The American Civil Liberties Union was once considered a bulwark against government intrusion and overreach. Its mission was simple: to defend the constitutional rights of individuals, regardless of those individuals’ political affiliations.

But that law firm is long gone. The ACLU of today cares little about bureaucratic overreach so long as the officials doing the overreaching are on its political team, and it gladly sacrifices the civil liberties of individuals if doing so advances its left-leaning agenda.

Just a few weeks ago, the ACLU of Virginia filed a lawsuit against Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin over his executive order mandating that public school districts give parents the right to opt their children out of mask mandates. The ACLU claimed the order violates federal disability law by putting immunocompromised and other vulnerable children at risk. 

The lawsuit is a farce for several reasons. First, it incorrectly implies that immunocompromised or disabled children will be barred from protecting themselves with masks because of Youngkin’s order. That’s just not true. Children can still wear masks to school if that’s what their parents prefer, and Youngkin himself has said that local school districts are allowed to require masks. But they must also give parents the right to opt out of that requirement. 

Second, the ACLU’s lawsuit falsely asserts it is dangerous for students to go to school without masks. There is no evidence to back this claim. In fact, a group of experts recently debunked the studies on which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s universal masking guidance was based, arguing that none of the data the CDC have collected justifies mask mandates in schools. Masks offer hardly any protection to children at all, they argued, and as a result do much more harm than good by impeding communication and stunting social and academic development. 

There’s a reason the U.S. is one of the only Western countries to have forced masks upon children in the first place. Much of Europe rejected this policy, exempting children in elementary school from mask mandates altogether. The British government, for example, released guidance during the Delta wave specifically warning educators that the potential harms of masks in schools were much greater than the potential benefits.

They were right.

Children with learning disabilities, specifically, have been devastated by mask mandates. Teachers, speech pathologists, and parents have all confirmed that mask-wearing has made learning impossible for children with autism and speech delays. One father testified in a recent Illinois school board meeting that his young daughter, who has a speech development disorder, dropped so far behind academically because of masking that her teachers aren’t sure when — if ever — she’ll be able to move up to the next grade. And she’s been bullied incessantly, he added, because she can’t understand her peers or communicate with them like other children.

Another father in Nashville recently told his local school board that his kindergarten-aged daughter, who is blind in her left eye and thus “severely visually disabled,” has been unable to wear her glasses properly because they “fog up” and “get caught in her mask straps.” This means she is “unable to see her teacher or the materials in front of her,” he said. When he went to school officials and asked for a solution, the father said he was told she could sit a little bit closer to the whiteboard.

“If I told you that your child had to choose between being able to see and wearing a mask, what would you choose?” he asked. “I don’t get that choice. My daughter doesn’t get that choice.”

There are hundreds of other children out there just like these little girls, who have been left behind because school officials refuse to recognize mask mandates as the ineffective and harmful policy that they are. What about those students’ rights? Do their disabilities not matter? Why hasn’t the ACLU filed a lawsuit on their behalf?

There’s a good chance the ACLU of old — the ACLU that once defended a Nazi leader’s right to free speech — would have done just that. But the ACLU of today, which has contorted and twisted itself every which way to embrace wokeism, no longer cares about civil liberties. It has abandoned its core values in the pursuit of cultural power, and is now actively campaigning for heavy-handed government mandates that would crush the individual choice it once claimed to defend.

To say the ACLU is a shell of its former self would be unfair. It’s something much worse than that: it’s an organization full of rabid activists who spend their time and resources looking for ways to crush those whom they see as ideological opponents — even if those “opponents” are vulnerable, disabled children who just want the chance to live and learn normally.