A record of Accomplishment
In his first of what has become a long career of successful cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, Jay Sekulow won a unanimous victory for religious free speech rights. Jews for Jesus, a Messianic Jewish organization, engaged in a practice of Christian witnessing by passing out religious tracts to passersby at the Los Angeles International Airport. Airport officials then created a policy forbidding all “First Amendment activities.” Jews for Jesus members continued distributing Christian tracts and were arrested.
Sekulow approached this case from, what at the time was, a unique angle, arguing for the free speech rights of his clients instead of relying solely on the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. This approach resulted in a unanimous decision in favor of Jews for Jesus, and began what has become a fixture of First Amendment jurisprudence: religious speech is given the same protection as all other protected speech. The unanimous Court held that the regulation at issue was overbroad on its face; in other words, it was so overreaching and violative of the First Amendment that “no conceivable governmental interest would justify such an absolute prohibition of speech.” It was a resounding win for free speech and religious liberty.
When a group of public high school students were denied the right to form a Christian club on campus by school administrators, ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow took their case all the way to the Supreme Court. Sekulow successfully argued that the Equal Access Act and the Constitution required that these students receive the same privileges to form a student club as other students on campus, regardless of the religious nature of their club. In an 8-1 decision, the Mergens Court upheld the constitutionality of the Equal Access Act, which requires public schools to allow student-initiated Bible Clubs or prayer groups equal access to meet on campus. The Supreme Court held that the Equal Access Act was constitutional because allowing equal access to religious clubs does not violate the Establishment Clause. In fact, the Court explained that the Establishment Clause actually mandated that government be neutral with respect to religion.
Because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Mergens, every federally funded secondary school in the nation that permits non-curricular clubs such as 4-H, Chess Club, and other service-type clubs to meet and hold events on campus, must also permit student-initiated and student-run Bible clubs and prayer groups to meet to the same extent.
ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented the oral arguments in a case involving the regulation of literature distribution and fund solicitation on sidewalks in front of a post office. A group set up a table to solicit funds and distribute literature on the sidewalk that ran between a parking lot and the post office. In a deeply divided decision, the Supreme Court held that due to its location and purpose as the only way to enter or exit the post office that particular sidewalk was not a public forum open to unrestrained free speech activity.
The Court held: "Regulation of speech activity on governmental property that has been traditionally open to the public for expressive activity, such as public streets and parks, is examined under strict scrutiny. ... But regulation of speech activity where the Government has not dedicated its property to First Amendment activity is examined only for reasonableness." The Court found that because solicitation is more invasive than other forms of speech and the postal service required free flowing traffic in front of its office to be operable, the restriction satisfied this "reasonableness" test; and thus, the Court held that these convictions were constitutional.
Dr. Pat Robertson, a graduate of Yale Law School and broadcasting entrepreneur, saw the need for a legal organization to counter the growing impact of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In 1990, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) began in Virginia Beach, VA, with a small staff of attorneys. With a mandate to defend constitutional and religious rights, the ACLJ quickly engaged issues that focused on faith and freedom, blazing a legal trail that dramatically changed the landscape of religious liberty law. Building on significant victories at the Supreme Court, the ACLJ has become one of the most respected and effective public interest law firms in the world.
Under the direction of Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the ACLJ has been recognized by BusinessWeek as "the leading advocacy group for religious freedom" and named "a powerful counterweight to the ACLU" by TIME Magazine. The ACLJ's work expanded over the years with offices across the globe. Utilizing U.S. constitutional law, European Union law, and human rights law, the ACLJ's commitment to protecting freedom and liberty is unwavering.
Members of a pro-life group, Operation Rescue, were demonstrating in front of an abortion clinic and were arrested and charged under the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which outlawed the discrimination of a group of people. Law enforcement officials charged that the pro-life demonstrators were discriminating against women as a class of citizens. ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow presented oral arguments before the Supreme Court on behalf of the pro-life advocates. Sekulow argued that the protesters were not opposed to women in general, but to the practice of abortion; and thus, the 120-year-old anti-discrimination law should not apply.
However, after eight months of deliberation, the Supreme Court ordered new oral arguments in the case. Speculating about the ordered reargument, the New York Times stated: “The bench for the new argument will presumably include Justice Clarence Thomas, who was not on the Court when the case was first argued and so could not participate. That does not necessarily mean, however, that the Court was locked in a straightforward 4-to-4 stalemate in a case that presents several complex issues of statutory interpretation.” Sekulow returned to the Supreme Court the following year to re-argue the case before all nine Justices, including Justice Thomas.
