NHCLUAdmin

Mar 012013
 

faceliftAs you may notice, NHCLU is getting a face lift! We’re now on Facebook, Twitter, and have a whole new website, with new features, links and information. But the new additions have only just begun! Stay tuned for new content, live-tweets from the legislature, graphics, photos, and so much more.

 March 1, 2013  Tagged with:
Jan 092013
 

schoolboardThe NHCLU, in partnership with the Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the national ACLU offices, filed suit on January 9th, 2013, challenging a statewide tuition tax credit program that would divert taxpayer funds to private religious schools.

The Education Tax Credit Program allows businesses to reduce their tax liability by receiving an 85 percent tax credit in exchange for donations made to K-12 scholarship organizations, which will pay for tuition at religious and other private schools. Since there is no state oversight of the schools receiving funds, religious schools will be able to use the donations for religious instruction, indoctrination and religiously based discrimination.

To find out more, click here to read the Press Release.

To read the complaint, click here.

Click here to read more about Religion in Schools.

 

 January 9, 2013  Tagged with: ,
Jan 092013
 

Celebrating Pro-Choice Women in Office

Monday, January 28, 2013, 5:00pm

For 40 years, women have had the right to choose abortion in the United States. And for 40 years, anti-choice forces have been trying to take away that right.

Protecting reproductive freedom for the next 40 years will depend largely on pro-choice legislators, like the women elected to national office by New Hampshire voters in 2012.

Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List, will be the guest speaker.

Freestyle folk music from Mike Morris will be provided during the cocktail hour, from 5 – 6 PM.

This year we’ll be honoring our pro-choice women in office at all levels of government.

For more information, event tickets, and sponsorships: https://www.prochoicenh.org/get-involved/ticketorder-roevwade.shtml

Student/Limited Income Tickets: $15
Pre-Order Ticket: $40
At the Door Ticket: $50

Governor’s Hall, Capitol Center for the Arts
44 South Main Street, Concord NH

This event is hosted by our friends at:

https://www.prochoicenh.org/assets/graphics/affiliate_logo.png

 January 9, 2013
Jan 092013
 

Organizations Say Tuition Tax-Credit Program Violates New Hampshire Constitution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9, 2013

CONTACT:

Barbara Keshen, New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, (603) 225-3080; Barbara@nhclu.org
Robyn Shepherd, ACLU national, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org
Joe Conn, Americans United, (202) 466-3234; conn@au.org

Stafford County, N.H. – A statewide tuition tax-credit program that would divert taxpayer funds to private religious schools in violation of the state constitution was challenged in a New Hampshire court today by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of New Hampshire and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight plaintiffs, including clergy, public education advocates and parents of public school children.

The Education Tax Credit Program allows businesses to reduce their tax liability by receiving an 85 percent tax credit in exchange for donations made to K-12 scholarship organizations, which will pay for tuition at religious and other private schools. Since there is no state oversight of the schools receiving funds, religious schools will be able to use the donations for religious instruction, indoctrination and religiously based discrimination.

“A robust respect for the separation of church and state is vital to protecting the religious freedom of all New Hampshire citizens,” said Barbara R. Keshen, staff attorney for the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union. “That’s why our state constitution contains several provisions intended to prevent this type of program.”

The program, passed by the New Hampshire Legislature last year, took effect Jan. 1. It allows up to $3.4 million in tax credits to be claimed in the first year and $5.1 million during its second year.  It provides for additional increases in tax credits in subsequent years.

“The New Hampshire program is similar to other troubling tax-credit programs proposed across the country,” said Heather L. Weaver, staff attorney for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.  “These programs cannot be allowed to stand because they erode bedrock religious liberty principles.”

The lawsuit asks the court to declare the tax-credit program unlawful and block the state from further implementation.

“This is just a backdoor voucher scheme,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “Whether it’s through a traditional voucher or a tax credit, the result is the same: Taxpayers are subsidizing religious instruction.”

“This program is an attempt to circumvent the law, and it is doomed to fail,” said Alex J. Luchenitser, associate legal director at Americans United and lead counsel in the case. “The New Hampshire Constitution plainly bars this cockamamie scheme.”

