Each Friday, we’ll bring you updates on the latest civil liberties news from Maine and the nation.

Religious Freedom Bill Passes in Arizona House & Senate

While we celebrated the victory of defeating LD 1428 in the Maine House and Senate this week, a similar bill, SB 1062, was unfortunately passed in Arizona. The bill won approval in the Republican-controlled state House of Representatives 33-27 yesterday, a day after it passed in the state Senate. It will go to Republican Governor Jan Brewer, who has not indicated whether she will sign it.

The executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, Alessandra Soler, stated: “What today's bill does is allow private individuals and businesses to use religion to discriminate, sending a message that Arizona is intolerant and unwelcoming.” Critics of Arizona’s SB 1062 echoed opposition to LD 1428 in Maine, expressing concern that such a bill would undercut human rights protections and women’s rights by creating a loophole in the state’s strong non-discrimination laws.

Prison Conditions in New York

New York has a horrific reputation when it comes to the overuse of solitary confinement. According to the New York Times, “at any given time about 3,800 inmates across the state are held in windowless isolation for 23 hours a day, the vast majority for disciplinary infractions. The average length of a stay in solitary is five months, and from 2007 to 2011, nearly 2,800 people were in solitary for a year or more.” However, today, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the New York State Department of Community Corrections (DOCCS) announced an extraordinary decision to reform the way solitary confinement is used in New York State’s prisons.

Under the joint agreement, the state will take immediate steps to remove youth, pregnant inmates and developmentally disabled and intellectually challenged prisoners from extreme isolation. NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Taylor Pendergrass states: “Comprehensive reform to the use of extreme isolation is about reaffirming our most fundamental values, and it is also about smart, progressive reforms that make our communities and our prisons safer.”

Maine Law Privacy Symposium: Who’s Governing Privacy? 

On Friday, the University of Maine School of Law invited some of the world’s leading privacy experts to participate in the Privacy Law Symposium to examine the question: Who’s governing privacy? A hot and jam-packed auditorium produced an equally heated discussion between Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at George Mason University, and Omer Tene, V.P. of Research and Education at IAPP. Thierer suggested that it is too difficult to create a fixed legal standard for privacy that would satisfy all Americans – and therefore advocated for a 3-E solution combining consumer education, user empowerment, and selective enforcement of existing targeted laws to balance online safety and privacy with freedom of expression. Tene advocated for more relevant privacy law framework, stating that bottom-up, self-regulatory efforts are not enough. 

The ACLU is dedicated to actively promoting responsible uses of technology – ensuring that civil liberties are enhanced rather than compromised by scientific advances. Senior Policy Analyst for the ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project Jay Stanley believes that privacy is about more than just hiding things. It is “the human need for a refuge from the eye of the community, and from the self-monitoring that living with others entails; the need for space in which to play and to try out new ideas, identities, and behaviors, without lasting consequences; and the importance of maintaining the balance of power between individuals and the state.” While the Bill of Rights broadly protects privacy, the ACLU argues that it is time to modernize our privacy law.