A year after initially arguing this case before the Supreme Court ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow successfully reargued the case before the Supreme Court on behalf of the ACLJ's pro-life clients. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, a 120-year-old anti-discrimination law, did not apply to pro-life demonstrators because for that law to apply there must be a “class-based, invidiously discriminatory animus [underlying] the conspirators’ action.” In other words, the government would have to prove that the abortion protesters were protesting abortion because of their general dislike for women. The Court found that there was absolutely no evidence that the protesters disliked women but that they “share[d] a deep commitment to the goals of stopping the practice of abortion and reversing its legalization.” As such, the Supreme Court reversed the convictions of the pro-life activists.
Also, in addressing the abortion clinic’s argument that the protesters somehow violated the so-called “right to abortion,” the Court again agreed with the ACLJ, holding that because they were private individuals seeking to discourage abortions and not the government forbidding the practice, abortion protesters could never violate that “right.” This was a significant victory for the rights of pro-life Americans and the right of free speech.
From the very beginning, ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow understood the power of television and the essential role it would play in the formation and development of the American Center for Law and Justice. What began as A Call to Action television program, hosted by Sekulow on a Christian television network, was soon transformed into a weekly television program produced by the ACLJ.
In 1992, ACLJ This Week began as a 30-minute show that focused on the work of the ACLJ. Whether it's defending faith and freedom before the U.S. Supreme Court or protecting the rights of pro-life advocates, ACLJ This Week takes an in-depth and comprehensive look at the issues of the day - providing interviews with top legal and Congressional decision-makers. Over the years, ACLJ This Week has expanded its reach and has become even more influential. By providing answers to tough questions, ACLJ This Week enables viewers and supporters to mobilize and become involved. It’s a call to action that produces results.
An evangelical church desired to rent a school facility for an evening showing of a film series produced by Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family ministry. The church's request for use was denied by school administrators because it was "church-related." Although the school facilities were available to community groups for social, civic, and recreational purposes, the rules and regulations specifically prohibited any religious use. ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow represented the church before the Supreme Court, arguing that it was unconstitutional to deny the church access to the government facility solely because of the religious message they wished to convey.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled against this prohibition, stating that the religious exclusion was unconstitutional. The impact of the Lamb's Chapel case is significant. Every government agency, from school boards to city councils, that has access policies in place for its properties must now allow groups engaged in religious speech to utilize those facilities as well. Today, thousands of churches conduct meetings and hold services in schools and other public facilities as a direct result of this victory in the Lamb's Chapel case.
In 1994, ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow was honored for his exemplary legal work by one of the nation's most prestigious legal publications. The National Law Journal named Sekulow one of the "100 Most Influential Lawyers" in the United States. He would go on to receive this award again in 1997. The National Law Journal honor recognizes lawyers who have had a significant impact in their field and beyond.
Sekulow received recognition for his groundbreaking work for religious liberties and his defense of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Several landmark cases argued by Sekulow before the U.S. Supreme Court had already become part of the legal landscape in the area of religious liberty litigation. In the Mergens case (decided in 1990), Sekulow cleared the way for public school students to form Bible clubs and religious organizations on their school campuses. In the Lamb's Chapel case (decided in 1993), Sekulow defended the free speech rights of religious groups, ensuring that they be treated equally with respect to the use of public facilities.
There is nothing more compelling than live radio. In 1995, ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow continued his commitment to broadcasting with the launch of a national, live radio broadcast that airs Monday through Friday. The 30-minute, call-in radio show enabled the ACLJ to reach a new and diverse audience. Jay Sekulow Live! quickly became a legal resource, of sorts, addressing the critical issues in real time - in a live setting - providing the kind of information that listeners could use in their daily lives.
Jay Sekulow Live! also developed into a powerful, influential program that mobilizes thousands of Americans instantly. Whether it's generating support for pro-family legal and legislative issues, or opposing actions or policy that's damaging, Jay Sekulow Live! provides a fast-paced, timely look at the legal, legislative and political landscape of the day - providing listeners and supporters with the facts and an opportunity to become involved. Jay Sekulow Live! continues to expand its reach and is also heard on XM and Sirius satellite radio, as well as streamed live online at the ACLJ website.