The plaintiffs in the case include public education advocate Bill Duncan, United Church of Christ minister Richard Stuart, retired public school librarian Ruth Stuart, state legislator Rebecca Emerson, public school teacher Charles Rhoades and retired Unitarian Universalist minister Homer Goddard.

In addition to Luchenitser, Keshen and Weaver, the attorneys representing the plaintiffs include Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan and Steven Gey, fellow; Randall Maas; and ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief Director Daniel Mach.

For further information contact Barbara Keshen.

 January 9, 2013  Tagged with:
Nov 102012
 

By: Molly A.K. Connors
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012

The League of Women Voters of New Hampshire and four college students, represented by the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, sued the state yesterday, alleging that newly implemented voter registration requirements effectively create a poll tax and prevent students from voting.

At issue is not a new requirement that voters present a photo ID or sign an affidavit at the polls, which the League and others say caused confusion and consternation across the state Tuesday.

Read More Here

 

 November 10, 2012  Tagged with: ,
Oct 122012
 

On Tuesday, October 9th, the New Hampshire Supreme Court denied the Emergency Motion of the State to stay the amended Preliminary Injunction issued in Strafford County Superior Court on October 5th.

This ruling means that those who are domiciled in New Hampshire and want to register and vote on election day will not be forced to sign an affidavit that requires them to obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license and to register their vehicle in New Hampshire.

The ruling by the Supreme Court does not end the lawsuit.  The litigation will proceed in Superior Court.  However, the outcome will not affect the voting rights of students and others who are temporarily domiciled in New Hampshire and want to vote on November 6th.

 October 12, 2012  Tagged with: , ,
Sep 252012
 

The New Hampshire The New Hampshire Association for Justice honored advocates for civil justice at its 35th annual award dinner in June. The Granite State Advocate award was presented to Attorneys BARBARA KESHEN of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union and JON MEYER of Backus, Meyer & Scotch in Manchester for their work in Doyle v. DRED. This award provides special recognition to New Hampshire attorneys who, in the course of representing their clients, pursue and help achieve substantive changes in the law of the state which improve our civil justice system and/or preserve constitutional rights.

 September 25, 2012  Tagged with: ,
Sep 042012
 

In recent years, a rise in verbal abuse and violence directed at people of color, lesbians and gay men, and other historically persecuted groups has plagued the United States. Among the settings of these expressions of intolerance are college and university campuses, where bias incidents have occurred sporadically since the mid-1980s. Outrage, indignation and demands for change have greeted such incidents — understandably, given the lack of racial and social diversity among students, faculty and administrators on most campuses.

Many universities, under pressure to respond to the concerns of those who are the objects of hate, have adopted codes or policies prohibiting speech that offends any group based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

That is the wrong response, well-meaning or not. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive it’s content. In violation of the Constitution speech codes adopted by government-financed state colleges and universities amount to government censorship. And the ACLU believes that all campuses should adhere to First Amendment principles because academic freedom is the bedrock of education in a free society.

How much we value the right of free speech is put to its severest test when the speaker is someone we disagree with most. Speech that deeply offends our morality or is hostile to our way of life warrants the same constitutional protection as other speech because the right of free speech is indivisible: When one of us is denied this right, all of us are denied. Since its founding in 1920, the ACLU has fought for the free expression of all ideas, popular or unpopular. That’s the constitutional mandate.

Where racist, sexist and homophobic speech is concerned, the ACLU believes that more speech — not less — is the best revenge. This is particularly true at universities, whose mission is to facilitate learning through open debate and study, and to enlighten. Speech codes are not the way to go on campuses, where all views are entitled to be heard, explored, supported or refuted. Besides, when hate is out in the open, people can see the problem. Then they can organize effectively to counter bad attitudes, possibly change them, and forge solidarity against the forces of intolerance.

College administrators may find speech codes attractive as a quick fix, but as one critic put it: “Verbal purity is not social change.” Codes that punish bigoted speech treat only the symptom: The problem itself is bigotry. The ACLU believes that instead of opting for gestures that only appear to cure the disease, universities have to do the hard work of recruitment to increase faculty and student diversity; counseling to raise awareness about bigotry and its history, and changing curricula to institutionalize more inclusive approaches to all subject matter.

