Liberty’s biggest threats

Chemerinsky to speak Sunday at event honoring retiring ACLU head Ramona Ripston

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 9/30/2010

Constitutional scholar and UC Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky will be signing and reading from his new book, “The Conservative Assault on the Constitution,” at the annual American Civil Liberties Union Pasadena/Foothills chapter Garden Party Sunday at Neighborhood Church.
This year’s Garden Party will honor Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU-Southern California, who is retiring after 38 years with the organization.
During his talk, Chemerinsky will focus on how political conservatives have changed the Constitution over the past four decades, along with current and future issues facing the US Supreme Court.
“Since Richard Nixon ran for President in 1968, conservatives have sought to remake constitutional law in virtually every area,” Chemerinsky said in a recent interview. 
In the spirit of full disclosure, this reporter was appointed in September to the local ACLU’s board of directors. 
“They have to a very large extent succeeded,” continued Chemerinsky. “Republican presidents and the justices they have appointed have dramatically changed constitutional law.”
His fifth book examines this dynamic by looking at the Supreme Court’s abandonment of equal opportunity in the area of education, the unchecked growth of presidential power, the erosion of the separation of church and state, the diminishing rights of defendants, the curtailment of individual liberties and the increasing restrictions on access to the courts.
But the greatest threats to our liberties, according to Chemerinsky, are ignorance and complacency.
“Opinion poll after opinion poll has shown how little people know of their rights,” he said. “Opinion poll after opinion poll shows that many provisions of the Bill of Rights could not get adopted today. I think that the greatest threat to liberty is people taking it for granted.”
The ACLU Garden Party is at 3 p.m. Sunday at Neighborhood Church, 301 N. Orange Grove Blvd., Pasadena. The $30 suggested donation can be applied toward a one-year ACLU membership upon request. Admission is $10 for students and low-income residents. For more information or to RSVP, call (626) 792-1284 or visit