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ACLU of Hawai'i educates youth

by Shelly Awaya

While the national American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) continues its ongoing mission to protect the civil liberties of Americans, the ACLU of Hawai‘i wants young adults to get involved with and become knowledgeable about the First Amendment and our rights as U.S. citizens.


Patrick Taomae, ACLU of Hawai‘i president, said, “Our mission is to protect and defend civil liberties in Hawai‘i with eternal vigilance, but the ACLU needs to improve on educating people, mainly students in high school and college, about their individual rights and freedoms embodied in the Bill of Rights.”

Taomae, who is an attorney for corporate and business law, said there are three areas the ACLU focuses on to create public awareness. These include public education, legislation, and litigation. He said the ACLU is funded by private donations only, with no government support whatsoever. Being “watch dogs” for the American public, Taomae said, the ACLU helps protect the rights of people by “supporting the good laws and fighting the bad ones.”

Although the ACLU has a nationwide membership pool of approximately 400,000 people, there are only about 2,000 members here in Hawai‘i. Taomae hopes that more Hawai‘i residents will become active members of the ACLU to help both it and the media (free press) “keep the government honest.” This includes supporting the issues on the ACLU 2005 Workplan, which include:

· Deciding what to do about The Patriot Act
· Court-Stripping
· Surveillance, Dissent, and Free Speech
· Defending Religious Liberty
· Equal Rights for LGBT People
· Protecting Reproductive Freedom
· Human Rights at Home and Abroad

If some of these issues sound unfamiliar, Taomae encourages students to keep up on what’s going on in the world. “If everybody followed national and local issues, the public would make better decisions in regard to their legal rights,” he said.

Taomae mentioned the ACLU of Hawai‘i does have student membership fees, and that its Web site,, can assist anyone who wants to take part in the ACLU’s mission. Taomae works with the community often, visiting schools and various organizations to discuss the ACLU of Hawai‘i and its importance to the state. “We are a resource,” he said. “But everyone has to do their part and do as much as they can to educate themselves so that they know what their civil liberties are.”

For more information on how to participate, contact the ACLU of Hawai‘i at 522-5900. For more information about the ACLU, from ACLU national headquarters, visit



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