Jordan Sekulow

ACLJ: Blasphemy Laws For Me, But Not For Thee?

Yesterday, Miranda reported on the seemingly contradictory views of the American Center for Law and Justice’s European and Slavic affiliates when it comes to blasphemy laws. The ECLJ has been vocal in opposing blasphemy laws in Muslim-majority countries, but the SCLJ supported passage of a new anti-blasphemy law in Russia. The law provides for fines, “correctional labor” and up to three years behind bars for “public actions expressing obvious disrespect toward society and committed to abuse the religious feelings of believers.” SCLJ’s co-chairman Vladimir Rehyakovsky expressed some reservations about the final form of the law, but said it was “very important” to have such a law in place.

So, where does the ACLJ stand on blasphemy laws?  On one hand, it is proud of its opposition in international forums like the United Nations to blasphemy laws that are used by Islamist governments to restrict religious expression.  In 2011, the ACLJ said the UN’s Human Rights Committee endorsed an ECLJ-backed position that “no right exists to protect the reputation of an ideology, rather human rights belongs to individuals.”

But more than a decade ago, in response to an “Ask Jay” question posted on the ACLJ’s website, the group’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, said it was “an unfortunate situation” that states no longer have laws against blasphemy, something he blamed on “the ACLU and those who trumpet the First Amendment as a license to really degrade people.”  Sekulow bemoaned the fact that “religion lacks protection in the law.”

Joe from Rhode Island asks: In Black’s classic law dictionary, blasphemy is illegal. When did it become legal to mock a person’s faith in God?

Jay answers: Black’s is the standard of legal definitions that law students are given around the country and Black’s is still cited in Supreme Court decisions. Not only in English common law but also in most states in the USA, blasphemy was prohibited speech. Clearly, the ACLU and those who trumpet the First Amendment as a license to really degrade people have changed that and that’s an unfortunate situation. But you’re absolutely correct, Black’s Law Dictionary is right. There are many definitions like that in Black’s, but religion lacks protection in the law. Not only is religion seen as irrelevant, but religion is trivialized and even mocked. This behavior has become an accepted part of who we are as a people and in some cases the Supreme Court hasn’t been particularly helpful in that context. The composition of the Supreme Court is obviously something we’re always watching because we know that with the more conservative court obviously some of our values will be more protected. Things have changed drastically if you look at our history, and it’s not even old history. Our country is still very young, but things are very different since our founding. We’re continuing to hope here at the American Center for Law and Justice that history will continue to change in a way that protects the rights of religious people across America. This is what we’re working toward. Selection of Supreme Court Justices is critical in the interpretation of these kinds of cases.

So it appears that the ACLJ is ready to champion free speech when it comes to opposing blasphemy laws in Muslim-majority countries, but supports restrictions on blasphemy in place where Christians are in the majority.  Perhaps that double standard is not much of a surprise, given that the ACLJ, which portrays itself as a champion of religious liberty, helped lead opposition to the construction of a Muslim community center in New York that critics inaccurately called the “Ground Zero Mosque.”

The ACLJ is a legal group founded by televangelist Pat Robertson and run by Jay Sekulow and his son Jordan in a manner that is very lucrative for the Sekulow family.

Dangers of Supreme Court Prayer Ruling Quickly Become Clear

Sometimes the damage from a bad court decision takes a while to make itself clear. Not so with last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding a town’s practice of beginning council meetings with prayers that are overwhelmingly Christian. Conservative political and legal groups called it a win for religious freedom, but it only took a few days to see just how much unnecessary and divisive conflict the Court’s decision could generate in communities across America.

Late last week the mayor of the New Jersey town of Carteret cited the Supreme Court ruling to justify cancelling the use of the borough hall for a Saturday naturalization ceremony.  He was upset that the Immigration and Naturalization Service refused to allow the ceremony to begin with prayer. The INS says its rules are meant to ensure that naturalization ceremonies are "conducted in a meaningful manner which is welcoming and inclusive and excludes political, commercial and religious statements." But Mayor Daniel Reiman said the INS could "host its godless ceremony someplace else." (It was held in Newark.)

What a sad object lesson for those aspiring American citizens and their friends and families. Who knows how many different faiths were represented among them? It shouldn’t matter, because one of the most precious benefits of being an American is that your rights and standing as a citizen do not depend on your holding any particular set of religious beliefs.

