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Date: February - April
Location: UNC Chapel Hill

HKonJ People's Assembly March
Date: February 13
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Date: April 2
Location: Chapel Hill

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2016 Paul Green Award Recipient: Darryl Hunt

Posted on in Death Penalty

For many years, the ACLU of North Carolina has recognized people who have made important contributions to abolish or reform the death penalty with the annual Paul Green Award. This year, at the 2016 Liberty Awards Dinner on Saturday, April 2, we are honoring someone who has brought attention to the injustice of the death penalty in an extremely personal way: Darryl Hunt spent 19 years in prison and was almost sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit.

At 19 years old, Darryl was arrested, charged, and convicted of a 1984 North Carolina murder he didn't commit. Eleven of 12 jurors wanted to sentence him to death, but one refused to waver and he was spared being executed. Although DNA results proved his innocence in 1994, it took another 10 years of legal appeals to exonerate him.

2016 Liberty Awards Dinner: Protecting Democracy
Featuring the Annual Frank Porter Graham Award & keynote speaker Dale Ho, Director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project
Saturday, April 2 at 5 p.m.
William and Ida Friday Center
100 Friday Center Drive, Chapel Hill, NC
Reserve your early bird tickets today!

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The ACLU of North Carolina's Liberty Awards on April 2 is our annual opportunity to recognize exemplary individuals and organizations for their work to promote civil liberties in North Carolina. We're so excited to announce that our first award recipient is Southerners on New Ground (SONG), who we'll present with the 2016 Sharon Thompson Award, for extraordinary efforts to advance equality for the LGBTQ community.

SONG is a regional queer liberation organization made up of people of color, immigrants, undocumented people, people with disabilities, working class and rural and small town people, and LGBTQ people in the South.  The organization uses community organizing to build collective power, transform the South, and build freedom movements rooted in southern traditions. Its work strives to bring together marginalized communities to work toward justice and liberation for all people.

SONG has worked alongside the ACLU-NC on many campaigns for equality, and we're thrilled to present them with this year's Sharon Thompson Award.

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RICHMOND, VA – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will hold oral arguments on Wednesday, January 27, in the appeal of a federal court ruling that found the county commissioners of Rowan County, North Carolina, violated the Constitution when they coerced public participation in prayers that overwhelmingly advanced beliefs specific to one religion. Between 2007 and 2013, more than 97 percent of the prayers delivered by commissioners before public meetings were specific to one religion, Christianity.

The ACLU-NC Legal Foundation and national ACLU Program on the Freedom of Religion and Belief filed a lawsuit challenging the commissioners’ coercive prayer practice in March 2013 on behalf of Rowan County residents Nan Lund, Robert Voelker, and Liesa Montag-Siegel. In May 2015, a federal district court ruled the practice unconstitutional and ordered the commissioners to cease opening their meetings with coercive, sectarian prayer and a request that the public join them in prayers that advanced one faith.

The case will be the first time a federal appeals court has reviewed a government prayer policy since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the invocation practice of Greece, New York, was constitutional. In his May 2015 ruling, U.S. Judge James Beaty ruled that Rowan County’s prayer practice “falls outside of the prayer practices approved in the [U.S. Supreme Court decision] in Town of Greece.”

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RALEIGH -- Today, Representative Duane Hall (Wake County) asked his legislative colleagues in North Carolina to focus on the issue of student data privacy and to support legislation, which Rep. Hall plans to introduce during the 2016 session, that would prohibit school officials from forcing or coercing students or applicants into providing access to their personal social media accounts, except under a limited set of specifically defined circumstances, such as investigating specific allegations of harassment.

“In the twenty first century, social media platforms have become some of the most important and vibrant forums for people to exchange ideas and exercise their right to free speech with a selective audience,” Hall said. “When school officials demand access to an individual’s social accounts, it constitutes a significant violation of personal privacy, and it would have a chilling effect on free speech. That’s why it’s important that school officials be prohibited from forcing or coercing students to provide access to their social media accounts, except under a very narrow set of circumstances.”

The announcement in North Carolina is one of 16 taking place simultaneously throughout of the country — from Hawaii to North Carolina, from Alaska to Alabama, and from New Hampshire to New York to New Mexico— with a diverse, bipartisan coalition of elected officials and citizens coming together to tell the nation they care about their digital privacy and are willing to join together to fight for it. The message from these collective actions by the states is clear: where Congress is unwilling or unable to act to protect Americans’ privacy, or takes actions that are insufficient, the states are more than willing to step up and fill the void. Together, these states have introduced a range of new legislation that includes protections for student privacy, location tracking and personal data.

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