American Bar pushing for open debates on freedom

WASHINGTON: The American Bar Association used the first post-9/11 Independence Day to launch a campaign urging Americans to continue debating their freedoms, and remember the vital role open discussion plays in a democracy.

WASHINGTON: The American Bar Association used the first post-9/11 Independence Day to launch a campaign urging Americans to continue debating their freedoms, and remember the vital role open discussion plays in a democracy.

The campaign is in response to new laws regarding privacy and security following last year's terrorist attacks, as well as the national surge in patriotism. The ABA, the world's largest voluntary professional membership association, wants to encourage patriotism, but it also wants Americans to bear in mind that loving one's country means debating new laws and never blindly accepting one interpretation of the Constitution.

"September 11 was a vivid reminder that we must not take our liberty and freedom for granted, ABA president Robert Hirshon told the National Press Club Newsmakers on July 1. "Unless we are constantly vigilant, unless we pass our values on to our children in ways that make democracy relevant to them, there is no guarantee that what we have and cherish today, we will have tomorrow."

The campaign has three components. The first is the continuation of an initiative begun by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, called "Dialog on Freedom, which sends lawyers and judges into high schools to discuss the Constitution and the US system of government.

Second is a series of town hall meetings and web discussions to foster debate about freedom and government among the public in general. Third is a succession of ads reminding people that times of national crisis are when debate is most necessary.

The first ad appeared a week after the press conference, July 8, in newspapers in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC.

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