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Protecting the Bill of Rights in Utah since 1958

Articles, Resources, and Position Papers

Following is a partial list of ACLU of Utah articles, resources and position papers. Additional materials can be found on our issue pages.

ACLU of Utah Joins Lawsuit Challenging Raids of Concerts and Violation of Free Speech

06 October 2010 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
ACLU of Utah Reporter: Fall 2005 The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah and the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project have joined a lawsuit challenging law enforcement raids of electronic music concerts. The suit charges Utah County law enforcement with widespread violations of the constitutional rights of concert promoters and venue owners during concerts on July 16 and August 20. “Utah County’s actions strike at the heart of First Amendment freedoms,” said ACLU of Utah attorney Margaret Plane. “The ACLU is joining this fight to help protect our fundamental rights from this kind of unjust law enforcement action.” During the August 20 concert, dozens of battle-ready Utah County law enforcement officers, accompanied by police dogs and a helicopter, stormed concertgoers and threatened some with arrest. Both concerts took place in Spanish Fork Canyon. The owners of the 350-acre ranch, which has hosted several concerts over the last three summers, were also ordered off the land. Police did not have warrants to enter the land or to search concertgoers at either event. “It was like a war zone. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said one of the concert promoters, Brandon Fullmer. “Although I plan to organize more concerts, I know…

Frequently Asked Questions on Student Privacy, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and the No Child Left Behind Act

06 October 2010 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
ACLU of Utah Reporter: Fall 2005 What is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and what does it have to do with student privacy?The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) makes student records confidential. However, FERPA permits schools to release “directory information” to the public. “Directory information” may include the following: the student’s name, address, telephone listing, date and place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, degrees and awards received, and the most recent previous educational agency or institution attended by the student. FERPA requires schools to honor a parent’s request that any or all of that information not be released without the parent’s prior consent. A parent must affirmatively notify the school not to release any or all directory information in order to protect that information from disclosure. If a parent does not opt-out under FERPA, directory information is available generally to the public. What is the No Child Left Behind Act, and what does it have to do with student privacy? Enacted by the U.S. Congress in 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) primarily deals with…

ACLU Seeks to File Brief in Death Penalty Case

02 July 2010 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
As part of its on-going indigent defense project, the ACLU of Utah filed a motion in Weber County District Court seeking permission to submit an amicus curiae—or “friend of the court”—brief in the death penalty case State v. Ethridge. Jacob Ethridge, who is indigent, faces capital murder charges stemming from the 2008 deaths of two women. Weber County, which opted out of the statewide Indigent Capital Defense Trust Fund (which provides funds to all participating counties for the defense of capital cases), recently sought to replace Mr. Ethridge’s court-appointed attorneys with two new lawyers who have general service public defender contracts with Weber County. Mr. Ethridge’s current attorneys were appointed approximately 18 months ago, while they were with the Weber County Public Defender’s Association (“Weber PDA”). In an effort to save approximately $100,000 per year, the Weber County Commission voted to eliminate the Weber PDA beginning on January 1, 2010. Weber County now contracts with individual attorneys for indigent defense services. The proposed new lead attorney, who is currently under contract with Weber County to provide juvenile criminal defense and also maintains a small private practice, has never tried a capital case. Presumably, he would have been asked to add…

LDS Seminary in Public Schools

August 2007 In the landmark case of McCollum v. Board of Educ., 333 U.S. 38 (1948), the U.S. Supreme Court held that religious instruction in public schools is unconstitutional. However, students may obtain what is called “released time” to attend private religious classes off campus so long as the public school is not unduly entangled in the religious institution involved. In determining whether a school is unconstitutionally entangled in a religious instruction program, the Court must apply a three-part balancing test first developed in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971) and refined by Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668 (1984). Under the Lemon/Donnelly test, any government or public school policy must: (1) have a secular purpose; (2) not endorse the practice of any particular religion; and (3) the policy must not create excessive government entanglement with religion. If any of the three conditions are violated, the government policy will be found unconstitutional. It is important to note that although public schools may not engage in religious instruction, it is permissible to teach about religion from a literary, cultural, or historic point of view. Abington School Dist. V. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 306 (1963). Also, in addition to released time…

