Written on Saturday, May 16, 2009

Why I decided not to renew my membership to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Michigan Chapter
The protection of civil liberties is essential to the proper functioning of any society. Civil Liberties are defined as "freedoms that protect an individual from the government of the nation in which they reside". Our Civil Liberties are enshrined in the Constitution and, more specifically, the Bill of Rights. These liberties are acknowledged by both left-leaning and right-leaning individuals in our society.

I signed up for an ACLU-MI membership after being invited to an ACLU event by a friend. Their presentation about assisting those whose civil liberties had been violated inspired me to join. The ACLU provided free legal assistance to these victims, and I decided that I wanted to contribute to such efforts.

Unfortunately, a few weeks after I signed up, I began receiving a torrent of unsolicited mailings from organizations that had clearly obtained my information from the ACLU. The reason I knew that the information was shared from the ACLU was because I signed up with them through my work address rather than my home address. Every week I received mailings from organizations at my work address that I had previously never received any communication from.

I wholeheartedly believe that privacy is not only a civil liberty, but that my privacy should be respected by organizations that benefit from my monetary donations. Selling or sharing my personal information without my knowledge or consent is not a very nice way of saying "thank you" to members.

I found it quite ironic, tragic, and comical that the American Civil Liberties Union - Michigan chapter would violate my privacy in this way. As a firm believer in the practice of "putting your money where your mouth is", I decided not to renew my membership.

A few months after my membership lapsed/expired, I received a call from the national ACLU. I explained to them that I would not be renewing for this reason, and they apologized that the Michigan chapter sold/gave away/shared my personal information in this manner. Unfortunately, after writing a letter to the ACLU-MI and receiving no response, I decided that it would be best if I did not entertain the idea of supporting the organization any more.

Although my meager one-time donation will not make-or-break the organization, I believe that this practice of selling, giving away, or otherwise providing personal information about members to other organizations will end up harming the ACLU-MI far more than it ever helped.