A prominent civil liberties activist and minister has been named the Executive Director of the ACLU of Ohio. J. Bennett (Ben) Guess will begin the position on July 1, succeeding Christine Link, who has served with distinction as Executive Director for 27 years. Guess will be based in Columbus, Ohio.
Guess comes to the ACLU of Ohio with outstanding civil liberties and non-profit management credentials. During the past 17 years, he has held a number of high-level positions with the United Church of Christ’s (UCC) national headquarters, based in Cleveland. Currently the vice president of the UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, Guess previously served on the UCC’s Collegium of Officers as one of the denomination’s top elected executives. He also served for many years as the UCC’s director of communications and news director.
Guess is a board member of the National LGBTQ Task Force in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Cleveland.
Most importantly, Guess brings a life-long commitment to civil liberties and social justice. Early in his career, he served as a pastor to a progressive congregation in Henderson, Kentucky, that established an on-site Planned Parenthood clinic and founded Matthew 25 AIDS Services, which remains one of Kentucky’s largest health providers for low-income HIV-infected patients. Guess is a founding co-chair of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, that state’s leading LGBTQ rights organization which continues today as the Kentucky Fairness Campaign, and he served on the board of directors of the ACLU of Kentucky. More recently, Guess was significantly involved in UCC v. Cooper, the federal lawsuit that helped bring marriage equality to North Carolina.
Guess is a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a B.A. in journalism. He completed graduate studies in public administration at Murray State University, and earned a Master of Divinity at Vanderbilt University and a Doctor of Ministry at Chicago Theological Seminary.
“This is a significant time for the ACLU of Ohio with the retirement of Chris Link after 27 years of visionary leadership. She built this organization from a small affiliate to a powerhouse protector of and advocate for civil liberties in Ohio and across the nation,” said Jack Guttenberg, president of the board of directors of the ACLU of Ohio. “We are enthusiastically looking forward to continuing the affiliate’s ground-breaking work under the dynamic leadership of Ben Guess and the innovative and creative staff that he will be leading. This work is as critically important now as it has ever been.”
“I am tremendously excited to be joining the ACLU of Ohio,” Guess said. “The ACLU’s mission has been urgently relevant in each generation and that urgency, today, is as clear and compelling as ever. The ACLU of Ohio is a courageous defender of civil liberties, a relentless advocate for racial, social and economic justice, and a fierce defender of the Bill of Rights. This represents, for me, the essence of what it means to safeguard and advance our democratic society.”
Founded in 1920, the national ACLU has more than 1.6 million members in all 50 states, making it the country’s foremost advocate of individual rights. With offices in Columbus and Cleveland, the ACLU of Ohio has more than 75,000 members and supporters statewide. Through education, litigation, and lobbying the ACLU seeks to preserve civil liberties for each new generation.