But don’t tell that to Al Bedrosian, a member of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors in Virginia. Last week after the Supreme Court ruling, Bedrosian declared that prayers to open board meetings should be given only by Christians. It is shameful that Bedrosian holds public office in Virginia, home of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson and the birthplace of the First Amendment. Bedrosian argued publicly several years ago that Christians should “rid ourselves of this notion of freedom of religion in America.” He said Christians “are being fed lies that a Christian nation needs to be open to other religions” and called it one of the “greatest moments in US Senate history” when a group of Christians disrupted a Hindu religious leader who was giving an opening prayer.

Both Reiman and Bedrosian are misinterpreting the Court’s decision. But these episodes bring even greater clarity to a reality to which the conservative majority on the Supreme Court demonstrated “blindness” – in the words of dissenting Justice Elena Kagan. That is the exclusionary and divisive reality – as opposed to the theory – of government bodies opening their meetings with sectarian prayer.

The case decided by the Supreme Court came concerned the upstate New York town of Greece.  For years, the town council has been inviting local clergy to open its meetings. Those clergy have been overwhelmingly Christian, and their prayers were sometimes highly sectarian, invoking “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross” or “the plan of redemption that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.” These were not, as dissenting Justice Elena Kagan noted, ceremonial invocations like the “God save the United States and this honorable Court,” which begins Supreme Court sessions.

The town’s prayer policy was challenged by two citizens (one Jew and one atheist) who felt coerced by the invitations to Christian prayer, and who felt as if they were being made outsiders in their own town based on their religious beliefs. They argued that the practice violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which has been interpreted as preventing the government from favoring religion in general or any religion in particular.

Some people, particularly those in the religious majority, have a hard time seeing why such prayer is a big deal. As Paul Waldman writes for the Washington Post, “the ruling is about the privilege of the majority, the privilege to define your own beliefs, traditions, and practices as simply the water in which we all swim. If you’re in that majority, you tend to be shocked when anyone even questions whether those practices ought to be imposed on everyone and sponsored by the state.”

But imagine, as Kagan did, a Muslim who has come before the city council seeking a zoning variance to build an addition on her home. When she is asked to join in prayer celebrating the divinity of Jesus, she has the option of not participating, or leaving the room. Either option identifies her as somehow different from her neighbors and from the councilmembers who will decide the fate of her request.  A federal appeals court had ruled that the town’s practice was unconstitutional because, even if town officials had no bad intent, the consequence of the nearly uninterrupted parade of Christian prayers was to signal that Christianity was favored, and to make unequal citizens of people of other faiths or no faith.

Unfortunately, five Supreme Court justices disagreed, saying even an overwhelmingly Christian and sectarian prayer practice is OK unless there is a pattern of prayers denigrating other faiths or proselytizing or unless there is evidence that people are being legally coerced or punished for not participating. The Court has given a green light to “Christian Nation” advocates like Al Bedrosian to demand that their city council or county commission allow their official meetings to be regularly opened with explicitly Christian prayers.  Some Religious Right leaders have said that’s exactly what they’re going to do.

Right now, practices vary. Some government bodies don’t bother with prayer; others invite clergy to open meetings, with guidelines that prayers be respectful or nonsectarian. But even that nod toward pluralism is at risk: Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice said this ruling means government bodies can no longer make a distinction between nonsectarian prayer and “praying in Jesus’ name” and he told the Christian Broadcasting Network, “that will have an impact on a number of cases.”

It’s worth noting that some progressive Christians agree that “nonsectarian prayer” is a kind of oxymoron. But, says Washington Monthly blogger Ed Kilgore, that is not a reason to push for sectarian prayer; it is instead a reason to do away with legislative prayer altogether. He writes that the effort to push more prayer in official settings is “offensive to those who pray as much as to those who don’t.” The pro-church-state-separation Baptist Joint Committee had filed a brief in the case stating that “prayer is an expression of voluntary religious devotion, not the business of government.”

That brings us to a crucial distinction between what is constitutional and what is wise, particularly in a country that is increasingly diverse, with a growing number of people who claim no religious affiliation. As noted in People For the American Way Foundation’s Twelve Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics, “Some things that are legally permissible may still be damaging to religious tolerance and civic discourse, and should be discouraged.”

