What Is The ACLJ?
It was conceived as a counterweight to the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization which Robertson maintains is “hostile to traditional American values.” It has attracted much media attention for its lawsuits, such as its campaign to oppose changes to the constitution of Kenya that would permit abortion and Islamic law, and its attempts to block the construction of an Islamic cultural center near the former site of the World Trade Center.
The ACLJ supported blocking the construction of the center through New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, though the ACLJ in the past has opposed efforts (or what it perceived as efforts) to block churches in the same way.
In November 2010, the ACLJ asked that the U.S. Justice Department investigate the Congressional Muslim Staffer Association‘s weekly prayer session on Capitol Hill and halt “what appears to be a pattern of inviting Islamic extremists with ties to terrorism to participate in these events”. Jay Sekulow, its chief counsel, said: “It is unbelievable that the very terrorists who want to destroy America are permitted to meet in a congressionally sanctioned setting on Capitol Hill. This raises a host of significant questions – including concerns about national security.
In his position as current Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, Jay Alan Sekulow, a Messianic Jew, has argued numerous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. The following are some of the cases Sekulow and the Center have argued before the Supreme Court:
- Locke v. Davey, (2003). Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments in a case involving the free exercise rights of a college student who was denied a state scholarship because he declared his major to be pastoral studies. The Court held that the U.S. Constitution did not prohibit Washington’s policy of denying state scholarship funds to religious studies students. However, it based its holding largely on provisions of the Washington state constitution, and did not directly address the issue of whether the U.S. Constitution prohibited states from providing such support.
- McConnell v. FEC (Campaign finance reform), (2003). Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments on behalf of a group of minors who were prohibited from contributing to political campaigns. The Court unanimously held that minors cannot be prohibited from participating in political campaigns. The Court held that “minors enjoy the protection of the First Amendment.”
- Operation Rescue v. National Organization for Women, 537 U.S. 808, 123 S. Ct. 58 (2002). Sekulow served as counsel of record for Operation Rescue. The Court concluded that pro-life demonstrators were not racketeers engaged in extortion and that the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)—a federal statute targeting drug dealers and organized crime—could not be used against them.
- Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 120 S. Ct. 2266 (2000). Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments on behalf of student-led prayer at high school sporting events. The court ruled that such prayer was unconstitutional.
- Hill v. Colorado, 530 U.S. 703, 120 S. Ct. 2480 (2000). Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments in a case that centered on a Colorado law that restricted free speech activity outside abortion clinics. The Court held that such restrictions were constitutional.
- Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York, 519 U.S. 357, 117 S. Ct. 855 (1997). Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments in a case that focused on the constitutionality of speech-free “buffer zones” around abortion clinics. The Court held that “fixed buffer zones” were constitutional, but “floating buffer zones” were not.
- Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District, 508 U.S. 384, 113 S. Ct. 2141 (1993). Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments in a case involving the equal treatment of religious organizations and their use of public school facilities after-hours. The Court held unanimously to reject the school district’s decision to refuse to allow school property to be used for religious activities. (In this case, both ACLJ and ACLU were on the same side of the issue.)
- Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic, 506 U.S. 263, 113 S. Ct. 753 (1993). Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments in a case determining whether pro-life demonstrations could be regulated by the application of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. The Court held that in this case, the act could not be applied.
- ISKCON and Brian Rumbaugh v. Walter Lee and The New York Port Authority, 505 U.S. 672, 112 S. Ct. 2711 (1992). Sekulow served as co-counsel in favor of distributing literature at airport terminals. The Court held that the airport’s ban was reasonable.
- United States v. Kokinda, 497 U.S. 720, 110 S. Ct. 3115 (1990). Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments against the prohibition of literature distribution and fund solicitation at post offices. The prohibition was upheld by the Court.
- Board of Education of Westside Community Schools v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226, 110 S. Ct. 2356 (1990). Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented the oral arguments in favor of the Equal Access Act and the formation of Bible and prayer clubs on public school campuses. The Act was upheld by the Court and the Bible club was formed.
- Board of Airport Commissioners v. Jews for Jesus, 482 U.S. 569, 107 S. Ct. 2568 (1987). Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments in favor of the distribution of religious literature at airport terminals. The Court agreed with Sekulow and held that the airport’s prohibition violated the First Amendment.
- ACLJ and ACLU jointly submitted an amicus curiae for a 2006 Texas case of Pastor Rick Barr and Philemon Homes vs. the city of Sinton.
Sekulow graduated cum laude from Mercer University, receiving both a bachelor’s degree and a doctor of jurisprudence while serving as an editorial staff member of the Mercer Law Review. He also received a Ph.D.
As a young lawyer, Sekulow worked in the Office of Chief Counsel for the Internal Revenue Service as a tax trial attorney, bringing suits in the United States Tax Court on behalf of the United States Department of Treasury.
In 1990, Sekulow became the director of The American Center for Law and Justice where he currently serves as Chief Counsel.
In addition to his duties as Chief Counsel for the ACLJ, Sekulow hosts Jay Sekulow Live!, a syndicated daily radio program that airs on nearly 850 stations nationwide, broadcast on terrestrial radio, as well as XM and Sirius. This live call-in program focuses on legal and legislative battles currently underway across America, occasionally featuring in-studio guests such as Jackie Mason and Chuck Colson.