ACLJ Chief Counsel, Jay Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that focused on the constitutionality of “floating” speech-free “bubble zones” around abortion clinics. A pro-abortion group obtained an injunction against pro-life protesters, forbidding them from coming within 15 feet of an abortion clinic and, also, from coming within 15 feet of any person or vehicle seeking to gain access to the abortion clinic.
The Court agreed with the ACLJ that the “floating buffer zones” were an unconstitutional restriction on the free speech rights of pro-life demonstrators. As a result of this case victory, pro-life "sidewalk counselors" are permitted to approach abortion clinic patients to convey their pro-life message.
In 1997, ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow was honored for his exemplary legal work by another of the nation’s most prestigious legal publications. The American Lawyer named him to a distinguished group of attorneys known as "The Public Sector 45" (January/February 1997). The magazine stated that the designation represents "45 young lawyers outside the private sector whose vision and commitment are changing lives."
At the time that Sekulow received this recognition for his groundbreaking work for free speech and religious liberties, he had already argued six cases before the United States Supreme Court. Several landmark cases argued by Sekulow before the Supreme Court had already become part of the legal landscape in the area of religious liberty litigation. In the Mergens case (decided in 1990), Sekulow cleared the way for public school students to form Bible clubs and religious organizations on their school campuses. In the Lamb's Chapel case (decided in 1993), Sekulow defended the free speech rights of religious groups, ensuring that they be treated equally with respect to the use of public facilities.
Founded by Jay Sekulow and Thomas Patrick Monaghan, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) began as an effort to mobilize Christian lawyers internationally. The ECLJ opened its official headquarters in the center of the European institutions in Strasbourg, France, on July 2, 1998, and has quickly become one of the leading advocates for religious freedom in Europe and around the world. As an international, Non-Governmental Organization, the ECLJ has held special Consultative Status before the United Nations (U.N.)/ECOSOC since 2007.
The ECLJ was founded for the legal and legislative defense of religious freedoms, human dignity, and the family among the Member States of the Council of Europe and the European Union (EU). Through litigation before the European Court of Human Rights and work with the UN and EU legislative bodies, the ECLJ acts to further the implementation and respect for these ideals. The ECLJ is a Christian-inspired organization and bases its action on “the spiritual and moral values which are the common heritage of European peoples and the true source of individual freedom, political liberty and the rule of law, principles which form the basis of all genuine democracy” (Preamble of the Statute of the Council of Europe). The ECLJ is affiliated with offices in Israel, Kenya, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe.
The Slavic Centre for Law and Justice (SCLJ) was founded in 1998 and originally functioned as a dedicated legal services provider to religious organizations and individuals. As a union of two non-profit organizations – the Institute of Religion and Law and the Christian Legal Center – it has grown and developed into a well-respected and authoritative non-governmental, non-profit organization, with the principal goal of protecting religious rights and freedoms of individuals and associations in Russia. It is the only organization in Russia that deals specifically with religious freedom cases and raises a voice whenever the right to believe is violated.
The SCLJ’s mission is to help people and organizations realize and enjoy their right to freedom of conscience. It does this through litigation and by providing legal help and advice and supporting other lawyers and organizations willing to defend religious freedom and civil rights. SCLJ lawyers have litigated dozens of cases to a successful conclusion in various regions of Russia, including cases before Constitutional and Supreme Courts of Russia. Clients include Russian and foreign nationals, missionaries, charity workers, large denominations, and tiny churches. The SCLJ won one of the first Russian religious freedom cases – Moscow Salvation Army v. Russia, in the European Court of Human Rights.
Though it was originally founded in Virginia Beach, VA in 1990, the American Center for Law and Justice opened its national headquarters in Washington, D.C. in 2000. Located in the heart of Capitol Hill, the ACLJ’s office is just steps away from the Supreme Court and Congress. This physical expansion to the nation’s capital matched the expanding work of the ACLJ as it continued its flourishing Supreme Court practice involving issues of national security, human life, marriage, judicial nominations, pornography, and protecting patriotic expression including our National Motto and the Pledge of Allegiance. It also allowed the ACLJ to continue to broaden its focus to include legislative matters to compliment its litigation strategy.
The ACLJ maintains its original office in Virginia Beach, VA and continues to expand its network of attorneys nationwide. The opening of the D.C. office provided another catalyst to advance the ACLJ’s mission to protect the universal, God-given and inalienable rights to freedom and liberty in the United States and around the world.
