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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, July 19, 2001

ACLU reverses decision on Clarence Thomas

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai'i last night voted to reverse a decision it made in May and invite U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to a conference here in two years.

The ACLU board voted 10-4 to ask Thomas to the 2003 Davis-Levin First Amendment Conference. The event is sponsored by columnist Robert Rees and run by the ACLU Hawai'i chapter.

In May, 12 board members said they did not want the controversial justice to appear at the conference, while three backed the idea. Those who opposed the invitation compared Thomas to Hitler and said he was not a supporter of civil rights.

The decision created a firestorm because the ACLU promotes itself as a fighter for free speech. National ACLU President Nadine Strossen, who is scheduled to debate Thomas at the conference, asked the local chapter to reconsider its decision.

Board member Faye Kennedy twice voted against the invitation and said the board "capitulated to the right-wing media."

ACLU Hawai'i President Pam Lichty changed her position and voted to invite Thomas. Lichty said free-speech issues are more important than her personal feelings.