Civil Liberties The National Newsletter of the ACLU #380, Spring 1994 (c) 1994 American Ci

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Civil Liberties The National Newsletter of the ACLU #380, Spring 1994 (c) 1994 American Civil Liberties Union AFFILIATE NOTES describes activities of the ACLU's affiliate and chapter offices. Through dedicated staffs and the help of volunteers from the legal community, the ACLU has a broad national network at work every day to protect and defend the Bill of Rights. Consult your local affiliate or chapter for assistance from, or information about, the ACLU. ILLINOIS  The affiliate won an unusual reproductive freedom case in which its 22-year-old pregnant client, called "Mother Doe" in court, was ordered by the Public Guardian of Chicago's Cook County to undergo a caesearean. Doctors at St. Joseph's Hospital had recommended the procedure after discovering that Doe's 36-week-old fetus was not receiving adequate oxygen and nutrition. Doe, a Pentecostal Christian, refused the operation on religious grounds, including the belief that God would protect her unborn baby. Fearing liability, hospital officials notified child welfare authorities, who sought government intervention in juvenile court. The state's attorney, after failing to prevail at a hearing, appealed to the Illinois appellate and supreme courts, both of which affirmed Doe's right to make her own decisions regarding medical treatment. On December 29, 11 days after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case, Doe delivered a healthy baby boy. MARYLAND  The affiliate, working with the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, has won a federal court judgment requiring Worcester County, on Maryland's Eastern Shore, to elect candidates to countywide offices by a cumulative voting scheme that will correct the under-representation of racial minorities. The ACLU represented the Worcester County Voting Rights Coalition, which praised the court order as both avoiding the difficulties inherent in designing a black-majority district and producing a remedy that is likely to withstand legal challenge. Cumulative voting, a remedy advocated by Lani Guinier, whose nomination to head the Justice Department's civil rights division was withdrawn by President Clinton, is in use in several localities around the country due to settlements reached in voting rights suits. Under cumulative voting, electors may cast as many votes as there are open seats on the county commission, giving all of their votes to one candidate or distributing them among several candidates. NEW JERSEY  In one of several affiliate cases challenging so-called "student-initiated" graduation prayers, a federal district court ruled that student-initiated prayer is not an exception to the 1993 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lee v. Weisman. The ruling directly contradicts the Fifth Circuit's decision to permit student-initiated prayer in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. If appealed, the Jersey holding could provide the U.S. Supreme Court with yet another opportunity to address this issue. PENNSYLVANIA  The affiliate's Pittsburgh office has filed suit in federal court on behalf of corrections officer Dieter "Mike" Troster, who has refused to comply with a requirement that he wear an American flag patch on his work uniform. Troster, a retired Army major, regards flag displays on clothing as desecration of a symbol he reveres, and he feels that being forced to wear it is a form of coerced "patriotic" speech. So far, the ACLU has won an injunction blocking Troster's suspension. A full hearing is scheduled. PUERTO RICO  In a case that tested one legal strategy being developed to avert the government's establishment of programs that threaten both religious freedom and the goal of educational equity, a Commonwealth of Puerto Rico court struck down the critical portion of a private school voucher law on April 19. Local cooperating attorneys had challenged the law under the Puerto Rican constitution, which explicitly prohibits tax support for private schools. Voucher initiatives failed in Oregon in 1990, Colorado in 1992 and California in 1993. Their adherents, however, have pressed on. Americans for School Choice, headed by former education secretary Lamar Alexander, announced plans to target at least five states in 1994 and eight in 1996. Voucher bills have lately been considered by 20 state legislatures. TEXAS  The affiliate's threat of litigation sufficed to beat back Texas public school attempts to discriminate against pregnant students. The Hempstead School District's board had voted to bar pregnant teens and teen mothers from cheerleading and other extracurricular activities. When the affiliate, with the Women's Rights and Reproductive Freedom Projects, gave notice that the policy was illegal, the board reversed itself. A school in the Bartlett Independent School district, claiming health concerns, told a high school senior she could not take part in any extracurricular activity in which she would be visible to the public without permission from her physician. But the student was allowed to participate in a school play as a member of the backstage crew. The ACLU warned the school to desist or face a lawsuit. WASHINGTON  The affiliate, representing musicians of the Seattle-based Washington Music Industry Coalition, scored one for artistic freedom with the overturning of Washington's "erotic music" law - - the first in the nation to target the sale of sound recordings to minors. After the ACLU had obtained an injunction from Kings County Superior Court to block enforcement, the state supreme court declared the law an infringement of customers' and retailers' free speech rights, and of retailers' due process rights -- the latter because it lacked a mechanism for notifying stores that a court had found specific material illegally erotic. - Lynn Decker ============================================================= ACLU Free Reading Room | A publications and information resource of the gopher:// | American Civil Liberties Union National Office | | "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"


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