ACLU of Utah: Working for LGBTQ Equality in Utah

20 May 2007 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
The ACLU of Utah maintains that the U.S. Constitution requires that our laws apply equally, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity; that we have a right to privacy in our personal relationships; and that we have the First Amendment right to communicate gay-positive viewpoints, to choose how we express our gender identity, and to associate with whomever we wish. Unfortunately, courts have not yet fully acknowledged these rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people.

Main Street Plaza: The ACLU of Utah History

05 December 2005 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
Because of the interest in the Main Street Plaza cases, we have created this page to collect all of our information in an easy to view format. Updated December 2005. SynopsisACLU Returns to Court Over Salt Lake City’s “Main Street Plaza” How We Got Here: The Main Street Plaza TimelinePress Releases Letters written to Salt Lake CityDocuments Filed in CourtReports and Articles written by the ACLU ACLU of Utah Protects Freedom of Religion for Everyone In April 1999, the Salt Lake City Council voted 5-2 to sell the downtown block of Main Street between North and South Temple to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Unbeknownst to city residents, it also sold the public’s First Amendment rights, immediately transforming the block into a space in which the LDS Church was granted the absolute and exclusive right to broadcast its own messages and, at the same time, ban all other viewpoints. The Salt Lake City Planning Commission approved the transaction with the condition that the space be regulated like a public park. However, the final documents included a public easement in which the city gave the LDS Church unbridled discretion to prohibit, among other things, “loitering, assembling, … demonstrating,…

About the ACLU of Utah

15 October 2005 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
ACLU of Utah Reporter: Fall 2005 About the ACLU of Utah Founded in 1920, the American Civil Liberties Union is a nationwide, nonpartisan organization dedicated to working in the courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by both the Constitution and the laws of the United States. The ACLU of Utah was chartered in 1953 to work on constitutional issues that are pertinent to those living in this state. Our priorities include freedom of speech, expression, and association; freedom of religion, including the separation of church and state; the right to privacy; safe prison and jail conditions; and equal protection and due process of the laws. StaffDani Eyer, Executive DirectorCarol Gnade, Development CoordinatorReinard Knutsen, Office Manager/Intake CoordinatorStephanie Peterson, Project Coordinator/Field OrganizerMargaret Plane, Staff Attorney Cori Sutherland, Communications Director Interns and VolunteersPhilip Austin, Penny Breiman, Nate Burke, Monica Maio, Joan O’Brien & Jud Soderborg Board of DirectorsSue Marquardt, PresidentKaren Denton, Vice PresidentLaurie Wood, SecretaryRobert Wood, TreasurerLincoln Hobbs, Legal Panel DirectorJill Sheinberg, National Board Representative Peggy BattinTim ChamblessChristine ContestableRoberto CulasBeverly DalleyEmma GrossMarc HoenigLee MartinezAndy McCulloughTarek NosseirJennifer SchwartzDavid Tundermann Legal PanelErika BirchDianna CannonStephen ClarkRussell HathawayLinda JonesLaura KesslerDerek LangtonCathy RobertsTrystan SmithKaren…

ACLU of Utah Membership Business

15 October 2005 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
ACLU of Utah Reporter: Fall 2005 ACLU of Utah Membership Business The ACLU of Utah is made up of two entities with separate funds, accounting, and bylaws. The first entity is the ACLU of Utah Union, an IRS 501(c)(4) organization that can participate in lobbying and other activities. The Union is comprised of its “card-carrying” members, who carry out certain organizational business like approving the basic bylaws, overseeing financial expenditures, and voting on nominations to the ACLU of Utah Union Board of Directors. The second entity is the ACLU of Utah Foundation, an IRS 501(c)(3) organization that engages in litigation, public education, and very limited lobbying activities. At the ACLU of Utah, the executive officers of the ACLU of Utah Union Board of Directors serve as the governing board of the ACLU of Utah Foundation. This year, we have two items of business for the ACLU of Utah Union membership: 1. Approval of BylawsThe Executive Committee of the ACLU of Utah Union Board of Directors has recommended a revision of the ACLU of Utah Union bylaws. These revisions incorporate past bylaws and more accurately reflect actual practice. We are asking for a membership vote and approval of the Revised Bylaws…

