ACLU calls anti-terrorism agency map placement 'disturbing'

Tuesday, December 21, 2010 at 4:30pm

A state government anti-terrorism agency placed the Tennessee ACLU on a map of “terrorism events and other suspicious activity” for sending a letter warning public schools not to celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

The ACLU expressed outrage Tuesday over its appearance on the Tennessee Fusion Center’s map, saying it “raises the specter that the government is once again tracking innocent Americans.”

“It is deeply disturbing that Tennessee’s fusion center is tracking First Amendment-protected activity,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-Tennessee’s executive director.  “Equating a group’s attempts to protect religious freedom in Tennessee with suspicious activity related to terrorism is outrageous. Religious freedom is a founding principle in our Constitution — not fodder for overzealous law enforcement.”

The Tennessee Fusion Center was created in 2007, one of many around the country established after 9/11 to help state agencies share and analyze information about terrorism and other threats.

“While the ostensible purpose of fusion centers, to improve sharing of anti-terrorism intelligence among different levels and arms of government, is legitimate and important, using the centers to monitor protected First Amendment activity clearly crosses the line,” the ACLU said in a news release.

On the Fusion Center’s website, the blinking map of Tennessee shows flashing icons. Rolling a computer’s cursor over the icons results in explanations popping up on the screen, none of which have anything to do with major terrorist plots.  The ACLU letter was highlighted under the icon for “suspicious activity.”

“ACLU cautions Tennessee schools about observing ‘one religious holiday,’” the website’s explanation reads.

Also among the map’s highlights: “McMinn County Teen Brings Gun to School,” and “Turkish National Salih Acarbulut Indicted in Chattanooga for Alleged $12 million Ponzi Scheme.”

Mike Browning, a spokesman for the Fusion Center, said “that was a mistake” to label the ACLU letter as a suspicious activity. He said the Fusion Center meant to use the icon that means merely general information. The icon was changed after the ACLU sent its news release, he said.

“It’s still on the map,” Browning told The City Paper. “It has been reclassified into the general information category.”

But a look at the website shows there is no icon for general information. Instead, the icon for the ACLU letter now signifies “general terrorism news,” according to the website’s legend.

Browning said, “You can argue that you don’t like the word terrorism in there, but it’s just general news that’s provided. That’s the general news category. It doesn’t have anything to do with terrorism. It was just provided to schools as general information.”

After The City Paper pointed out to Browning that the entire map was labeled “terrorism events and other suspicious activity” on the website, that was changed to “open source news reports.”

“We were just forwarding the news release per se as general information to all schools,” Browning said, although he could not explain why officials deemed it necessary to forward the information. “We weren’t implying anything by posting it. For the customers who use the map, for law enforcement, emergency management and school resource officers — for the ones who use this, they know what it’s about.”

The ACLU sent its letter on Christmas earlier this month to 137 school superintendents in Tennessee. The letter cautioned that holiday celebrations focusing primarily on one religious holiday amount to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

The ACLU said it was responding to a number of complaints from families about school Christmas party activities.

“The Fusion Center’s tracking of protected First Amendment activity raises profound civil liberties concerns regarding individual privacy, freedom of speech and religious freedom,” Weinberg said.  “We need only look back at our history to be reminded that domestic surveillance is unacceptable.  The Tennessee Fusion Center’s classification of the ACLU letter as suspicious raises the specter that the government is once again tracking innocent Americans who are merely exercising the rights integral to a democratic society, returning us to a dangerous chapter in our country’s history.” 

33 Comments on this post:

By: JeffF on 12/21/10 at 4:30

Funny how protecting First Amendment activity only goes one way for the ACLU. they can threaten schools, administrators, teachers, and students over the ugly specter of Christmas, but they wish to not face any criticism for it.

Congratulations, you made a list of people and organizations who have threatened public institutions. Is that not what you wanted to do?

By: govskeptic on 12/21/10 at 4:46

Amen Jeff! They should have been on the list for yrs. Not a protest,
street blockage with protestors takes place in Nashville without this
scary bunch being involved. They verbally threaten all kinds of
organizations within the community especially with their friends
at the Courts as an almost division of the group!

By: tv8527 on 12/21/10 at 5:08

Bawhahahaaha !!!! You commie bastards FINALLY get what you deserve....It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

By: nashtnman on 12/21/10 at 5:10

The ACLU is one of the most racist organizations in the country. I think we should file a class action suit against them and the federal government for using our tax dollars to support such a racist organization.

