Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional law. He is author of the New York Times Bestseller, Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore. He hosts “Jay Sekulow Live”– a daily radio show which is broadcast on more than 850 stations nationwide as well as Sirius/XM satellite radio. Follow him on Twitter @JaySekulow. Read Jay Sekulow’s complete biography here.
Q. Since 1990, when the American Center for Law and Justice was established, it has been referred to by its initials, the ACLJ. The acronym almost sounds like the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union which was founded in 1920.
But the younger, right-leaning ACLJ and the older, left-leaning ACLU are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. And yet both purport to be working to protect freedom and individual rights. “Because Freedom Can’t Protect Itself,” the ACLU website says. “Together We Can Defend Everyone’s Rights.” Meanwhile, the ACLJ’s website describes its mission by saying: “Freedom and liberty are God Given rights.”
Can you briefly describe the fundamental differences between the ACLJ and the ACLU? Do the two organizations ever work together or are the ACLJ and ACLU constantly sparring in court and waging media battles to influence the court of public opinion?
A. At the ACLJ, we work to defend the Constitution not as a so-called “living document” but instead as a document written with a meaning plain from the text itself and from the intent of the Founders. Thus, we believe in robust constitutional protections for free speech, for religious liberty, and for life. We will work with anyone—including the ACLU—when they take positions that agree with those core constitutional values.
But our work doesn’t stop at our own shores. Across the world we’ve advocated for life and liberty, and we’ve steadfastly opposed those—like ISIS, Hamas, and others—who persecute Christians and Jews and wage brutal wars to suppress the most basic human freedoms.
Q. On Sept. 8, you wrote an opinion piece, “IRS scandal: Time for officials to come clean,” published on FOX News’ website. As chief counsel for the ACLJ, which represents 41 conservative groups that were systematically targeted in 22 states by the IRS, how would you describe the chances that officials will ever come clean and the American people will ever learn the truth about this increasingly complicated, multi-layered IRS scandal mired in cover-ups?
Do you believe that the Obama administration feared the growing political power of tea party and conservative groups after their successes in the 2010 midterm elections? Is that why, in 2011, the Obama administration decided to unleash the IRS’s power to stall approval of all your clients’ 501(c)(4) applications so donations they received would not be tax deductable, in a blatant attempt to undermine their ability to draw contributions and deflate their effectiveness in the 2012 elections? Is that the root of the IRS scandal?
A. The root of the IRS scandal is the Obama Administration’s hostility to dissent. Early in his first term, President Obama loudly and clearly declared his hostility to 501(c)(4) groups, even insinuating that they were receiving foreign money to oppose his domestic policies. A highly partisan IRS followed the President’s public advice and began targeting conservatives. It investigated conservative donors, conservative nonprofits, and even attempted to initiate criminal prosecutions with no evidence of wrongdoing.
This targeting had an undeniable impact, perhaps even materially impacting the 2012 election.
Finally, I do believe we will determine the truth—the whole truth—about the IRS scandal, but it may take years. The wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly, but we do believe justice will be done. We’ve sued the IRS on behalf of dozens of conservative groups, and we won’t rest until we’ve held the IRS accountable.
Q. A quick glance at the ACLJ’s case docket reveals that defending Americans’ right to display the Ten Commandments in courtrooms and public places has been a top priority. Considering the Ten Commandments is the foundation of law in the civilized world, why do you think its replicas are under attack by individuals, groups and communities demanding its removal?
Are you concerned that atheists groups are becoming more emboldened in their demands to remove all Judeo-Christian symbols or language, like “One nation under God” and “In God We Trust,” from the Pledge of Allegiance and U.S. currency?
A. Angry atheists attack Judeo-Christian symbols because they want to rewrite history, to literally scrub the Christianity and Judaism from our nation’s heritage. There is no reasonable argument that the Founders of this nation intended the Establishment Clause to create a religion-free zone in the United States of America, and they would be shocked at many of the legal arguments atheists make as a matter of course.
Fortunately, the angry atheists tend to lose their lawsuits, and there are indications that some courts are growing impatient with the argument that atheists should even be permitted to sue over what amount to their own hurt feelings. The tide may well be turning in this area of law, turning for the good.
Q. In your opinion, what is the most important work the ACLJ is doing right now?
A. While all our work is important, our most pressing cases are on behalf of Christians facing unthinkable persecution in the Muslim world. From our defense of Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American imprisoned for his faith in Iran, to our work in countries like Pakistan and Egypt defending Christians whose names will never make headlines, we are working countless hours not just to make legal arguments and save lives but, critically, to raise awareness of a persecution crisis that may well be unprecedented in world history.
Cross-posted at BizPac Review