Kiwanis hear from ACLU director

The Indiana American Civil Liberties Union represents every Hoosier in one form or another said Jane Heneger, executive director. That was the message given Thursday to Crawfordsville Kiwanis Club members. 

“I once had a person tell me they agreed with every case the ACLU was taking on,” Heneger said. “My reply was, if you agree with everything we do, then you don’t know everything we do.”

Heneger said the Indiana ACLU registers nearly 600 civil liberty requests for assistance per month. Complaints range all across the board, however, most of cases the ACLU takes on are not headline worthy.

“Most of the cases the ACLU takes on you never read about them in the newspapers,” Heneger said. “They are rather boring except for the fact they are all issues that deal with the Constitution. Yes, we do have the cases that make headlines, but those are few.”

Heneger said the ACLU is an organization that strives to protect the rights of individuals under the Constitution of the United States. That charge leads to numerous cases being taken to the court system.

“At anytime across the United States we will have 2,000 cases going on,” Heneger said. “We have more cases in the Supreme Court than any other entity in the country. It is important to remember, we only work on constitutional cases and will only sue the government.”

The ACLU also lends its opinion to current issues. Presently, the ACLU is working on opinions related to police body cameras and drones.

Since the ACLU is a nonprofit entity and offers free legal services, Heneger said they often have taken cases that no other law firm would take on since its inception in 1920.

The recent national debate on LBGT issues is presently on the forefront and Heneger said the ACLU is defending civil liberty rights in those types of cases. In fact, the ACLU’s first LBGT case was in 1936.

Recently, the ACLU has found itself in the center of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The director said the ACLU goal is to give the same rights to all people in regards to marriage.

Heneger recalled a recent discussion with a state citizen.

“A minister asked me if he could now be forced to perform a marriage that went against his faith,” Heneger said. “I told him if that ever happened in Indiana, the ACLU would be first in line to take your case.”

Ultimately for Heneger, the reason she works for the ACLU is simple.

“I love the Constitution,” Heneger said. “It is a document that was written so long ago yet still is relevant and used as a model across the world.”