To the editor:

In response to the writers of the recent spate of misleading letters to the editor, I repeat: The ACLU exists to defend the Bill of Rights and to ensure its freedom and protections apply to all Americans. In whatever stand we take, our client is always the Bill of Rights. Otherwise we are "plaintiff neutral."Obviously, the wealthy, the powerful, the mainstream, the majority, rarely are abused by the government. Consequently, our clients tend to be the poor, the powerless, the despised, racial and religious minorities, workers, students, women, children, prisoners, the mentally ill, in short, the people who are on the fringes.

But if no one defends the rights of those on the fringes, the definition of the "fringes" will shrink and soon the center will not hold.

The ACLU operates on a shoe string, stretching every dollar. We are funded primarily by dues and donations, and we depend heavily on our volunteers. We educate, we negotiate, we lobby, and we bring lawsuits when necessary.

In fact, the only funding we get from the government is by winning our cases and the resulting attorney fees they consequently have to pay. Congress intended attorney fees be awarded to those who have proved that their civil rights were violated by the government as a way to deter the government from violating people's rights.

As we saw in the Cable Decency Act and now with these school prayer cases, the state would rather pay our attorney fees in order to continue these illegal practices a few months longer. Yes, it's expensive, but evidently money is no object to the school districts and the governor, who remain undeterred.

The ACLU is not some mysterious, alien force. We welcome as members anyone who believes in fundamental American values: freedom, equality and liberty and justice for all.

Michele A. Parish-Pixler

Executive director

American Civil Liberties Union of Utah