ACLU and the Art of Community

by Philip Painchaud and Mitun Mitra
ACLU of Georgia Law Clerks

On Saturday, July 12th, Marlyn Tillman, Mitun Mitra, Philip Painchaud and Asia Foots attended a celebration of the University Avenue Public Art Project on behalf of the ACLU of Georgia. The event took place in southwest Atlanta, and celebrated the unveiling of three twenty-foot high-relief sculptures celebrating the past, present and future of the local neighborhoods. Those in attendance were happy to see the presence of the ACLU of Georgia.

UGA athlete policies address sex, appearance and cleanliness

11Alive Staff, WXIA

The University of Georgia men's basketball team must follow detailed rules when it comes to dating, as uncovered by the study, shows that Coach Mark Fox includes guidelines on sexual activities, appearances and social networking.

Included under the "Treat women with respect" heading are rules stating "Don't spend all your energy in bed all night," "Hicky's/passion marks should not ever be noticed by coaches" and "One. Not two or three girlfriends."

Social media networking rules state that anything the athletes write can be quote by the coach. Players are forbidden from Twitter unless they have written permission from Coach Fox.

Players are also told that their apartments and dorms are expected to be clean. "We're paying so we're inspecting. I can enter the dorm at any time," the policy states.

Sagging pants and braids are also prohibited, according to the policy.

ACLU Sues Haralson County School District for Violating Free Speech Rights of Employee

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Georgia and the Kendall Law Group, cooperating attorneys for the ACLU of Georgia, have filed a lawsuit challenging the unlawful termination of Johnny Cook. Mr. Cook was fired for expressing concerns on his personal Facebook profile that a child was left hungry and denied lunch at school. He joined a national debate focused on the well-being of children and adequacy of school lunch policies. When Mr. Cook refused to allow his voice, thoughts, property, and image to be hijacked, commandeered, censored, and illegally appropriated by the Haralson County school system, he was fired.

Another state considers discrimination based on ‘religious freedom’

By Adam Serwer

Georgia is the latest state to consider legislation that could sanction discrimination in the name of religious freedom.

There are two versions of the Georgia bill – a state House version, HB 1023, and a state Senate version, SB 377. Both would affirm the “right to act or refuse to act in a manner substantially motivated by a sincerely held religious tenet or belief whether or not the exercise is compulsory or a central part or requirement of the person’s religious tenets or beliefs.” Where those beliefs conflict with local, state or federal law, the government would have to prove that the law is meant to pursue a “a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

ACLU of Georgia Sends Letters to Sheriffs to Ask that they Respect Religious Liberty of Detained Individuals

The ACLU of Georgia has sent letters and public records requests to sheriffs across the state to address the practice of requiring detained individuals to remove religious headwear. This practice was brought to our attention when several detained individuals of faith were forced to remove their religious headgear at various Georgia jails, despite assertions of religious obligations. We have advised the sheriffs that unless the government can demonstrate that this requirement is “the least restrictive means” of furthering “a compelling governmental interest,” the practice of forcing detained individuals to remove religious attire violates individuals’ rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) as well as other legal authorities. In addition to asking the sheriffs to produce pertinent policies and any complaints they had received, we urged them to review their policies and guidelines to ensure they are consistent with RLUIPA and other legal requirements. To view a copy of the letter click here.

ACLU Foundation of Georgia Challenges Viewpoint Discrimination in Klan Suit

ATLANTA -- The ACLU Foundation of Georgia filed a lawsuit today in Fulton County Superior Court against the State of Georgia on behalf of the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (IKKK), which had sought to be a part of the Adopt-a-Highway Program. The IKKK sought to maintain a stretch of Highway 515 in Union County as part of the Keep Our Mountains Beautiful program.

“The fundamental right to free speech is not limited to only those we agree with or groups that are inoffensive. The government cannot pick or choose who is protected by the Constitution,” said Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the ACLU Foundation of Georgia. “There will always be speech and groups conveying hateful messages that are distasteful to some. That is why the First Amendment protects free speech for all.”

The Georgia Department of Transportation rejected the IKKK’s application to participate in the Adopt-a-Highway Program because of the group’s history and the potential impact to motorists driving on that stretch of highway. This decision violates the free speech and due process rights guaranteed by the Georgia Constitution.

“Many people may find the views expressed by groups like the IKKK abhorrent. But there is nothing American about taking away the right to express those views or undertake a project, such as notification of sponsorship of a highway cleanup, which is otherwise open to all,” said Chara Fisher Jackson, legal director of the ACLU Foundation of Georgia. “Freedom of speech is at the very core of American values.”

Attorneys on the case also include Alan and Cory Begner of Begner & Begner, P.C.

To view the Complaint click here

ACLU of Georgia Discusses Recent Decision to Represent KKK

Executive Director Debbie Seagraves and Legal Director Chara Fisher Jackson of the ACLU Georgia sat down with The Mo Ivory Show to discuss our organzation's purpose and why we recently decided to represent the KKK’s denied request to adopt a strip of highway in north Georgia.

Listen to the interview here ››

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