The Supreme Court did not rule that legislative bodies have to begin their meetings with prayer; it ruled that the Constitution allows them to. In spite of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s portrayal of legislative prayer as a unifying force, it seems likely that an aggressive push for more sectarian prayer to open official meetings will be anything but unifying. Elected officials should think twice before going down that road.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he prays that the Court is showing a way toward “a right kind of free marketplace of faith expression in American life.” But Moore is wrong: we already have a free marketplace of faith expression in America. The First Amendment has fostered a vibrant, flourishing, peaceful religious pluralism that is unmatched anywhere in the world. Christian media has a massive presence on television, radio, and online. But what too many “Christian Nation” advocates want, and what the Court is opening the door to, is a system in which a religious majority can more easily use the institutions of government to promote its religious beliefs and label others as outsiders.

And that is not the American Way. 

PFAW Foundation

There Are Two Christian Right Movies Called 'Persecuted' Coming Out This Year

We’ve written quite a bit about the Religious Right’s conviction that conservative Christians in the U.S. are facing religious persecution through things like gay rights and the expansion of contraception access. Well, in case we needed a confirmation that this is in fact the direction of the right-wing zeitgeist, it turns out that are several movies coming out this year about the supposed oppression of Christians in America. And two of them have the same title: “Persecuted.”

The much higher-budget, star-studded production is directed by 30-year-old Daniel Lusco, whose previous films have included collaborations with End Times alarmist Joel Rosenberg and a fawning documentary about former general and current Family Research Council vice president Jerry Boykin’s anti-Muslim activism.

Lusco's "Persecuted" stars James Remar and Dean Stockwell and includes guest appearances by Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson (in her film debut!) and former Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson.

A press release outlines the plot:

PERSECUTED tells the story of a modern-day evangelist named John Luther, played by SAG Award-nominated and Saturn Award winning actor James Remar ( X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, "Dexter", DJANGO: UNCHAINED, WHAT LIES BENEATH, RED). Luther is the last hold out for a national endorsement to make sweeping reform in freedom of speech. As the government is mandating political correctness while covertly waging a war against religious organizations, a U.S. Senator, portrayed by Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Davison (X-MEN, "Lost", "Castle"), and his political allies create a sinister plan of denial and scandal to frame John Luther for murder. Suddenly his once normal life is turned upside down as he becomes a fugitive vowing to expose those responsible. It is a mission that brings him face-to-face with the coming storm of persecution that will threaten the moral ethics and freedoms of America.

American Center for Law and Justice director Jordan Sekulow, who also has a cameo in the film, explained today to the Christian Post that he doesn’t think the premise of the movie is that far-fetched:

On the surface, "Persecuted" plays out like many government thrillers. Similar to movies based upon Tom Clancy novels, it has a hero with limited resources faced off against corrupt politicians and government officials. Central to the plot, though, is an effort by the president and his cronies to pass the "Faith and Fairness Act," which would be similar to a "fairness doctrine" for religious groups. If this law were passed, religious broadcasters would be required to present all religious points of view when presenting their own point of view.

The notion that such a law could actually be passed in the United States is not out of the realm of possibility, Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, explained to The Christian Post. The law is similar to a resolution that was passed at the United Nations about the defamation of religion.

"It's backed predominantly by Islamic countries, but in the name of tolerance, so that they can criminalize defamation or defamatory speech so that you effectively become a criminal if you say Jesus is the only way, that becomes criminal. So it's real," Sekulow said.

Carlson apparently agrees. She told Charisma in December, “There’s a Christian message here, a political message here and I think that it is very timely in regard to what some politicians might do in some cases to get things done.”

The star-studded “Persecuted” will be released this spring and had a pre-screening this week that was reportedly attended by several members of Congress. The competing “Persecuted” hasn’t been so lucky. First-time director Benjamin Bondar apparently originally intended his “Persecuted” to be a feature film but after a Kickstarter funding campaign failed is now editing it into a short film to submit to Cannes.

Bondar’s film is set in the Soviet Union, but is clearly meant to be an allegorical tale about the United States today. Describing the film as “a romantic thriller about socialism, atheism, & the ultimate corruption of BIG GOVERNMENT,” its Facebook page outlines the plot:

After several failed attempts to capture four Evangelists who have been effectively supporting Christianity throughout the Soviet Union, the Soviet government orders its best trained undercover KGB officer to infiltrate the Christian Church and stop the growing number of believers through whatever means possible. While attempting to help his government abolish Christianity and find the elusive criminals, KGB officer Vavilov falls in love with Julia, a beautiful Christian girl. For the first time, he questions his government’s agenda, the meaning of life, and his own need for salvation.