By: Elmer Gantry on 12/21/10 at 11:50

Jeff, you should click on the Tennessee Fusion Center map icon for the ACLU and take the map magnification up all the way - the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has map spotted this incident (or report of incident) as at the Tennessee State Capitol...could it be that a member of the Tennessee General Assembly has filed a bogus terrorist report against the ACLU with the TBI?

By: manicsquirrel on 12/22/10 at 7:23

@tv8527: ACLU are "commie" bastards?

I'll bet none of the anti-ACLU posters mind the actions that they took in these cases:

1. ACLU Defends Homeowner's Right to Display tea Party Flag:
2. The ACLU Defends Gun Rights in Florida:
3. ACLU of New Jersey Defends Second-Grader's Right to Sing Religious Song:
4. ACLU Defense of Religious Practice and Expression (several actions):
5. ACLU/Michigan High School Agrees to Stop Censoring Religious Yearbook Entries:

The ACLU doesn't care about political partisanship. Their only mission is to defend the Constitution when it is illegally challenged. Whether it is to keep religious leaders from hanging religious symbols on State property, or to prevent the State from taking away a citizen's right to bear arms, upholding the Constitution is their only goal. For many people, sometimes the ACLU is on the opposing side of an issue, but many times they are on the same side.

By: gdiafante on 12/22/10 at 7:29

Well it just wouldn't be Christmas if people couldn't start complaining about Communists or racists.

By: Kosh III on 12/22/10 at 8:02

Yeah, nothing like the holidays for people to demand special rights for their religious OPINION.

By: Ex Civil on 12/22/10 at 8:12

This exchange [shout] reminds me of one of the truisms in communities;
When a single group’s [Christians] percentage of a community exceeds 30% they tend to dominate the social fabric and as the dominate group need to have a minority group for the purposes of performing the tasks [being persecuted, picking up the detritus of their lives, bankers (it’s known a usury)] they are prohibited from performing (by the group’s tenants or rules).
It’s just too bad ACLU is a minority group that is capable and willing to defend the rights of marginalized groups and its self from the tyranny of the majority.

By: left on 12/22/10 at 8:27

GOD first,then everything else. If that hurts your feelings now, just wait, you are in for the biggest surprise of your life,or death.

By: Siobhanne on 12/22/10 at 9:39

AMEN!!! The ACLU can have a taste of its own medicine now.

By: JeffF on 12/22/10 at 9:46

I notice that Heidi's group was not involved in those news items. Could it be that the Tennessee ACLU is a radical, fringe splinter group of crazies associated with the ACLU in other states. You must admit, you would never see Heidi and her legal revenue enforcement staff lawyers getting involved in those cases. Apparently suing rural counties and school system of 10 Commandment displays is a full-time job and there just is not time left to stand up for puny individual rights cases.

Anyone else see the irony of stomping on Christians and their desires to celebrate one of their two holiest holidays while issuing press releases about doing it in the name of "religious freedom", Some are more free than others?

By: frodo on 12/22/10 at 10:01

I applaud the ACLU for intervening in the obscure local cases noted in manicsquirrel's post. Still, it is my perception that the ACLU loses its voice over the rapid national erosion of constitutional rights perpetrated upon us by the current presidential administration. Perception or reality, the ACLU really needs to clear its throat and speak up more clearly on these matters to convince me they are not politically compromised.

By: HokeyPokey on 12/22/10 at 10:23

Could, maybe, one of you brainiacs actually read the letter the ACLU sent ( and come back to tell us what, exactly, was the threat?


By: yogiman on 12/22/10 at 10:26

Why does the ACLDU continue to misspell their name as the ACLU. It is pretty obvious they are in the destruction business.

An armed man is a citizen. An unarmed man is a subject.

By: frodo on 12/22/10 at 10:37

Thanks, HokeyP for the link to the ACLU letter. After reading it, I have to admit that, for a change, I largely agree with the ACLU. I would not want my child to have a holiday celebration forced upon them that significantly differs from my religious belief. And that's why I think Halloween should be banned from schools.

