The ACLU has modified over the last decade two important positions on civil liberties. Historically its position had been that limiting contributions to political campaigns was unconstitutional. In 2010 it shifted to support “reasonable” limits on contributions to political campaigns. Strikingly, the ACLU in 2013 then failed to file any brief at all in McCutcheon v. FEC, which challenged aggregate limits on contributions. These limits prevented citizens from expressing support for individual candidates, even when those individual contributions were of modest size.
Second, in 1993 ACLU President Nadine Strossen enthusiastically supported the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Later the ACLU, as David Bernstein reported, continued to support legal exemptions for reasons of religious conscience, but opposed subsequent bills providing for across-the-board exemptions because of fear that they would interfere with anti-discrimination laws. The ACLU today supports the bill to override the Hobby Lobby even though the decision did not involve an anti-discrimination law.
In contrast, CATO, the premier libertarian think-tank, has been relentlessly consistent in its views on domestic policy, opposing infringements on both civil rights and property rights alike. The consistency has continued despite some unfortunate recent squabbles about the structure of its leadership.
The difference between the mutability of ACLU and the constancy of Cato underscores important truths about both the nature of liberty and politics.