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by Chris Brook, Legal Director, ACLU of North Carolina

Local government meetings are a vital part of American democracy. Unlike the U.S. Congress and most state legislatures, town council and county commission meetings commonly allow space for local residents to stand before their elected officials and others in attendance to make public comments on the issues of the day.  It’s an opportunity provided equally to all citizens. Rowan County, North Carolina, is no exception to this practice.

However, in recent years, the Rowan County Commissioners have conducted their public meetings in a way that has not only made many residents feel unwelcome and unequal but has also coerced those in attendance to take part in prayers that do not comport with their personal religious beliefs.

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WILMINGTON, N.C. – The New Hanover County Public Library is hosting a 10-panel history exhibit, “ACLU of North Carolina: Fifty Years of Protecting Liberty,” that chronicles the American Civil Liberties Union’s work defending civil liberties in North Carolina since the founding of its North Carolina affiliate in 1965. The New Hanover County Public Library is located at 201 Chestnut Street in Wilmington.

The exhibit, which recounts the ACLU of North Carolina’s work on eight key civil liberties issues – free speech, voting rights, privacy rights, criminal justice reform, LGBT equality, women’s rights, racial justice, and religious liberty – is on display in Wilmington through September 4. It was previously displayed at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro and Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte and is scheduled to be on display at the Chapel Hill Public Library later this fall.

The ACLU of North Carolina was founded by a committed group of volunteers in 1965 to challenge North Carolina’s “speaker ban,” which prohibited so-called “radicals” from speaking at state universities; the ACLU-NC successfully challenged the law in court as a violation of the First Amendment. At the time, there were about 300 dues-paying ACLU members in the state. Fifty years later, the ACLU-NC boasts a full-time staff based in Raleigh and more than 10,000 members and supporters across the state. The organization has gone on to play a leading role in legal and advocacy campaigns to protect voting rights, secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, reform North Carolina’s criminal justice system, and defend many other civil liberties over the past 50 years.

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RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) today announced the appointment of Sarah Preston to serve as the organization’s acting executive director, following the resignation of Jennifer Rudinger, the ACLU-NC’s executive director for the past 11 years.

Preston has worked at the ACLU-NC for more than 8 years, overseeing the group’s legislative and policy work on a wide range of civil liberties issues, including reproductive freedom, religious liberty, LGBT equality, criminal justice reform, and privacy rights.  

Rudinger, who previously worked as executive director of the ACLU of Alaska, is stepping down after 20 years at the ACLU in order to travel, spend time with friends and family, and address some health issues.

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, will travel to North Carolina on Saturday, February 28, to deliver the keynote address at the ACLU of North Carolina’s annual Frank Porter Graham Awards Dinner.

The statewide civil liberties organization, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding in 1965, will honor several individuals with awards for their efforts toward advancing civil liberties in North Carolina. The event is sold out.

What: ACLU of North Carolina’s Frank Porter Graham Awards Dinner

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A longtime civil rights advocate. A courageous English teacher. Nine families who shared personal stories to help defeat a discriminatory law. A pair of lawyers who have saved people from executions. And a devoted volunteer who has given many hours of his time to the ACLU-NC.

These are the civil liberties heroes who will be honored at the ACLU-NC’s 2015 Frank Porter Graham Awards Dinner in Chapel Hill on Saturday, February 28, featuring our keynote speaker, national ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero.

This year’s Frank Porter Graham Award, our highest honor awarded for longstanding and significant contributions to the fight for individual freedom and civil liberties in North Carolina, is being presented to Jim Grant, who has worked to advance and defend civil liberties in North Carolina for nearly as long as the ACLU of North Carolina has existed.

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