Joshua Decker is stepping down as ACLU of Alaska’s executive director. After leading the increasingly radicalized civil rights group for a decade, he is moving on to pursue a PH.D. in political science with the aim of creating a “more perfect union.”
In Decker’s opinion, America’s Constitution is a document filled with empty promises for many.
“[T]hat’s still all it is for many – a list of promises,” he claimed in his Aug. 11 farewell email message to supporters. “While some are afforded the privileges outlined in the Constitution, too many are still fighting for their opportunity to enjoy those sacred guarantees.”
But thanks to Decker’s leadership, Alaska is a place with liberal abortion laws, a growing LGBTQ political movement and a state where election laws can be suspended with court orders.
Decker’s email celebrated his work in defending abortion and making it “easier and safer for Alaskans to vote.”
He also alluded to the ACLU’s successful lawsuit in which the Alaska Supreme Court ultimately agreed that Gov. Mike Dunleavy did not have the right to veto a portion of the Alaska court system’s funding – a case that directly challenged the governor’s constitutionally protected line-item veto power. Decker suggested that the governor’s action was an attack on democracy.
At issue was Gov. Dunleavy’s veto of $334,700 to the Alaska Court System. Or, more precisely, Dunleavy’s explanation that the Alaska Supreme Court should pay for the state-funded elective abortions it insists upon, which are opposed by the other two branches of Alaska’s government.
The ACLU was once considered a fearless institution that defended controversial civil liberty cases on both the right and the left.
While claiming that he worked to defend religious liberties and free speech, Decker failed to mention that his organization issued hardly a word when Anchorage clamped down on freedom of assembly and religious liberty last year amid COVID concerns. In fact, Anchorage afforded more freedoms to pot shops and retail outlets than it did to churches.
In truth, the most notable so-called “religious liberty” case the ACLU took up was to defend the right of Satanists to offer “prayers” during the Kenai Borough Assembly meetings. These invocations end with the words, “Hail Satan!”
While Decker did not specifically mention his work on the Satan prayer, his email did boast about his efforts to help transform Anchorage and Juneau “into cities where gay and transgender Alaskans can live their authentic lives without losing their jobs or homes, and together, we partnered to make Anchorage the first community in the country to defeat an anti-transgender ballot measure.”
Once considered a fearless institution that would doggedly defend some of the most highly controversial civil and religious liberty cases in the nation – both on the left and the right – the ACLU has become increasingly aligned with the aims of the political left, even refusing to take up cases that may interfere with the organization’s reputation.
If Decker’s farewell address is any indication, the ACLU will continue along these same lines in the years ahead.
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“Goodbye is bittersweet, but rest assured the ACLU of Alaska is in good hands,” Decker said. “The work will ceaselessly continue because there is nothing that can stop the ACLU of Alaska staff’s dedication to the people of this state.”
Decker’s interim replacement is long time liberal attorney, Susan Orlansky. She has served as senior counsel for the ACLU of Alaska since 2014, spent 12 years with the Alaska Public Defender Agency and nearly 20 years as a partner at Feldman, Orlansky & Sanders. She has also served on the Alaska Judicial Council and the Alaska Bar Association’s ethics and area discipline committees.
Orlansky will lead the ACLU while the board of directors conducts a nationwide search for a new permanent executive director.
Decker signed off by informing his readers that his preferred pronouns are “he, him, his.”