By: spooky24 on 12/22/10 at 11:13

I see that the ACLU-American Criminal Lovers Union is at it again. Considering the sad shape of Metros schools this is another example of Socialistic values being forced upon persons of the Christian Faith. "Politically Comprised", as mentioned earlier, shows clearly that the ACLU is for the rights of everyone-except those who disagree with their far left protocol.
"“While public schools can teach about religion and religious holidays, public schools may not engage in indoctrination"
Fine, I agree with that, what sort of "indoctrination" are they referring to?
Defending these fringe, at best, notations is another example of the ACLU continuing to deface the Christian Majority-in any and every way possible in an attempt to solicit donors.
Time after time the same tactics are used in order to fan the flames of race in which to incite personal support. You will notice how familiar the following sounds
"The ACLU said it was responding to a number of complaints from families about school Christmas party activities"
As we all know the "families" don't exist except in the far left thinking that says we think it is necessary to use any methods(Lies) to bring about socialistic change in America.

By: AtheistVoice on 12/22/10 at 11:47

I find it very revealing that the main basis for the article - TN Fusion Center labeled the ACLU as a terrorist group - and everyone who disagrees with the ACLU fails to comment on that - they would rather just regurgitate their ignorance. This behavior is no different than the tea party members - they fail to focus on truth and facts while spewing hatred and ignorance to divert attention of other sheeple invoking fear. I find the Fusion Centers label appalling - it does nothing but fuel the ignorance fire. The ACLU should be applauded for their efforts in TN and across the globe. I'm sure none of the naysayers would have problem receiving their assistance.

By: oomarty on 12/22/10 at 12:11

For over 100 years the ACLU has protected the rights of All religious org to practice freely. Its the first Amendment, the most important one,that says the Government cannot Establish a Religion... any Religion.

More people have been wrongly killed in the name of God than any war fought for Democracy. Religious differences kill people the ACLU is dedicated to protecting the Constitution which forbids this misguided theory that a God, any God, should run our government and courts.

Who's God, mine, yours,theres. Muslims account for the largest growing religion in the world. If it were not for the ACLU we could, in the future, all be bowing to Mecca when we gather around the Flag. The same Constitutional principal that protects Christians from being forced to say a Muslim prayer in School also protects The Muslim child or Jewish child from being forced to say a daily prayer to Jesus.

Be careful what you wish for in religion in your Government it may not be the one you worship.

I do not wont my Government in my religion or my religion in my Government.

Matthew 22:15-22 (New International Version, ©2010)
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Thank God for the ACLU.

By: frodo on 12/22/10 at 12:51

Yes, comarty, the TN Fusion Center label is silly. And their spokesperson said it was a mistake (or misinterpreted). So maybe this is a non-story. Wouldn't be the first non-story in the citypaper.

And, I agree with your reminder to anyone who believes in the New Testament that we should give to Caesar what is his and to God what is his. But what troubles me and others is that government has gradually invaded nearly every aspect of life, even to the point of taking over some companies and telling the others exactly what they can and cannot do. In the past two years, in particular, there has been no corner of private or corporate life that the government cannot rationalize invading. That would have been the reverse of days when the church ruled the peasants below from a castle on a hill, except that God was not so keen on that arrangement, either. And now I think it is time to push back a bit and say that if Caesar demands control of any more of my life, then nothing is left for (my firmly held concept of) God but for him to bid us farewell. Some go that route without thinking or like a frog in a pot of boiling water. And some push us that direction because they don't want God in their life nor in mine.

By: nashtnman on 12/22/10 at 1:59

Shut up and sit down you racist bunch of pigs.

By: frodo on 12/22/10 at 2:41

Thank you, nashtnman, for that thoughtful suggestion. And how do you really feel about that?

By: oomarty on 12/22/10 at 4:34

Frodo the most important lessons of Christianity will never be dis proven.
The message of helping your neighbor and forgiveness. Concepts and the interpretations of God as given to us in the Bible must change over time.

i wrote something earlier i will post about Religion and Science.

Go to God for the things you need to be a human but accept the Constitution to be able to insure you can practice your religion now and in the future when Christianity may not be in the Majority. Thats when you'll call the ACLU for help and they will insist on your right to worship as you please unhampered by the majority or the current religious sect or group.

By: oomarty on 12/22/10 at 4:35

Belmont was a Baptist org, it is no longer They refused the money of the Baptist to gain private donations and accreditation as a University that is certified in teaching Biology and Science. With this your diploma from Belmont is actually worth something if you going to be in the medical field or teaching etc.

Science and Religion are two separate things. We should not look for one to justify the other.

The same applies to sexuality. There's not one or two types but as many as Dna and Genetics " Science " can discover. We may not know how many variations there are but rest assured that Science is working on that. Christianity has locked up and imprisoned some of the greatest Scientist this planet has ever known.

