Paul  Kengor

The ACLU seems unusually active right now. What gives? Maybe it's the Christmas season, which always seems to spring the ACLU into high gear, more miserable than usual.

I tried to ignore the latest round of ACLU legal challenges against religious Americans, but they became too much. The surge has been remarkably ecumenical, not singling out Protestant or Catholic interests.

First, I got an email from Mat Staver's group, Liberty Counsel, highlighting a bunch of ACLU lawsuits. Then I read a page-one, top-of-the-fold headline in the National Catholic Register, "Catholic Hospitals Under New Attack by ACLU," regarding an ACLU request to compel Catholic hospitals to do abortions. Next was an email from a colleague at Coral Ridge Ministries, forwarding a Washington Times article. Then came another email from yet another Christian group on lawsuits somewhere in Florida. And on and on.

That was just a sampling of this year's Christmas cheer, courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union. At least the ACLU always finds a way to unite Protestants and Catholics.

In the interest of faith and charity, I'd like to add my own ecumenical offering—a history lesson. It concerns some fascinating material I recently published on the ACLU's early founders, especially three core figures: Roger Baldwin, Harry Ward, and Corliss Lamont. I can only provide a snapshot here, but you'll get the picture.

First, Roger Baldwin: Baldwin was the founder of the ACLU, so far to the left that he was hounded by the Justice Department of the progressive's progressive, Woodrow Wilson. Perhaps it was a faith thing. Wilson was a progressive, but he was also a devout Christian, and Roger Baldwin was anything but that.

Baldwin was an atheist. He was also a onetime communist, who, among other ignoble gestures, wrote a horrible 1928 book called Liberty Under the Soviets. Notably, he was smart enough not to join Communist Party USA (CPUSA). Other early officials of the ACLU, which was founded almost exactly the same time as the American Communist Party, included major party members like William Z. Foster, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and Louis Budenz (who later broke with the party). Communists used the ACLU to deflect questions from the U.S. government over whether they were loyal to the USSR, were serving Joe Stalin in some capacity, and were committed to the overthrow of the American system.