Sekulow is speculated to have been one of the “Four Horsemen” who “engineered” the nomination of Chief Justice John G. Roberts to the Supreme Court. In 2007, Sekulow endorsed Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaign. He has opposed the building of an Islamic center near the site of the World Trade Center, while supporting the right to build a church in the same area.
Cases before the Supreme Court
Sekulow has argued in front of the United States Supreme Court multiple times throughout his career. The first was in 1987, involving Jews for Jesus and their clash with Los Angeles International Airport’s policy against free speech. He has specialized in arguing key issues of the First Amendment, arguing with opponents such as current Chief Justice John Roberts, the Deputy Solicitor General at the time.
|Board of Airport Commissioners v. Jews for Jesus||1987||Arguing on behalf of Jews for Jesus, Sekulow argued that LAX’s policy banning all “First Amendment activities” violated the organization’s right to free speech.||Judgment for Jews for Jesus.|
|Board of Education of Westside Community Schools v. Mergens||1990||Sekulow argued on behalf of students who were denied their request to form a Bible and Prayer club at their school.||Judgment for the Students.|
|U.S. v. Kokinda.||1990||Sekulow argued on behalf of two volunteers of the National Democratic Policy Committee who were arrested after refusing to leave the sidewalk near a post office.||Judgment for the United States|
|Lee v. ISKCON||1992||Sekulow served as co-counsel, arguing on behalf of ISKCON against a regulation that prohibited distribution of literature in airport terminals.||Judgment for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.|
|Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic||1993||Sekulow argued on behalf of anti-abortion activists who were originally found as violating a statute by conducting demonstrations at abortion clinics.||Judgment for the Activists.|
|Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches School District||1993||In another case involving use of school property, Sekulow represented Lamb’s Chapel, and their right to show religious-oriented films in a school after-hours.||Judgment for the Church.|
|Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York||1997||Sekulow argued on behalf of Schenck, challenging a District court ruling that provided for speech-free floating “bubble zones” surrounding abortion clinics.||Judgment for Schenck.|
|Hill v. Colorado||2000||This case revolved around protesters’ rights to distribute literature in front of abortion clinics and a statute that barred them from approaching a non-consenting person. Sekulow, representing the protesters, argued that Colorado’s “eight foot rule” was unconstitutional.||Judgment for Colorado.|
|Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe||2000||Sekulow, representing the school district, argued that prayer, initiated and led by students at football games, did not violate the Establishment Clause.||Judgment for Doe.|
|McConnell v. FEC||2003||In a highly publicized case, Sekulow, on behalf of a group of students including Emily Echols, argued that a portion of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 violated the First Amendment and was thus unconstitutional.||Judgment for Echols, et al.|
|Locke v. Davey||2003||Sekulow, representing student Joshua Davey, argued that a statute excluding theology students from publicly funded scholarships was unconstitutional.||Judgment for Locke.|
|Pleasant Grove City v. Summum||2008||Sekulow, representing the city of Pleasant Grove, challenged a Tenth Circuit opinion allowing Summum to erect a monument alongside a Ten Commandments monument donated to the city by the Fraternal Order of Eagles.||Judgment for Pleasant Grove City.|
In addition to his work as a Supreme Court advocate, Sekulow, as lead counsel of the ACLJ, has submitted several amicus briefs in support of conservative issues. He has submitted amicus briefs in landmark cases such as Hamdi v. Rumsfeld,Rasul v. Bush, Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, and Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation. His amicus briefs for Van Orden v. Perry and Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC were cited by Justices John Paul Stevens and John Roberts respectively. Sekulow served as counsel to Robert and Mary Schindler during the controversy surrounding their daughter, Terri Schiavo. While he is widely acknowledged as a member of the Christian Right, Sekulow’s amicus brief in Morse v. Frederick was in support of the ACLU’s position; he argued that schools banning “offensive” speech would also be able to prohibit religious speech with which the administrators disagree.
Sekulow again argued before the Supreme Court on November 12, 2008 in Pleasant Grove City v Summum, case No.07-665. Sekulow represented the City in this case concerning government control over monuments and memorials in government-owned public places. On Feb. 24th the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the City’s favor. On March 2, 2009, the Supreme Court issued a summary disposition in the companion case of Summum v Duchesne City. The Court was again unanimous, vacating the 10th Circuit opinion and remanding the case for an opinion consistent with Pleasant Grove City v Summum.
Awards and Accomplishments
Sekulow has been honored numerous times throughout his career. In 1994, he was named to the National Law Journal’s Power List, which highlights some of the most prolific attorneys in America. In 1997, he was named to the American Lawyer’s Public Sector 45, a list dedicated to legal public servants who have made the most impact in their respective fields. Following this accolade, the National Law Journal placed Dr. Sekulow in their highly coveted 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America list. Most recently, Legal Times profiled him as one of the 90 Greatest Washington Lawyers of the Last 30 years, solidifying his place as one of the most renowned legal professionals in the United States today.
In November 2005, Legal Times published an article in which it was alleged that Sekulow “through the ACLJ and a string of interconnected nonprofit and for-profit entities, has built a financial empire that generates millions of dollars a year and supports a lavish lifestyle—complete with multiple homes, chauffeur-driven cars, and a private jet that he once used to ferry Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.” The article quotes a number of former donors and supporters (none identified by name) who claim that Sekulow has engaged in a pattern of self-dealing to finance his “high-flying lifestyle.” And, according to a ranking by the American Institute of Philanthropy, a charity watchdog group, Sekulow is the 13th-highest-paid executive of a charitable organization in the United States if the given figure for his salary is accurate.