Continuing the ACLJ's support for the rights of pro-life activists cases before the United States Supreme Court, ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay 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 Colorado law required that anyone within 100 feet of an abortion clinic to get another person’s consent before approaching that person to distribute "a leaflet or handbill to, display a sign to, or engage in oral protest, education, or counseling with [that] person."
The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, concluded that the law was “not a regulation of speech. Rather, it is a regulation of the places where some speech may occur.” The Court held: "Although the statute prohibits speakers from approaching unwilling listeners, it does not require a standing speaker to move away from anyone passing by. Nor does it place any restriction on the content of any message that anyone may wish to communicate to anyone else, either inside or outside the regulated areas.” However, the Court did not overrule its decision in Schenck, argued nearly five years earlier by Sekulow, that a 15 foot “floating buffer zone” preventing speech near people approaching an abortion clinic was unconstitutional.
ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow served as lead counsel and presented oral arguments in a case involving the constitutionality of student-led prayer at high school sporting events. A public high school authorized student-led prayer to be performed at each school football game by the student chaplain who was elected by the student body.
The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, held that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits school officials from taking affirmative steps to facilitate prayer at school functions such as school football games. Several factors were key to the Court’s ruling in Santa Fe: 1) the school board had historically been involved in prayer at school functions; 2) the school board adopted a policy allowing students to vote on whether to have an invocation or message before football games; and 3) the policy also allowed students to elect the student who would give the invocation or message at each football game during the school year. The Court concluded that the school district “failed to divorce itself from the religious content in the invocations.” The Court also found the majoritarian selection process problematic and held that the prayers offered at football games bore the imprint of the State. The court did conclude however that "nothing in the Constitution as interpreted by this Court prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the schoolday."
In a major victory for pro-life organizers, the Supreme Court determined that a federal racketeering law could not be used against pro-life demonstrators for their nonviolent protests. The National Organization for Women (NOW) filed a suit alleging that pro-life supporters had engaged in "a pattern of racketeering activity" in a conspiracy to shut down abortion clinics in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute (RICO) – a federal statute targeting drug dealers and organized crime. ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow served as Counsel of Record for Operation Rescue in this case.
In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court concluded that pro-life demonstrators were not racketeers engaged in extortion and that the RICO statute could not be used against them. The Supreme Court forcefully rejected the argument that pro-life demonstrators were racketeers engaged in extortion. This was the largest concerted effort on the part of pro-abortion forces to silence the pro-life movement. The decision removed a cloud that had been hanging over the pro-life movement for 15 years, allowing pro-life organizations to operate free of the fear of criminal penalty.
The ACLJ represented a group of minors whose right to contribute to political campaigns was denied by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which prohibited individuals 17 years old or younger from making political campaign contributions. ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow participated in oral arguments in this case before the Supreme Court of the United States on September 8, 2003, asking the high court to let stand the decision of a special panel that had considered the case and ruled in favor of allowing minors to contribute to campaigns. On December 10, 2003, the Supreme Court returned a unanimous decision, upholding the panel's decision concerning the unconstitutional restriction on the free speech of minors. The Court held that "minors enjoy the protection of the First Amendment." The Court also held, “Limitations on the amount that an individual may contribute to a candidate or political committee impinge on the protected freedoms of expression and association.”
This decision has implications far broader than political campaigns. The court reiterated the constitutional principle that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” It, once again, re-established that students are, in fact, protected on their school campuses for free speech, including religious activities.
In an important equal access case, the ACLJ successfully fought on behalf of a group of citizens who applied to use a public park for a National Day of Prayer event. The city officials agreed to let them use the park for free but charged a fee for use of the amplification equipment. This fee was waived for other similar groups. However, our clients were singled out for unequal treatment because of their message.
Following its decision in Good News Club v. Milford Central School, the Supreme Court vacated a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against our client and ordered the trial court to reconsider the case in light of the Good News Club decision. Finally, after six years of litigation, on November 20, 2003, the federal district court held that the City of Tucson's discriminatory treatment of Mr. Gentala based on his religion must end because it infringed upon his right to equal access to a public park.
ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay 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 majority decision determined that Washington's policy prohibiting state scholarship funds from being used to assist students who pursue a degree in religious studies from a religious perspective is constitutional. However, the decision does not prohibit states from restructuring scholarship programs to permit the pursuit of a degree in devotional theology.