In a Facebook comment in response to a skeptical viewer, Bondar wrote, “The unfortunate reality in the U.S. is that both socialist policies and atheist propaganda are actively trying to marginalize and demonize the practice of established religions such as Christianity. I feel that watching this movie with an open and attentive mind will help prove this point by providing a historical context with which to view current events happening in the U.S. right now.”

These two films are by no means the only ones coming out this year pushing the Christian persecution narrative. Liberty Counsel’s film “Uncommon” will take on the supposed crisis of “religious liberty in public school.”

Barber: No 'Christian in Good Conscience' can Support Obama; Trust Romney to Appoint Right-Wing Judges

Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber and his boss Mat Staver were consistent critics of Mitt Romney and endorsed Newt Gingrich in the Republican primary, but now Barber is out with a new column begging the Religious Right to coalesce behind Romney and today spoke to Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice about his new found support for the former governor. Barber ironically began the interview by commenting that the ACLJ, like him, was probably bothered by Romney’s inconsistent record, even though both Jay and Jordan Sekulow vigorously supported Romney both times he ran for president and ACLJ attorney David French founded the group Evangelicals for Romney.

He said he came around to supporting Romney because of his pledge to nominate right-wing judges. “The one word that made the decision for me is judges,” Barber told Sekulow, warning that if Obama can make more appointments to the judiciary then he will create a “radical, secular, socialist, European-style nation.”

Barber went on to claim that he couldn’t “imagine any Christian in good conscience based on Obama’s radical, counter-biblical, anti-Christian, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual activism policies voting for Barack Obama.” Or as Barber puts it in his column, “any Christian who votes for Mr. Obama will get to take that up with God.”

The one word that made the decision for me is judges. Probably the most significant thing that any president can do for better or for worse and this may not be how our Founding Fathers intended it but it is the reality we live in is to appoint judges, particularly United States Supreme Court justices. The next president, either Barack Obama, radical secular socialist, or Mitt Romney, center-right Republican, the next president is going to appoint at least probably two, potentially three United States Supreme Court judges. That will affect law, public policy, our culture at large in perpetuity, for as far out as we can see for decades, it literally will make the difference. This next election I think is the most important election we ever faced in our lifetimes, it will make the difference based on Supreme Court appointments alone between an America that we can recognize, that at least resembles what our Founding Fathers intended, versus a radical, secular, socialist, European-style nation, which is the goal of Barack Obama.



A Christian non-vote is a vote for Barack Obama in that it fails to affirmatively cancel out an Obama vote. I can’t imagine any Christian in good conscience based on Obama’s radical, counter-biblical, anti-Christian, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual activism policies voting for Barack Obama. That leaves a final choice, and that is to get out, vote for Mitt Romney, and get out the vote for Mitt Romney.

Rep. Trent Franks says Abortion Rights Supporters are on the 'Wrong Side' of 'History and Eternity'

Last week, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) appeared on Jay Sekulow Live to voice support for his PRENDA bill, which would ban abortion on the basis of gender. Franks admitted that the legislation was essentially a ruse to push the criminalization of all abortions, and while PRENDA received a majority of votes it failed to pass because it needed a two-thirds majority to pass under the suspension of the rules. Franks intends to bring the bill up again for a vote.

On Thursday, Franks told American Center for Law and Justice executive director Jordan Sekulow, who was sitting in for his father, that opponent of his bill will be “on the wrong side of justice and the wrong side of humanity, both in history and eternity.” Back in 2009, Franks dubbed President Obama an “enemy of humanity” due to his support of abortion rights.

Sekulow: People are calling this show, congressman, and saying ‘why is this so controversial? How is this even having to be debated?” But we’re one of those countries, congressman, that has no laws on this whatsoever.

