. And the prevailing notion is always that the enemy is godless. The ACLU may prevail legally, on the basis of separating church and state, but psychology works massively against them. Soldiers know that they may die in battle, and the armed forces must create an ethos that protects their psyches from the impending danger of the conflict. Team spirit and protecting your buddy is one aspect of feeling safe. Trusting your weaponry is another. But so is the idea that God approves of your cause and implicitly will take you to Heaven if the worst befalls.

The entanglement of personal duty, troop morale, patriotism, and religion isn’t simple. The ACLU’s lawsuit will antagonize anyone on the inside — besides the “us versus them” mentality about the enemy; there is an “us versus them” attitude toward the civilian public. And rightly so. No one on the home front can understand the searing experience of frontline fighting. Since Vietnam, an additional element has entered the situation: the resentment by soldiers that nobody appreciates their sacrifice. “Vietnam vet” has become synonymous with a new kind of forgotten man — unsung, alienated, often psychologically scarred for life — and society seems to feel the same way about Iraqi vets. One sympathizes with their plight; it would be inhuman not to.

That said, it is disturbing to know how deeply fundamentalist Christianity has sunk into the ethos of the armed forces. First noticed with alarm at the Air Force Academy, hard-core proselytizing is apparently rampant. Soldiers pray as they go into training exercises as well as into battle. Atheist and Jewish soldiers are ostracized or hit hard with pressure to convert. The simple notion that fighting for your country is the same as fighting for Jesus is endemic. Yet here, too, the solution isn’t clear. Weeding out chaplains who encourage right-wing fundamentalism may do some good, but if cadets and enlistees come from the same Christian background, they have rights, too. Even though one may suppose that young men and women barely in their twenties, if that, are too susceptible to peer pressure and religious indoctrination, we consider them mature enough to go to war. Splitting the difference won’t work.

In the end, this feels like a minor point of discord. The Army and Navy are adult institutions, not grade schools, and the admission or exclusion of prayer can be handled by each soldier as he or she sees fit. The armed forces should be left to develop their own ethos. Until we have a draft that puts war on a democratic footing and enlists a broad swath of the population, all of us are outsiders who contribute almost nothing to the Iraq war other than a flurry of words. American militarism is a serious problem that needs radical solutions. Pulling God out of the mess hall is beside the point.




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