March 10, 2024 - 2:55pm

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri and Lambda Legal subpoenaed communications between journalist Jesse Singal and trans clinic whistleblower Jamie Reed, the former has claimed.

The groups are helping Washington University in St Louis amid a state investigation sparked by Reed’s allegations against the University’s Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Reed, a former case manager at the centre, said in early 2023 that clinicians rushed children into irreversible cross-sex medical interventions, sometimes against the wishes of parents, and failed to inform patients of side effects.

Singal asked an ACLU attorney for an explanation of the subpoena on Thursday, calling their request for his communications “unusual”. He was quickly removed from the subpoena, and an ACLU attorney told him he’d been included by mistake.

“I’m glad that the ACLU corrected what they are describing as a mistake, but I’m curious how my name got in there in the first place,” Singal told UnHerd. “I had always envisioned the ACLU as an organisation that would seek to protect my inbox, not pry into it”.

Lambda Legal did not respond to UnHerd’s request for comment. The ACLU of Missouri reiterated that Singal’s communications were exempt from the subpoena and did not comment further.

The ACLU has for years been moving away from civil liberties and towards a more explicitly progressive position. Famed, now-retired, ACLU attorney David Goldberger said in 2021, “I got the sense it was more important for ACLU staff to identify with clients and progressive causes than to stand on principle […] Liberals are leaving the First Amendment behind.”

The Washington case illustrates this trend well: the Missouri ACLU finds itself aligned with a university hospital system against a whistleblower and an independent journalist. The subpoena also requests Reed’s communications with 18 gender-critical organisations including Genspect, FAIR in Medicine, Do No Harm and the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine.

“They are using this (and me) as a way to go fishing into what they view as a huge conspiracy”, Reed told UnHerd of the subpoena. “They cannot wrap their heads around the fact that I am LGBT, a Democrat, and came to the conclusion from my work in a paediatric gender centre that patients were being harmed.”

Washington University, with the help of the Missouri ACLU and Lambda Legal, has thus far been able to dodge the Missouri Attorney General’s requests for patient records for a civil investigation into Reed’s allegations, and the institution denied any wrongdoing after an internal investigation. Reed, for her part, has been subject to criticism and mockery from Left-of-centre journalists who don’t consider her allegations credible.

The ACLU of Missouri lost its case pursuing an injunction against the state’s ban on cross-sex treatments for children in August 2023. Looking back on the experience, Reed told UnHerd that “the ACLU has lost its way and its moral compass.”

is UnHerd’s US correspondent.