Therefore, while Congress or a State can extend funding to institutions and individuals pursuing religious means without violating the Establishment Clause, should they choose to place restrictions on funding for religious organizations or individuals pursuing religious means, such restrictions will not violate the Free Exercise Clause. In other words, the State is not required to make scholarship funds available for religious studies; but if it chooses to do so, it is a constitutionally permissible use of government funds.
The American Center for Law and Justice filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court on behalf of nearly 70 members of Congress and more than 260,000 Americans asking the high court to uphold the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance and the phrase "One nation under God." The ACLJ’s brief urged the court to reject the lawsuit challenging the Pledge arguing that Michael Newdow, the California atheist who initially brought the suit, did not have legal standing to make the challenge.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court, did just that - dismissed the case saying that Newdow did not have legal standing to file the suit and removed the decision of the federal appeals court which ruled the Pledge was unconstitutional. This decision allowed the Pledge of Allegiance to remain as a symbol of patriotism and our nation’s heritage.
The February 5, 2005 issue of Time Magazine named Jay Sekulow as one of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America.” Looking over Sekulow's body of work and ACLJ's impact on Constitutional law, the articles states: “His Washington-based American Center for Law & Justice has argued and won several high-profile religious-freedom cases, including Supreme Court decisions that allowed Bible-study clubs on public-school campuses and that protect the right of anti-abortion demonstrators to rally outside abortion clinics.”
The article goes on to call the ACLJ “a powerful counterweight to the liberal American Civil Liberties Union.”
The April 25, 2005 issue of BusinessWeek called the ACLJ “the leading advocacy group for religious freedom.” The article opens, “Jay Sekulow is best known as the nation’s top legal advocate for all causes Christian.” It noted that “Sekulow has argued a dozen cases before the Supreme Court.” Several of the landmark cases Sekulow argued before the Supreme Court had already become part of the legal landscape in the area of religious liberty litigation. In the Mergens case (decided in 1990), Sekulow cleared the way for public school students to form Bible clubs and religious organizations on their school campuses. In the Lamb's Chapel case (decided in 1993), Sekulow defended the free speech rights of religious groups, ensuring that they be treated equally with respect to the use of public facilities.
The article goes on to chronicle Sekulow’s active role in battling to see conservative judges placed on the federal bench, judges who stick “to the letter and intent of the Constitution and ignore shifting cultural mores, international law, popular opinion, and other outside influences.”
By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court on June 27, 2005 overturned a federal appeals court clearing the way for the constitutional display of thousands of monuments that have been in place across America. The decision came in a case in Texas where the Fraternal Order of Eagles donated a Ten Commandments monument which has been in place outside the state capitol in Austin since 1961. The ACLJ filed an amicus brief at the high court asking the Justices to overturn a lower court decision declaring the monument unconstitutional. In its decision, the high court said the Eagles monument was constitutionally permissible.
Justice John Paul Stevens, who cast the deciding vote in favor of upholding the constitutionality of the Ten Commandments display, cited the ACLJ’s amicus brief as an example of the scholarly debate taking place in support of the proposition that “the Ten Commandments played a significant role in the development of our Nation’s foundational documents.” The four-justice plurality concluded that the display merely represented the nation's tradition of recognizing the Ten Commandments' historical meaning, stating that "simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the establishment clause."
On April 18, 2007 the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the national ban on partial-birth abortions with a 5-4 decision. Congress had approved a national ban on the procedure. The law was challenged in three separate cases in the federal court system in Nebraska, New York, and California. In all three cases, the ban was declared unconstitutional. The high court reviewed this case out of Nebraska, along with a separate one from California. The ACLJ, which has been involved in defending the national partial-birth abortion ban since its passage by Congress, supported the government's position defending the ban and represented nearly 80 Members of Congress and more than 320,000 Americans in an amicus brief filed with the high court.
The Supreme Court upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortion. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissent noted the magnitude of this victory for the pro-life cause, stating that the Court majority’s “hostility to the right Roe and Casey secured [i.e. abortion] is not concealed." This is a resounding victory that will have a significant impact on the fight for life.
In a 5-4 decision issued June 25, 2007, the Supreme Court of the United States loosened limits on election advertising saying a pro-life group should have been permitted to air ads in the final months leading up to a 2004 election. In the consolidated cases of FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life and McCain v. Wisconsin Right to Life, the high court concluded that a key provision of a campaign finance law violated the group's First Amendment rights and unreasonably limits speech.