From Our National Office

06 October 2005 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
ACLU of Utah Reporter: Fall 2005 Patriot Act ReformAs both houses of Congress prepare to vote on Patriot Act renewal and reform, thousands of emails from the ACLU Action Network have helped convince 163 Republican and Democratic lawmakers to sign the “Dear Conferee” letter. The letter urges Members of Congress negotiating the final Patriot Act bill to support the Senate reforms to some of the secretive powers in the Patriot Act, and to reject the reauthorization package passed by the House of Representatives. Just last week, a bipartisan group of powerful business leaders sent a letter to the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, urging Congress to support reforms in the Senate reauthorization bill. This is an important victory because these leaders represent businesses that have a great deal of influence in Washington. The Patriot Act battle continues in our courts as well. Last month, a Connecticut judge told the government to give an ACLU client his First Amendment right to speak out in the Patriot Act debate about his experience with these powers, but while the case is on appeal the client remains gagged under the National Security Letter provisions expanded by the Patriot Act. Thousands of…

Utah State Tax Commission Approves Personalized License Plates with Gay-Positive Messages

06 October 2005 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
ACLU of Utah Reporter: Fall 2005 In a win for free speech, the Utah State Tax Commission has ruled that it will approve three personalized license plates with gay-positive messages. The ruling is a first for the commission, which, until this decision, had never approved a personalized plate containing the word “gay.” In December, Elizabeth Solomon applied for three personalized license plates: “GAY WE GO,” “GAYS R OK,” and “GAY RYTS.” After the Tax Commission approved the“GAY WE GO” plate but denied the application for the latter two plates, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah represented Solomon in appealing the decision.“I have kids who are gay and I wanted these plates so that I could publicly express support for my children,” said Solomon, explaining why she applied for the personalized plates. “I’m delighted that I will now be able to do so.” Margaret Plane, ACLU of Utah staff attorney, was also pleased by the Tax Commission’s decision. “Too often, public officials are scared by the word ‘gay’ and they refuse to recognize that gays and lesbians are an increasingly public and positive part of our communities,” said Plane. “The commission rightly recognized that their own rules don’t allow them…

ACLU of Utah Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of Transgender Employee

06 October 2005 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
ACLU of Utah Reporter: Fall 2005 On October 5, the ACLU of Utah filed a friend-of-the-court brief in an important case regarding the rights of transgender employees. The brief is on behalf of Krystal Etsitty, a former Utah Transit Authority employee, who was fired shortly after she revealed to her employers that she is a transsexual. Although UTA had received no complaints about Etsitty, her employers informed her that she was being terminated because they could not determine which rest room she should use. Etsitty, represented by the law firm of Strindberg Scholnick & Chamness, argued in federal court that she was protected by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, including nonconformity to sex stereotypes. Unfortunately, in June 2005, the district court granted summary judgment to UTA, holding that transsexuals are not protected by Title VII, and that even if Title VII did apply, UTA’s decision was not based on Etsitty’s lack of conformity to sex stereotypes. Etsitty has now asked the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the district court’s decision. Etsitty, who identifies and lives as a woman, has legally changed her name from Michael to Krystal and…

ACLU of Utah Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of Transgender Employee

