Founded in 1920, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is the nation's foremost guardian of liberty. We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending and protecting our individual rights and personal freedoms.

Through advocacy, education and litigation, our attorneys, advocates and volunteers work to preserve and promote civil liberties including the freedom of speech, the right to privacy, reproductive freedom, and equal treatment under the law. We stand in defense of the rights of women and minorities, workers, students, immigrants, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, and others who have seen bias and bigotry threaten the rights afforded to all of us in this country by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

A Legacy of Liberty

The ACLU has a long history of fighting to protect the rights and freedoms of people throughout the country.

In the…

  • 1920s the ACLU acted on behalf of newly arrived immigrants victimized by the Palmer Raids;
  • 1930s the ACLU advocated for workers protesting deplorable labor conditions;
  • 1940s the ACLU protested the forcing of Japanese-Americans into internment camps;
  • 1950s the ACLU supported those who fought the witch hunts of the McCarthy era;
  • 1960s & 1970s the ACLU defended those who spoke out for equality and civil rights.

Today the ACLU continues its defense of individual rights on many fronts. Some of these are recurring battles, such as fighting racial and gender-based discrimination and securing reproductive freedom. Others are newer groundbreaking battles like freedom of speech on the Internet.

Mission and Identity Statement

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, membership organization that serves as an enduring guardian of justice, fairness, and freedom, working to protect civil liberties and advance equity for all.

ACLU-PA defends and promotes the fundamental principles and values protected by the constitutions of the United States and of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as well as by national, state and local civil rights laws. For more than 100 years, the ACLU has sought in particular to protect and expand the freedoms of expression, belief and association; voting rights; the separation of church and state; the right to privacy, including reproductive freedom; due process of law, including the rights of the accused and of immigrants; limitations on the power of police; and the right to equal protection for all, including marginalized and historically disadvantaged individuals and groups. In advancing these rights, ACLU-PA strives always to acknowledge and remedy the pervasive and persistent harms of systemic racism.

Integrating litigation, legislative and policy advocacy, organizing, and communications, ACLU-PA’s staff and volunteers work both independently and in coalition with those most affected by the issues we address to ensure that threats to liberty and the civil rights of all persons in Pennsylvania are met with stark resistance as we progress toward a more genuine multiracial, multicultural democracy. 

View our 2021 -2024 Strategic Framework

ACLU vs. ACLU Foundation

The ACLU's work to protect the enduring values of freedom and equality is based on a three-pronged approach: litigation, public education, and lobbying.

In order to support all three advocacy tools and to comply with federal tax law, it is necessary to have two organizational entities: the ACLU and the ACLU Foundation. Fully funding both is vital to protecting civil liberties in Pennsylvania and across the country.

  • The ACLU Foundation is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit corporation. Foundation gifts fund our litigation and public education efforts. Gifts to the ACLU Foundation are fully tax-deductible to the donor.

  • The ACLU is a 501(c) (4) nonprofit corporation, but gifts to it are not tax-deductible. It is the membership organization, and you have to be a member to get your trusty ACLU card. ACLU monies fund our legislative lobbying--important work that cannot be supported by tax-deductible funds. Thus, your membership dues supported our successful lobbying efforts in Congress and Harrisburg.

Many donors choose to make their larger tax-deductible gifts to the ACLU Foundation, but also continue to make smaller gifts to the ACLU in order to maintain their "card-carrying" membership status with the ACLU and to support our important lobbying efforts.