In an amicus brief filed with the high court on behalf of itself and Focus on the Family, the ACLJ urged the high court to remove the prohibition of grassroots lobbying organizations from taking part in issue advertising leading up to an election. In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts cited the Brief of the ACLJ in support of the issue advocacy ads being allowed to air within the 30 and 60 day periods. While the Justices stopped short of overturning the troubling provision, they did acknowledge that the pro-life speech in this case was wrongfully censored. This decision was widely praised as a significant step forward for the free speech rights.
The September 5, 2007 edition of the Chicago Tribune recognized the outstanding work of the American Center for Law and Justice for liberty and freedom in America and around the world. The article called the ACLJ “a leader in the flourishing field of Christian legal advocacy that … is … determined to see its views prevail in the nation's courts and, ultimately, its culture.” The article concluded that under the direction of Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow the ACLJ has “led the way” in Christian legal advocacy by delivering what it called, “polished presentations inside the highest courts in the land.”
The article noted that the ACLJ’s work “cover[s] a broad range of religious issues, from defending a Texas high school's practice of prayer at football games to an Illinois pharmacist's right not to dispense drugs that violate his religious beliefs,” and defends religious liberties which are continually “under attack by those who want to expunge all religious reference from public life.” It even pointed out that opponents of the ACLJ respect its prestige, quoting Barry Lynn, the Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, as saying “They're a very, very significant player in constitutional law, particularly regarding the 1st Amendment.”
By a vote of 7-2, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the constitutionality of the PROTECT Act of 2003, a federal law that provides prosecutors with another tool to combat the pandering or promotion of child pornography. On May 19, 2008, the Supreme Court held that the statute “raises no constitutional problems whatever” and rejected arguments that the PROTECT Act violates the First Amendment. The Court stated, “In sum, we hold that offers to provide or requests to obtain child pornography are categorically excluded from the First Amendment.” The high court's decision overturns a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which declared a provision of the Act unconstitutional.
ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow called the Supreme Court decision "a very sound and reasoned decision that is long overdue." The ACLJ filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court representing itself and 18 Members of Congress - including several co-sponsors of the Act. The ACLJ amicus brief supported the government's position and urged the high court to uphold the constitutionality of the measure.
On January 5, 2009, the American Center for Law and Justice began representing a former employee of the Planned Parenthood (PP) affiliate in Los Angeles, who is now a federal whistleblower, in a multi-million dollar fraud case against PP affiliates in California. The federal False Claims Act (FCA) forbids government contractors from submitting “false or fraudulent” claims for payment. The FCA also authorizes private individuals to bring suit against the offenders to recover the fraudulently-obtained funds.
This case alleges that PP affiliates in California illegally marked up the supposed cost of various birth control drugs when seeking government reimbursement, resulting in tens of millions of dollars of overbilling – at taxpayer expense. State audits in both California and Washington State have found PP affiliates guilty of overbilling. After winning a significant victory in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, reversing the trial court’s decision to dismiss the suit, we continue representing our client as this case goes to trial. This is the largest lawsuit filed against Planned Parenthood to date, and a verdict in our client’s favor in this case could deal a crippling blow to the nation’s largest provider of abortions in California and around the country.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a landmark First Amendment ruling on February 25, 2009 clearing the way for governments to accept permanent monuments of their choosing in public parks. The ACLJ represented the Utah city of Pleasant Grove when a group challenged a display of the Ten Commandments in a city park.
ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow presented oral arguments to the high court on November 12, 2008. The ACLJ asked the high court to overturn a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit that ordered the city to accept and display a monument from a self-described church called Summum because the city displayed a Ten Commandments monument donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. The ACLJ successfully argued that the lower court ruling was flawed - a ruling that said private parties have a First Amendment right to put up the monuments of their choosing in a city park, unless the city takes away all other donated monuments. The Supreme Court held that the Ten Commandments display was government speech; and as such, the government could choose its message, allowing local governments to choose what monuments they will accept as opposed to being inundated with ridiculous monuments.
The Supreme Court of the United States, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that the Federal Communications Commission acted within its statutory power when the regulatory agency declared the use of expletives during the broadcast of a nationally-televised awards show indecent. This decision overruled a prior decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit which ruled against the FCC saying that the agency’s decision was wrong and that it overstepped its authority. The FCC had asked the high court to overturn the lower court decision.