 September 4, 2012  Tagged with:
Jul 042012
 

DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR DATA IS?

Probably not. Because of the growing number of computer networks that sell, store, transfer and link our personal information. It’s now too easy for the government and private organizations to trace each of us—from cradle to grave. Your right to information privacy is being wiped out. But there is still time to do something about it.

The best way to keep control over your personal information is to limit how many other people get it.

What follows are some tips to help you protect your privacy.

USE CAUTION WHEN GIVING OUT YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER TO A GOVERNMENT AGENCY

Only state DMVs, tax departments and welfare departments have the legal authority to demand a SSN. Under the Privacy Act of 1974, all other government agencies are required to tell you why your SSN is necessary, whether giving your SSN is mandatory or voluntary, and how your SSN will be used.

In fact, a federal Court in Louisiana recently ruled in favor of a man who refused to put his SSN on his voter registration form—because the state’s requirement violated the Privacy Act.

STOP GIVING YOUR SSN TO RETAILERS, UTILITIES,CREDIT CARD COMPANIES AND OTHER PRIVATE BUSINESSES

If they insist on an identifier, try giving them just the last four digits of your SSN—or suggest they use an alternative identifying number. And if the company refuses, take your business elsewhere. They will get the hint.

Do not give your SSN to anyone over the telephone.

“Opt out” of consumer mailing lists: call credit card bureaus, magazines and direct marketing trade organizations and tell them to drop your name from their mailing lists.

When discarding pay stubs, credit card receipts and other such documents, cross out the parts that contain your SSN or other identifying information.

Stop filling out “warranty registration” cards. Their sole purpose is to collect personal information about you. Your sales receipt is all you need to ensure that whatever you’ve purchased is covered by a warranty.

TAKE BACK YOUR DATA!

TELL YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS TO SUPPORT LAWS THAT COMPLY WITH THE ACLU’S PRIVACY PRINCIPALS

Your personal information should never be collected or given out without your knowledge and permission.Organizations must let you know why they are collecting your info; and they cannot use it for reasons other than the one you gave permission for (unless they get a new permission from you.)They must ensure the privacy of the personal info they collect or maintain on you, retaining only what is necessary info, and only for as long as it is needed. You should have the right to examine, copy, and correct your own personal information. There must be no national ID system—either in law or in practice.Unrelated data bases must be kept strictly separate so information cannot be cross referenced. Personal “biometric” data—your fingerprints, DNA, retina/Iris scans, etc.—must not be involuntarily captured or used (except for fingerprinting criminals.)The government must not prohibit or interfere with the development of technologies that preserve anonymity (such as encryption).

These principles should be enforceable by law. And no service, benefit or transaction should be conditioned on your waiving your privacy rights.

 July 4, 2012  Tagged with:
Jun 042012
 

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (“LGBT”) students often face discrimination and harassment in their schools. Unfortunately, many school officials know very little about how the law requires them to protect LGBT students. Sometimes they do know that they’re breaking the law but hope that students won’t question them when they do. That’s why it’s so important for you to educate yourself about your legal rights and what you can do if your school isn’t treating you fairly!

Harassment
Anti-gay harassment is one of the most pervasive, frightening, and potentially damaging threats LGBT students face in our public schools. If you’re being bullied, called names, threatened, or physically harmed at your school because of your sexual orientation, you don’t have to take it! Public schools are required under federal law to remedy the abuse of lesbian and gay students.

The most important thing for you to do if anyone at school is harassing you is to report it to your principal or counselor. If the school doesn’t do anything to protect you, then it has been put on notice and can be held legally responsible. Keep a record of each time you were harassed – what happened, when it happened, who was involved, and to whom you reported it.

If you’ve reported harassment to your school and they’ve done little or nothing to stop it, you should contact your local ACLU affiliate or the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Project.

Privacy
Your school does NOT have the right to “out” you to anyone without your permission.

To do this to a young person can have tragic consequences, such as when police officers in 1997 told a young man in Pennsylvania that they were going to tell his family he was gay. He committed suicide rather than face what he feared would be rejection from his family. His mother sued, and a federal appeals court has held that threatening to disclose private information violated the teenager’s Constitutional right to privacy. This applies to schools, too.

