Support Organizations that Protect Civil Liberties
As we celebrate the birth of the American nation, we often remember the laws and freedoms laid out by our Founding Fathers. Civil Liberties are different from civil rights, but both are paramount to a fair and free society. Here, we are highlighting top-rated organizations working to ensure protections for every American.
What is the Difference Between Civil Liberties and Civil Rights?
Before we dive into our Top-Rated Civil Liberties Organizations, it’s essential to understand the distinction between civil liberties and civil rights. While the two are closely related – and our founding documents mention both – there are distinct differences.
Civil liberties are the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These liberties are freedoms afforded to citizens and relate mainly to the freedom from government interference. For example, Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech are two civil liberties guaranteed to all Americans. These freedoms allow us to practice any religion (or no religion), protest peacefully, and speak out against perceived injustices without fear of government backlash.
On the other hand, a civil right refers more to positive actions the government takes to protect the rights of its citizens. Typically, civil rights protect marginalized populations, and the legislature enacts these rights. For example, laws prohibiting job discrimination based on gender, race, or religion help protect the civil rights of these populations. Housing discrimination is a violation of one’s civil rights.
While there are organizations that firmly support both civil liberties and civil rights, we are focusing on organizations protecting American citizens’ civil liberties. That is, nonprofits that protect citizens from government interference according to their Constitutional rights.
ACLU – The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Inc
New York, NY
Perhaps the most well-known and most recognizable civil liberties organization in the United States, the ACLU operates chapters in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. For 100 years, the ACLU has worked to defend the civil liberties of all citizens, protecting Americans against government overreach.
The ACLU works with local chapters and lawyers to protect civil liberties. In fact, representatives from the ACLU appear before the Supreme Court more than any other legal services organization besides the Department of Justice.
The ACLU also promotes advocacy and education, helping citizens understand their civil liberties and contact their legislatures to further protections.
“The ACLU will (and have) help ANYONE whose civil liberties are infringed upon. I applaud the work the ACLU does and am a proud supporter. I am honored to donate a portion of my paycheck every week to this great charity.”
Equal Justice, USA
The only Great Nonprofits Top-Rated Organization on our list, Equal Justice works to protect the civil liberties of those incarcerated in America. The organization fights for all citizens, working to integrate trauma-informed responses rather than jail and punishment.
Equal Justice, USA is best known for its role in abolishing the death penalty in several states. The organization notes that the death penalty violates the civil liberties of citizens, and also unfairly punishes minorities.
By understanding the underlying issues surrounding violence in our country, Equal Justice hopes to transform the justice system and protect the rights of those behind bars.
“I am so impressed by EJUSA’s work. Their vision of a justice system that works for everyone is both powerful, well expressed, and transformative. Their accomplishment so far has been world-changing, and their positive impact on the US justice system will continue to grow.”
Freedom From Religion, Inc
Freedom From Religion (FFR) works to maintain a clear separation between church and state, therefore preserving the civil liberties outlined under the Constitution.
When government and religion become intertwined, FFR steps in. They file lawsuits against governments using religion to impact policies. They impact local and national conversations about nontheism, government separation, and how religion profoundly affects public policy.
The network of staff and volunteers work tirelessly to defend the freedoms of all Americans and to protect the Constitutional ideal of separation of church and state.
“This is a top-notch organization, extremely well run, amazingly effective, and they have an exceptionally talented staff. Their legal work to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church is impressive year after year. FFRF has grown dramatically, and yet they continue to maintain excellence across the board – very impressive. I cannot say enough positive things about this organization.”
-Cheryl, Board Member
Defending Rights and Dissent
DRAD works to protect the civil liberties of every citizen by preserving the right to political expression and dissent. Through their coast-to-coast network of affiliates and volunteers, DRAD encourages citizens to speak up against policies aimed at restricting these rights.
The organization focuses on protecting freedom of speech, freedom of privacy and defense against unlawful search and seizure, and justice system reform.
“DRAD has been at the forefront of the fight for civil liberties even at those moments when the public mood has been at its most fearful and paranoid. They’ve campaigned for the rights of our most vulnerable citizens and activists against the overwhelming powers of the surveillance state and have shown time and time again that they can be counted on to fight the battles for our democratic freedoms when no one else will.”
-mmdelgado, Board Member
If you want to donate to these civil liberties organizations or to find other organizations in your area, check out our website at GreatNonprofits.org.