The ACLJ represented itself and 18 Members of Congress in filing an amicus brief with the high court. The brief supported the FCC position and contended that the indecency policy affords children greater protection from the harm associated by exposure to indecent material without infringing on the constitutional rights of adults. This was a significant victory against the pervasiveness of indecency over the television airwaves.
Unshaken: A True Story of Faith and Hope is the ACLJ’s documentary shot on location in Israel and includes interviews with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and leading military officials. Unshaken tells the story of the hope and faith of one family who paid the ultimate price for running a Christian bookstore in the Gaza Strip and their journey out of Islamic Gaza to the safety of Israel.
This compelling film was also the first to be released by the new ACLJ Films. Founded to be a partner in ACLJ's mission of protecting free speech and religious liberty across the globe, ACLJ Films has gone on to release several more movies. Each new documentary has not only told the important personal stories of individuals struggling for life, religious freedom and freedom of speech but also informs the public with revealing facts from experts and officials around the world.
In 2009, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) opened an office in Israel. Located in Jerusalem, this physical expansion has allowed the ACLJ to increase its already significant legal efforts in defense of Israel’s right to exist including defending Israel's right to sovereignty and the right of every free nation to defend itself from terrorists before the International Criminal Court.
The Jerusalem office has facilitated the ACLJ’s legal work in Israel as well as providing an educational opportunity for legal students to study international law, furthering the ACLJ’s goal of raising up future legal advocates for free speech and religious liberty. The ACLJ’s staff in Jerusalem includes not only highly skilled Israeli attorneys, as well as knowledgeable members of the Israeli military who complement the ACLJ’s already extensive national security team.
In 2009, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) opened an office in New York City. This physical expansion into New York has facilitated the ACLJ’s increased legal presence in one of the most influential cities in the world. The ACLJ has been able to defend the memory of 9/11 first responders by opposing the construction of the Ground Zero Mosque on the site where landing gear from one of the planes the terrorists crashed in the World Trade Center landed. This office has also served as our base of operations in defending pro-life pregnancy centers in New York City against a law pushed for by pro-abortion groups as an attempt to put these lifesaving groups out of business.
The New York office has also served at the center of the ACLJ’s work before the United Nations, which has its main offices in New York City. The ACLJ’s international affiliate the European Centre for Law and Justice has held special Consultative Status before the United Nations (U.N.)/ECOSOC since 2007 and regularly submits reports, files religious liberties requests, and appears before the international organization.
The Center for Law & Justice – Pakistan (CLJ-P), located in Lahore, Pakistan, is an affiliate of the ACLJ and provides legal representation to those persecuted for their faith in Pakistan. Opened on July 1, 2009, the CLJ-P is already recognized in Pakistan as one of the top Christian organizations dealing with persecution and representing persecuted Christians. In several cases, the office has been able to stop aggression against Christians and rescue Christians from illegal detention. The office represents Christians falsely implicated in theft, robbery, and blasphemy cases.
The CLJ-P faces unique challenges in Pakistan due to the fact there is little of rule of law, rampant corruption, religious conflict between Christians and Muslims, police bias in favor of Muslims, and bribes. Being mindful of these challenges and difficulties, the CLJ-P is committed to excelling in professionalism and building its capacity to represent those persecuted for their faith. CLJ-P is committed to the continued fight for religious equality in all aspects of the law. As a long-term goal, the CLJ-P hopes to lobby for an amendment in the Blasphemy Laws of Pakistan and eliminate discrimination based on religion or caste.
The April 2009 issue of Townhall Magazine named ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow to its “Townhall of Fame,” calling him “one of the top lawyers for religious freedom in the United States.”
Highlighting Sekulow’s first case before the Supreme Court representing Jews for Jesus, a messianic Jewish group, the article explained: “The dispute itself revolved around the proselytizing activities that Jews for Jesus engaged in at various public places, including airports. Los Angeles International Airport grew exasperated with the group’s solicitation of travelers and banned ‘all First Amendment activities’ on its grounds. When one of the members of Jews for Jesus was arrested for defying the prohibition, the organization sued, and the case made its way to the high court. Though Sekulow wasn’t a seasoned litigator, he proved a wise one in his read on the case. ‘I ran the case on a free speech basis, which was a remarkably different approach,’ he says. ‘Usually cases like this were argued on free exercise of religion grounds, but I thought that First Amendment protections of free speech gave us more to work with.’ Sekulow won a unanimous victory in his first appearance before the court. His success assured it would not be his last.”
