Twilight of Liberty: The Legacy of the ACLU

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Transaction Publishers, 1994 - Political Science - 332 pages
"Provocative . . . he acknowledges that the ACLU has honorably battled violations of individual rights but he maintains that the group's fetishization of those rights degrades institutions that help build responsibility and community. . . . His critique is in many instances appropriate." -Publisher's Weekly

"Mr. Donohue makes a detailed and persuasive argument that, far from simply "protecting constitutional freedom the ACLU is driven by an ideology for which the accurate term is extremist. Twilight of Liberty is an important polemical and constructive contribution to understanding law, politics, and morality in contemporary America." -First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

"William Donohue thoroughly documents and perceptively analyzes both the socially destructive work of the American Civil Liberties Union and the threat to liberty presented by the extremist positions on individual "rights" ACLU propagates. This book is a much-needed antidote to pernicious trends in our national life." -American Enterprise Institute

Twilight of Liberty is a sequel to Donohue's highly regarded The Politics of the American Civil Liberties Union, but with a marked change in emphasis. Instead of challenging the ACLU's nonpartisan reputation, as he did in the earlier volume, Donohue now seeks to demonstrate why and how recent ACLU policy undermines the process of liberty. He argues that the ACLU, by relentlessly warring with mediating institutions, and by pushing a radical individualism in its policies, is not making us more, but less free.

Two conceptions of liberty are discussed. The first considers the social context in which the struggle for freedom takes place. It maintains that freedom is best achieved through a delicate balancing of individual rights with the legitimate needs of the social order. The other conception of liberty is atomistic, exclusively concerned with the rights of the individual. According to Donohue, such a definition assures the triumph of the state over the mediating institutions of society, thus reducing prospects for freedom.

This is the first book to critically analyze contemporary ACLU policy and to challenge its reputation as the preeminent voice of freedom in the United States. It aims to move beyond the idea that freedom is best served by pushing individual rights to extremes. Twilight of Liberty will appeal to scholars in the fields of law, social policy, and culture. Students in civil liberties courses will also find this book a valuable resource.

William A. Donohue is president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in New York City.

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About the author (1994)

William A. Donohue is president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in New York City. He taught at both St. Lucy’s School in Spanish Harlem and La Roche College. He is the author of numerous works, including The Politics of the American Civil Liberties Union, The New Freedom, and Secular Sabotage.

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