The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has received criticism for selectively promoting civil liberties and pushing a liberal agenda, joined forces this week with one of the most well known conservative groups in the country.
As IJR previously reported, the National Rifle Association (NRA) sued New York after the state urged its banks and insurance companies to sever ties with the organization.
The NRA argued that the state’s pressure campaign risked cutting off a vital source of resources and ultimately blocking their organization’s right to free speech.
In a brief filed on Friday, the ACLU backed the NRA’s legal battle and asked a federal court not to grant New York’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit:
— Cecillia Wang (@WangCecillia) August 24, 2018
— Bill Ritter (@billritter7) August 24, 2018
The ACLU’s New York office argued that pubic officials took advocacy too far when they used their regulatory authority to burden outside groups, the New York Law Journal reported.
“Although public officials are free to express their opinions and may condemn viewpoints or groups they view as inimical to public welfare,” ACLU attorney Brian Hauss said, “they cannot abuse their regulatory authority to retaliate against disfavored advocacy organizations and to impose burdens on those organizations’ ability to conduct lawful business.”
William Brewer, an attorney for the NRA, welcomed the ACLU’s brief and called the organization “a leading voice on legal and constitutional issues.”
The ACLU has come under fire, however, from people like Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who blasted the organization for no longer caring about the “civil liberties of all Americans.”
“It’s a partisan, hard-left political organization,” Dershowitz said in April.
The organization appeared to be at the forefront of opposition to religious liberty claims and swiftly condemned Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new task force specifically created to protect religious liberty.
While the ACLU’s brief appeared to offer diverse ideological support for the NRA, it’s unclear how the case will proceed.
In response to the ACLU’s argument, the state’s Department of Financial Services defended its decision. Superintendent Maria Vullo said:
“We strongly disagree with the ACLU’s position, which is devoid of both the facts of this case and an understanding of the role of the Department of Financial Services in regulating the insurance and banking industries in the state of New York for the protection of our markets and consumers.”
Vullo also claimed that the NRA marked an “illegal insurance product that would permit intentional criminal conduct to be covered by insurance.”
“There can be no legitimate dispute on this issue — and the broker and insurer agreed to resolve these violations of New York insurance law, while the NRA has chosen instead to pursue a contrived litigation strategy to cover up its own law violations,” Vullo also said.
New York’s initial complaint, however, appeared to focus on the NRA’s advocacy rather than its promotion of any particular insurance product.
“The Department encourages regulated institutions to review any relationships they have with the NRA or similar gun promotion organizations, and to take prompt actions to managing these risks and promote public health and safety,” Vullo said in a letter from earlier this year.