If a teacher, counselor, or any other school official threatens to tell your parents or anyone else that you’re gay and you don’t want them to, make it clear that this is against your wishes. If they still do it or threaten to do so, you should contact your local ACLU affiliate or the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Project.

Freedom of Speech
Sometimes schools try to silence students who are open about their sexual orientation. But you have a Constitutional right to be out of the closet at school if you want to be. Sometimes schools punish students for talking about being gay. Sometimes schools censor students for wearing gay-themed t-shirts, even when the shirts aren’t obscene and other students are allowed to wear t-shirts expressing their views on political or cultural issues.

In Tinker v. Des Moines, over 30 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students don’t “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech at the schoolhouse gate.” The Court went on to say that the only time a school can restrict an individual student’s speech is when it causes significant disruption in the classroom. For example, standing up and yelling, “I’m gay!” in the middle of English class isn’t okay, but talking with a friend at school about being gay between classes or at lunch is. And if your school’s dress code allows other students to wear t-shirts about their beliefs, then it’s illegal for them to ask you to take off your t-shirt just because it has a rainbow or says something about gay pride.

If your school is trying to keep you from talking about your sexual orientation or expressing your beliefs about it, you should contact your local ACLU affiliate or the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Project.

Gay-Straight Alliances
Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA’s) are student clubs, just like Drama Club or Key Club, that allow students with a common interest to get together and have discussions or activities about that interest. GSA’s are made up of students of any sexual orientation, not just gay kids. They can be support groups, or they can be educational or political organizations dedicated to making a school a safer space for all students, or both.

The federal Equal Access Act says that if a public school permits non-curricular clubs, then it must allow students to form a GSA if they want to and the school has to treat it the same as it does other non-curricular clubs. Non-curricular clubs are groups that aren’t directly related to classes taught in the school. For example, Math Club is curricular but Chess Club isn’t.

Starting a GSA is like starting any other club – find out what your school’s rules are for forming an official student organization (things like getting a faculty sponsor if one is required, etc.) and then follow those rules carefully. Document everything in case you have any trouble from the school later on. If you have to fill out any forms or submit anything in writing, keep copies of those things. Keep a record of dates when you submitted anything to the school, and how and when the school responded.

We’ve found that schools often don’t know much about the law or think they can find some way to get around it. Blocking a GSA from forming or treating it differently from other non-curricular clubs is against the law, and if your school does it you should contact your local ACLU affiliate or the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Project.

Prom
Did you know that your school can’t stop you from bringing a same-sex date to prom? In 1980, a Rhode Island teenager successfully sued his school for the right to take his boyfriend to prom. A federal court ruled that taking a same-sex date to prom is a matter of free expression under the First Amendment and told the school that it had to let him go to the prom with his boyfriend.

If you go to a public school and school officials try to tell you that you can’t bring a same-sex date to prom, tell them about the case of Aaron Fricke v. Richard B. Lynch – you can find a copy of the decision from this case on our website. Or you can contact your local ACLU affiliate or the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Project.

What else?
If you ever suspect that your school is treating you wrong because of your sexual orientation or gender identity:

Be respectful and follow the rules!
Don’t give your school any excuses for treating you badly by behaving badly or losing your temper.

Document everything!

Keep thorough notes about what happened, with dates, names, and any other details that might come in handy. If the school gives you anything in writing or if you submit anything in writing yourself, keep copies.

Get support! There are groups all over the country for LGBT youth, and if you live somewhere that doesn’t have one, you can probably find an online discussion forum where you can be yourself and get reassurance that you’re not alone.

Don’t just believe what your school tells you!

A lot of the time, school officials either don’t know what the law requires them to do or just figure you won’t question what they say. Find out what your rights under the law are!

Got more questions?

Do you have a specific question about something that has happened at your school? Want to know whether it was illegal? Want someone to talk with about what you can do about it? Email us at getequal@aclu.org! It’s confidential – we won’t ever contact your school, your parents, your friends, or anyone else without your okay, and any communication between you and the ACLU is private.

 June 4, 2012  Tagged with: ,