On Thursday, June 2, 2005, at 6:00 P.M., the ACLU Foundation of Southern California will host its annual Torch of Liberty Awards Dinner at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills. The event honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of civil liberties.

Special guests will include South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and author and syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington. Stephen Colbert, correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, will serve as emcee.

This year the ACLU Foundation of Southern California will present Torch of Liberty awards to two remarkable honorees: filmmaker and activist Lawrence Bender of Kill Bill and Good Will Hunting and Comedy Central and Spike TV President Doug Herzog.

"The Torch of Liberty Award was created to acknowledge the contributions made by individuals from the media and arts & entertainment industry whose creative and sometimes daring work affirms the democratic principles that underlie the promise of 'liberty and justice for all,'" said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the Southern California ACLU.

The event takes place Thursday, June 2, 2005, at 6:00 p.m., and will be held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. Tickets start at $350, and all proceeds contribute to the ACLU Foundation' of Southern California's watchdog efforts. For additional ticket information call toll free: 877/225-8487.

Also expected to attend the event are: Catherine Dent ("The Shield"), Mike Farrell ("M*A*S*H") and Larry Flynt.

Lawrence Bender has served on the board of directors of the ACLU Foundation for many years, as well as the Creative Coalition, working on significant issues including First Amendment rights, arts advocacy and public education. He is active in the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. He co-founded Americans for Fuel Efficient Cars (AFEC) to help inform people about the importance of decreasing America's reliance on foreign oil. Bender's has worked to promote equal access to education and has publicly criticized Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed 30 percent tuition increase for UC students. As a filmmaker, Bender has received numerous awards and nominations, and has also raised awareness on important issues significant to the ACLU's work, including racial justice, hate crimes, homophobia and social justice. Anatomy of a Hate Crime, depicted the brutal 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay college student in Wyoming, which prompted tougher hate-crime laws and earned him a nomination for a GLAAD Award. Good Will Hunting explored the devastating effects of child abuse lasting into adult life. White Man's Burden took place in alternative America where blacks are members of social elite, and whites are inhabitants of inner city neighborhoods.

In an era when many in the media and entertainment industries are limited in their thinking by advertising dollars and the heavy hand of the FCC, Doug Herzog's commitment to the First Amendment is truly admirable. During his original tenure with Comedy Central, he was responsible for Emmy and Peabody award-winning The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and South Park. The channel increased its audience for 14 consecutive quarters, proving that courageous programming can also be successful. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has contributed to a surge of political interest for young people and has also become a major news source for younger demographics. Herzog has also always stood by South Park and its creators right to free expression. Under his direction, Comedy Central has highlighted important stars like Richard Pryor and Chris Rock. It has also showcased some of the most talented women in comedy. As a member of the board of directors of Teach for America, he proves his commitment to children and education, and to living in a just and equal society where educational inequity is a thing of the past.