Religious Sexuality has changed in time but slowly. Most Religions no longer execute people for divorce and infidelity and I'm not saying we shouldn't go back to that but consider it a factor in raising you own children but not your neighbors.

The Bible says God knew you before you were born. Science says Sexuality is genetic and cannot be changed. for Science and God to agree on something means those interpreting the Holy Book need to revise and consent.

We eat Pork, no the world isn't flat and we can get a divorce thanks to the acceptance of Science as a factor in interpreting the Bible through time.

By: cookeville on 12/22/10 at 5:16

People have the right not to be singled out because they don't worship God the way Southern Christians think they should, but this is what happens in schools every holiday. The reason Jesus said 'render to Caesar what is his, and to God what is His' was because he knew that God is in the Mind and heart, not in something external. Religion should be a private affair between you and God, and should never be used as a battering ram. Unfortunately, it has been used that way since since Jesus ascended. So now, all we do is vilify those beliefs that we disagree with and try to kill off every other version of God. We haven't changed a lick since the Catholic Church tried to disappear every piece of writing it didn't agree with. Today, it's the same ole, same ole. One day perhaps, we shall all understand that God is LOVE and instead of hating our brothers for what we perceive are his 'sins', we will instead see him as a child of God, just like us, because everything we do to others we do to ourselves at the same time.

By: Pantos on 12/22/10 at 5:17

Hey wait a minute I found it right here in the good old constitution.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech ---unless you are a teacher and then you can only say what the federal government says you can say."

Thanks for making sure that all citizens that are PROTECTED by freedom of speech and freedom of religion get those rights. After all the ACLU and the government knows what teachers should and should not be able to say to our children. That is why our forefathers wrote that into the constitution.

P.S. If that is what you want the constitution to say, then ratify it. Don't get some folks in robes to make a ruling that goes against the very words that are written in plain simple English. If you are going to protect free speech, then protect it for EVERYONE. Hypocrites.

By: oomarty on 12/22/10 at 9:42

No one repeat no one is denying religious folks the right of speech in fact we go out of our way to protect it. The Westboro Baptist church that protests at the funerals of soldiers and other are expressing a hated version of free religious speech.

Yes the government does tell teachers where the bounds of speech is in the Classroom. The best place for an education is the class room. The best place to learn about God is the Church. You should be thankful religious speech is not allowed by teachers least a teacher demands you child recite a Muslim prayer in school. Then you'll be on the phone to the ACLU.

By: Pantos on 12/22/10 at 11:23

Wrong oomarty. My child will not have to recite it if he does not choose to speak. He too has theconstitutional right of free speech. If a government official takes away that right then any lawyer can take the job. The best place for free speech in America is everywhere. Church house, school building, court room, jail cell. There are no bounds of free speech in any of these places in the constitution. Any bounds placed there are anti-free speech. What these limitson teachers demonstrate is that if you go beyond what the government allows you to say, you will be punished by the government. This is the antithesis of freedom of speech. Do you think that our kids are to stupid to pick up on that? I don't.

By: oomarty on 12/23/10 at 5:48

Your Free Speech only applies to speech between you and your Government.
There are no constitutional guarantees between you and your employer . There is no right to free speech with your employer. If your employer does not like what you say they can fire you.

If a teacher was free to say anything and she said something to your child that was inappropriate or offensive you do not think she should be punished?

By: Loner on 12/25/10 at 7:03

Ms. Weinberg opined, "the ostensible purpose of fusion centers, to improve sharing of anti-terrorism intelligence among different levels and arms of government, is legitimate and important, ". I disagree with that superficial analysis.

These "fusion centers" are one more shameful example of the incredible success of Bin Laden's war on the financial and military underwriters of the Zionist colonial enterprise in the land of Palestine. Junior Bush et al. took full advantage of the national hysteria after 9-11. The land of the free and home of the brave has been reduced to .a whimpering mass of state-sponsored fear and loathing.

Sadly, this is the price that we Americans are being asked to pay in order to make the Middle East safe for apartheid Zionism,; Israel is a rogue, nuclear-armed Jewish theocracy.

Ms.Weinberg and the ACLU do not seem to get the connection, they attack the effects, not the causes.

As long as the US defends, arms and bankrolls the Israeli war machine, there will be no peace for the Americans or the Israelis. Eternal Holy War is to be expected from now on.


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