06 October 2005 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
ACLU of Utah Reporter: Fall 2005 On October 5, the ACLU of Utah filed a friend-of-the-court brief in an important case regarding the rights of transgender employees. The brief is on behalf of Krystal Etsitty, a former Utah Transit Authority employee, who was fired shortly after she revealed to her employers that she is a transsexual. Although UTA had received no complaints about Etsitty, her employers informed her that she was being terminated because they could not determine which rest room she should use. Etsitty, represented by the law firm of Strindberg Scholnick & Chamness, argued in federal court that she was protected by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, including nonconformity to sex stereotypes. Unfortunately, in June 2005, the district court granted summary judgment to UTA, holding that transsexuals are not protected by Title VII, and that even if Title VII did apply, UTA’s decision was not based on Etsitty’s lack of conformity to sex stereotypes. Etsitty has now asked the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the district court’s decision. Etsitty, who identifies and lives as a woman, has legally changed her name from Michael to Krystal and…

Divine Design

06 October 2005 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
ACLU of Utah Reporter: Fall 2005 This spring, State Senator Chris Buttars gave Utahns a heads-up on one legislative issue we may soon be facing when he stated that he wants Utah public schools to teach “divine design” alongside the scientific theory of evolution. His efforts to bring divine design (aka intelligent design) to Utah schools received a significant and unexpected boost when President George Bush stated in August that he also believes teachers should explain intelligent design when discussing evolution. Ever since the famous 1925 Scopes “monkey trial,” in which the ACLU defended a Tennessee teacher convicted of teaching evolution, opponents to the scientific theory of evolution have attempted to forbid, limit, or otherwise undermine the teaching of evolution in public schools. Challenges have included laws or policies to prohibit the teaching of evolution, to require teachers to make statements or disclaimers questioning the validity of the scientific theory of evolution, and to require teachers to present anti-evolutionary views, including religious views not based on scientific evidence such as creationism, and more recently, intelligent or divine design. Intelligent design is a belief that the origin and development of living organisms cannot adequately be explained by the scientific theory of…

ACLU Forum: Domestic Partnership Benefits for City Employees

06 October 2005 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
 ACLU of Utah Reporter: Fall 2005 On September 21, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson made Utah history when he signed an executive order extending health benefits to city employees’ gay and unmarried partners. ACLU of Utah attorney Margaret Plane answers questions about the order and opponents’ claims that Utah’s constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage also prohibits state and local governments from providing these types of benefits. Where do partnership benefits for Salt Lake City employees stand? Although the executive order’s effective date was September 21, it may take a court order before employees can enroll their unmarried partners in the insurance benefits plan. That’s because less than one week after the order was signed, the agency that administers health insurance for state and local government employees in Utah filed a petition with the state court requesting clarification about whether Utah law prohibits Salt Lake City from offering health insurance benefits to domestic partners. The Public Employees Health Program (PEHP) is awaiting an answer from the court before amending Salt Lake City’s health insurance contracts. What are domestic partners?Under Mayor Anderson’s order, a qualified domestic partner is someone who has a long term, committed relationship with a Salt Lake City employee,…

Prayer Before City Council Meetings and Legislative Sessions

10 November 2000 Published in Articles, Resources, and Position Papers
This resource was published in November 2000.  Due to a pivotal United States Supreme Court case in 1983, the constitutionality of legislative prayers, at least for the federal Constitution, has been firmly established. In Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783 (1983), the Court held that a state legislature’s practice of opening each legislative day with a prayer performed by a state-selected and paid chaplain did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Rather than examining the case under the usual Establishment Clause framework, the Court looked to the history of the use of prayer before legislative sessions, in both the state and federal systems, and relied on this history when finding these prayers to be constitutional. (1) “This unique history leads us to accept the interpretation of the First Amendment draftsmen who saw no real threat to the Establishment Clause arising from the practice of prayer similar to that now challenged.” Id. at 791. The Court was not troubled by the fact that a Presbyterian chaplain had been selected for the past 16 years. “Absent proof that the chaplain’s reappointment stemmed from an impermissible motive, we conclude that his long tenure does not in itself conflict with the…