The American system of government is founded on two counterbalancing principles: that the majority of the people governs, through democratically elected representatives; and that the power even of a democratic majority must be limited, to ensure individual rights.
Majority power is limited by the Constitution's Bill of Rights, which consists of the original ten amendments ratified in 1791, plus the three post-Civil War amendments (the 13th, 14th and 15th) and the 19th Amendment (women's suffrage), adopted in 1920.
The mission of the ACLU is to preserve all of these protections and guarantees
- Your First Amendment rights - freedom of speech, association and assembly; freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.
- Your right to equal protection under the law - equal treatment regardless of race, sex, religion or national origin.
- Your right to due process - fair treatment by the government whenever the loss of your liberty or property is at stake.
- Your right to privacy - freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into your personal and private affairs.
We work also to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including Native Americans and other people of color; lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people; women; mental-health patients; prisoners; people with disabilities; and the poor.
If the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled.
The ACLU was founded by Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, Albert DeSilver and others in 1920. We are nonprofit and nonpartisan and have grown from a roomful of civil liberties activists to an organization of more than 500,000 members and supporters. We handle nearly 6,000 court cases annually from our offices in almost every state.
The ACLU has maintained the position that civil liberties must be respected, even in times of national emergency. The ACLU is supported by annual dues and contributions from its members, plus grants from private foundations and individuals. We do not receive any government funding. Learn more about joining the ACLU.