Franks: That’s true. There’s a lot of reason why this gives the left indigestion. It shouldn’t. They should just say, ‘you know what this is a good bill and we’re going to vote for it because if we don’t we’re going to find ourselves on the wrong side of justice and the wrong side of humanity, both in history and eternity.’ You know this is a serious, serious issue.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp Says the Obama Administration is 'Using the Military as a Guinea Pig' for the 'Radical Homosexual Agenda'

After telling Family Research Council president Tony Perkins back in April that the Obama administration is working with the “radical homosexual movement” at the expense of religious freedom, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) told Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice last week on his radio show that the Obama administration is “using the military as a guinea pig for their implementation of a pretty radical homosexual agenda.” Huelskamp was promoting his Military Religious Freedom Protection Act, which like other conservative bills uses the language of religious liberty to cloak anti-gay intentions, as Huelskamp’s legislation prohibits military facilities from being used for ceremonies recognizing same-sex unions. The congressman told Sekulow that the Obama administration is trying to rewrite sermons and warned that “if we lose this cultural war we are going to lose everything for the next generation.”

Huelskamp: In my opinion this administration is attacking traditional marriage on multiple accounts. Not only in the courtroom but I believe they are using the military as a guinea pig for their implementation of a pretty radical homosexual agenda, first of all with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell but the follow up has been that many chaplains and many other service members that are not chaplains feel like their religious liberties are under attack, they’ve been pressured to change their public positions and certain military chaplains have been told to revise their actual sermons. The audacity of the administration to say ‘we don’t like that part of Corinthians and we’re going to make certain you don’t preach about that’ as a result I introduced the Military Religious Freedom Protection Act which said if you are a chaplain or any other member of the military, you don’t give up your religious conscience in order to defend our country.



If you look at a map of the United States, of those who have marriage amendments in their constitutions, nearly every state has some protections in their statute as well, not all of them but nearly every one, if you count up those electoral voters that’s over 400 votes out of 535 needed to elect the next president. This is a winning issue, number one, but more importantly it is the right thing to do. We can get the economy right, we can get the size of the government right, but if we lose this cultural war we are going to lose everything for the next generation.

Romney Successfully Wooing the Religious Right with Promises of Right Wing Judges

Last week, we unveiled a campaign featuring a website, web ad, and report exposing Mitt Romney’s dangerous agenda for America’s courts, as demonstrated by the fact that Robert Bork has been tapped to lead Romney's constitutional and judicial advisory team.

As the report noted, Romney's choice of judicial advisors "spells serious trouble for the American people" ...  and it is no surprise that it is also music to the ear of the Religious Right.

On today's episode of "WallBuilders Live," David Barton and Rick Green invited Jordan Sekulow, who worked for Romney back in 2008, to make the case as to why the Religious Right can and should support Romney.  While Green was skeptical at first, Barton needed no convincing because Jay Sekulow (Jordan's father) was going to be involved in picking Romney's judges and that was all he needed to hear:

This has not been a hard thing for evangelicals to get over and support Romney and it shouldn't be a hard thing. When Romney ran four years ago, he wasn't my first choice but the reason I never got really worried about Romney was Jay Sekulow. And I tell you he has been very intimately involved in helping get folks like Alito and Roberts on the court. And four years ago, I heard that Sekulow is the guy that Romney has tapped to choose his judges and I said "that's it." I don't have any trouble with Romney because Isaiah 1:26 tells me the righteousness of nation is determined, not by the legislature, but by its judges. And if Romney's got folks like Sekulow picking his judges, I can live with that in a heartbeat.

When Jordan Sekulow joined the program, he made the case that conservatives should support Romney because he has pledged to nominate judges like Samuel Alito and John Roberts and has filled his campaign with people who are going to keep his feet to the fire:

Green: How important is it for us to recognize that if Romney is president, who has his ear? Who are the people that will consider those judges versus another four years of Obama if he gets another quarter of the judiciary appointed?

Sekulow: You've already got people who are long-time Romney supporters like my dad, who has argued thirteen cases before the Supreme Court and was very involved with President Bush - he was one of four people that were involved in the nomination process in the Bush White House - and so if you like Alito and Roberts, these are the kind of people. You have Judge Bork, who was filibustered by the Senate, voted down by the Senate actually, and he is on the Romney committee.

...

You want Kagan and Sotomayor, and I was at the Supreme Court during the 'Obamacare' oral arguments, you probably don't want more of that, or do you want more Alito and Roberts? And he's made those pledges; I think we need to come to the campaign say "alright, you made these pledges, we're going to keep you honest to them and keep your feet to the fire."

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