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ACLU withdraws from muzzling its board

July 12, 2006 at 1:45 PM

NEW YORK, July 12 (UPI) -- The self-described champion of free speech, the American Civil Liberties Union has backed down from imposing a gag order on its own board members.

Amid a flurry of internal and media allegations of hypocrisy and censorship, board President Nadine Strossen said a committee's recommendation that would prevent board members from publicly criticizing the group had been withdrawn from consideration "on the grounds that those passages might have some chilling effect on board members' freedom of speech and dissent."

Norman Siegel, a civil rights lawyer who headed the ACLU's New York affiliate for more than 20 years told The New York Times in a telephone interview he was relieved, but perplexed.

"I'm very pleased that the committee has withdrawn its proposals from consideration, but the all-important question still remains: How could such proposals get this far at, of all places, the American Civil Liberties Union?" Siegel said. "The leadership should have dismissed them immediately when they were first presented."

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