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US: A Public Dialogue About Civil Liberties

League Launches Local Voices Project: A Public Dialogue About Civil Liberties

Washington, D.C. – The League of Women Voters Education Fund (LWVEF) today launched “ Local Voices: Citizen Conversations on Civil Liberties and Secure Communities,” an eight-month initiative that will foster public dialogue about the balance between civil liberties and homeland security.

“In this post-September 11th world, it is critical for all communities to explore the relationship between these two important topics,” said LWVEF Chair Kay J. Maxwell. “This effort builds on the League’s role as a trusted convener of community discussions, as well as our traditional focus on the protection of our civil liberties. We are thrilled to begin work on Local Voices.”

The League will develop materials, train local facilitators, and encourage citizen participation in large League-led conversations about this topic. While all 900 local and state Leagues will have opportunities to work on this important topic, 10 select cities will be the focus of the LWVEF work on Local Voices. Representing ethnic, economic, and geographically diverse locations, the outcomes of the conversations in these locations will be gathered, analyzed, and compared with larger national trends. A final report will be released in Fall 2005 to coincide with the national debate about the sunset provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.

LWVEF is receiving funding for this project through a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The MacArthur Foundation, with headquarters in Chicago, is a private, independent grant-making institution dedicated to helping groups and individuals foster lasting improvement in the human condition. Other partners in the project are Lake, Snell, Perry & Associates, the Study Circles Resource Center and the Constitution Project.

Local Voices continues the League’s traditional leadership in the area of civil liberties. In the 1950s, the League led a national campaign, The Freedom Agenda, to educate the public about their rights and to combat the impact of the McCarthy hearings. Recently, the organization has lobbied Congress on legislation that affects civil liberties, and Leagues across the country have held educational forums about the Patriot Act. Local Voices will allow the League to further involve the public in grappling with the interplay of civil liberties and security in their own communities.

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