Last updated on: 11/6/2017 | Author:

Judy Kutulas, PhD Biography

Professor of History at St. Olaf College
Pro to the question "Is the ACLU Good for America?"

“Over the years, the ACLU’s fortunes have waxed and waned because it tends to attract or lose members following specific actions it undertakes. That waxing and waning demonstrates the organization’s success at its sole endeavor, defending and preserving the individual freedoms granted through the Bill of Rights.

Since its creation in 1920, the ACLU has been part of many milestone cases that help define and refine individual rights within a democratic society. It is because of a 1969 case the ACLU carried to the Supreme Court, Brandenburg v. Ohio, that we have a social definition of when an individual’s right to free speech threatens the public good, ‘imminent lawless action.’ That case involved a member of the Ku Klux Klan, reminding us once again that, just as recently in Charlottesville, the organization doesn’t just defend liberals or radicals, but everyone.

It’s also worth noting that helping groups obtain halls or permits to express their political opinions is only one part of what the ACLU does. It has also challenged literary censorship, segregation, cruel and unusual punishments, gender inequality, and violations of the right to privacy and freedom of religion. The ACLU is one of the informal checks and balances protecting individuals against tyranny.”

Email to, Oct. 12, 2017

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Professor of History, Women’s and Gender Studies, St. Olaf College, 1986-present
  • PhD, History, University of California at Los Angeles, 1986
  • BA, History, University of California at Berkeley
  • Kutulas writes on her St. Olaf profile that she was “born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, experiencing a classic California upbringing of summer sailing and winter skiing (no surfing, though). I quickly morphed from Girl Scout to wannabe hippie rebel; I saw the Grateful Dead play live before I entered high school.”
Quoted in:
  1. Is the ACLU Good for America?