The first in a series where we'll ask ACLU of Nevada clients, friends, and volunteers: "There are many reasons to support the ACLU; what's your reason?"
My first exposure to the ACLU came in the wake of the Patriot Act. I was furious at the open compromise of my rights. I tried to write my Congressman and had another powerful moment of political disillusionment. At that point, I was happy that some organization was working to protect my civil liberties when my representative was happy to trade my freedom away. The ACLU was a forceful voice of reason, and I felt like it was my advocate when I didn’t have a voice that could be heard.
I became familiar with the Nevada affiliate when it worked with Amnesty International and the Boyd School of Law to host a screening of “The Response”, a drama depicting the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. My interest in the ACLU was rekindled and I e-mailed the office to see if I could volunteer as a student intern over the winter break.
The opportunity to learn on the job studying significant civil rights issues was incredible. The ACLU relies heavily on volunteers, and I was immediately given interesting opportunities to research and advocate for the rights of others. Nevada is a unique state, and there are many opportunities for civil libertarians to make a difference. After working with the ACLU, I feel more connected my community and more hopeful about the future of civil rights in Nevada.
As a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I know I am not the traditional ACLU member. But I feel this background connects me to the essential mission of the ACLU rather than dividing me from it. My ancestors were driven from their homes and across the country in search of religious freedom almost a century after the First Amendment was adopted. Luckily, my faith has moved into the mainstream and I today am not generally threatened with the loss of my right to religious freedom.
But groups and people who are not currently as mainstream still face the same threats and persecution. Civil liberties should not be contingent on popularity, and selective application is tyranny of the majority (or just tyranny). Whether or not I agree with every idea or group is irrelevant when considering who deserves the same protections I enjoy.
Tyler Larson is a first year student at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
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