First Amendment protections for freedom of speech, of the press, of association, of assembly and petition are the essentials of freedom of expression. The Supreme Court has written that this freedom is "the matrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom." Without freedom of expression other rights, like the right to vote and to be free from racial discrimination, would be impossible to protect.
The ACLU of Montana makes protecting First Amendment rights a top priority in its public policy, public education and legal programs. You have a right to express yourself, to meet with whomever you choose and to criticize the government. We participate in Banned Books Week each year and oppose efforts to ban books at public libraries and in public schools.
It seems hard to believe that some in our nation are still debating whether JD Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" belongs in libraries. But that book and hundreds of others continue to be challenged each year by those who would limit free speech. In Montana, books like "The Joy of Gay Sex," "Fools Crow," and, yes, "Catcher in the Rye," have all been challenged.
The ACLU of Montana takes these challenges seriously. They are attacks on our right to read what we choose and attempts to limit the free flow of ideas that is so essential to an educated, informed public. In 2010 a parent challenged the use of the book "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian" in Helena high schools. The ACLU was there to testify for retention of the book., and we are happy to report that the challenge was withdrawn. In February 2012 we submitted a letter to the Geraldine School District urging it to not remove that same book from its curriculum. And we also participated in the successful 2013 defense of the book in Billings schools.
The ACLU of Montana takes legal action to protect free speech when it is under attack. That might mean suing the U.S. Forest Service when it refuses to allow people who disagree with its policies into public meetings, protecting citizens right to participate in city council meetings or defending the rights of third-party candidates.