When it comes to free speech, the American Civil Liberties Union has a soft spot for animal rights protesters, but not necessarily people who advocate for human life.
In Michigan, the ACLU is fighting tooth and claw for the right of an animal rights group to protest outside a pet store. The store, you see, sells puppies.
Members of Puppy Mill Awareness (PMA) of Southeast Michigan have been picketing the Woof Woof Puppies & Boutique store in Southfield since 2011. They think people should go down to the pound instead of buying commercially bred animals.
The fed-up pet shop owner thinks PMA is suffering from something like PMS and should be fitted with the legal equivalent of an Invisible Fence collar.
In January, Woof Woof owner Joanna Yousif Francis sought but was denied a restraining order against Puppy Mill Awareness members. Her lawsuit seeks damages for alleged defamation, ethnic intimidation and cyberstalking, according to The Detroit News.
The ACLU urges Oakland County Circuit Judge Phyllis McMillen to dismiss the suit. A hearing is slated for May 21.
Puppy Mill Awareness wants to "raise public awareness about the commercial puppy-breeding industry and its effects on the health and welfare of dogs and the people who purchase those dogs," explains the ACLU in a press release. "As part of its advocacy, PMA holds demonstrations outside pet stores that sell commercially bred puppies, encouraging members of the public to adopt rescued pets, rather than purchase puppies from a store."
Well, adoption is a wonderful thing. In fact, adoption is the option that pro-life protesters promote to women on their way into abortion clinics. That dog won't hunt, though, for the ACLU, which filed a Supreme Court brief recently in support of a Massachusetts law prohibiting pro-life protesters from coming too close to abortion clinics.
On Jan. 15, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCullen v. Coakley, which involves a challenge to a Massachusetts law creating a 35-foot fixed buffer zone around abortion clinics from which protesters are barred from approaching clients and staff or giving them brochures.
The ACLU, which originally opposed the law, supports the clinic against the protesters. It's too bad that some of the clients aren't four-legged and having puppies instead of babies.
In the ACLU's odd moral universe, people protesting a pet shop's selling commercially bred puppies merit protection, but people protesting the killing of human babies in an abortion mill must be kept far from the premises.
In a further demonstration of the ACLU's capacity for self-parody, Susan Kornfield, an ACLU cooperative attorney, explained the dark motives behind the pet shop's action:
"It is clear that the sole purpose of this lawsuit is to shut down debate before it starts through the threat of expensive litigation. Our clients will not be intimidated into silence and look forward to vigorous public debate on this important social issue."
Well, the ACLU knows plenty about intimidating people into silence. The group has been threatening school districts, library boards and city officials for decades, sending them letters warning of dire consequences if they erect Christmas displays or put filters on library computers to protect children from pornography and obscenity.
When they've had to actually go to court, the ACLU more often than not has been rewarded handsomely for putting the bite on their victims.
For example, after they bullied South Carolina's The Citadel, which had been an all-male military academy since 1842, into ending its policy in 1996, the ACLU and a New York firm, Shearman & Sterling, with which the ACLU worked, sent South Carolina taxpayers a legal bill totaling more than $6 million.
The ACLU attorneys put in for $450 an hour. A court eventually awarded the plaintiff's attorneys $4.5 million. After an out-of-court settlement, the law firm donated $1 million to the ACLU's ongoing Women's Rights Project.
Among the initial charges were $524 for a "going away party" for an ACLU staffer, and $90,000 from the New York firm just for preparing the bill. The legal beagles' dunning of South Carolinians was so brazen that the local newspaper The Item characterized it as a "feeding frenzy sought by the circling vultures."
When the ACLU is through protecting harassers of the store-bought puppy business in Michigan, maybe they can lend their support to an adopt-a-vulture campaign — not that there's any shortage of those.
Robert Knight is a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.