On January 5, 2010, the African Centre for Law and Justice (AfrCLJ) opened its doors in Zimbabwe. The AfrCLJ was created to assist building a sustainable nation, to educate the nationals about a Christian worldview, to influence the rule of law as it develops under a new Constitution, to provide practical training workshops for the uneducated, and to facilitate healing and reconciliation. In this developing nation, the AfrCLJ is uniquely positioned to help build a foundation for the rule of law that is based on God-given rights and liberties. The AfrCLJ’s mission is “to facilitate, protect and defend people’s constitutional rights and religious freedoms through education, promulgation, conciliation, compassion, and litigation where necessary.”
Although the AfrCLJ’s work in Zimbabwe primarily focuses on the country’s constitution-making process, it also provides legal training and legal research facilities to attorneys throughout the country. The AfrCLJ has taken proactive steps to assist orphanages and single mother centers as well. The AfrCLJ also sponsored a country-wide cleanup campaign to rid the streets of discarded trash. Dozens of local churches, aid groups, and government agencies joined in the initiative. After a national loss of skilled manpower in Zimbabwe, the AfrCLJ participated in economic empowerment initiatives, provided nourishment in a dilapidated community, and provided financials assistance to train up a new generation of leaders.
The East Africa Centre for Law and Justice, based out of Nairobi, Kenya, is committed to ensuring that freedom of religion remains a preeminent human right for all East Africans. With new or proposed constitutions in many of the East African countries, the EACLJ is positioned to affect at a foundational level the constitutional development of religious liberties. Bishop Mark Kariuki of the Deliverance Church in Kenya, who has always had a passion for the defense of religious rights and freedoms in Kenya, found that his engagement of this issue always put his church in the line of fire. Through divine appointment, Bishop Kariuki met ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow. Bishop Kariuki realized that having an organization that specifically looks out for religious groups’ interest would be beneficial to the Body of Christ, and would allow the pastors and bishops to concentrate on church matters.
After much discussion and planning, the ACLJ partnered with Bishop Kariuki to create the EACLJ in Kenya. The EACLJ went right to work educating the people, already in the midst of forming a new constitution, about the need for protections for religious liberties. The EACLJ advocates for the rights that God endowed all mankind with and takes a proactive role in ensuring the products of the National Assembly, Judiciary and other government actors do not further erode the rights and liberties for people of faith.
On December 10, 2010, the ACLJ formed a strategic partnership with Handong International Law School in South Korea - a program designed to provide both education and training for law students in U.S. and international law.
At a time when Christians face increasing discrimination, violence, and even death for practicing their faith, it is critical to provide training and experience for the next generation of defenders - attorneys committed to protecting religious freedom. Located in Pohang, South Korea, this office serves as another strategic location for defending clients around the globe.
The ACLJ filed an amicus brief in support of the constitutionality of the Mohave Desert cross on Sunrise Rock. The war memorial in question was first erected in 1934 by Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to honor fallen service members in a remote area that is now part of a federal preserve. Congress eventually designated the cross and an area of adjoining property as a national World War I memorial and gave the land to the VFW to be maintained. An individual who was “offended” by the memorial sued to have it removed. Our argument focuses on the illegitimacy of “offended observer standing” under the Article III standing doctrine.
The Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision that had struck down a federal law that preserved a federal veterans’ memorial by ensuring that it would become privately owned. A three-Justice plurality held that the plaintiff had standing to seek enforcement of an injunction obtained several years earlier in the litigation, but did not address the issue of whether offense at a religious symbol’s presence on federal land gives rise to standing because the government had declined to appeal a previous ruling dealing with that issue. On the merits, however, the plurality rejected the lower court’s analysis of the secular purpose and effect of Congress’ actions. Two other Justices agreed with the ACLJ that the Plaintiff lacked standing. The result of this case was that the Mohave Desert cross was constitutionally permitted to stand.
The African Centre for Law and Justice (AfrCLJ) has been an integral part of Zimbabwe’s constitution-making process. On June 16, 2010, the same day that the Government of National Unity officially launched the Constitutional Outreach Program, a team from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), led by the ACLJ Director of Policy and International Relations, Jordan Sekulow, arrived in Harare, Zimbabwe. In collaboration with the ACLJ- Zimbabwe Team, their objective was to conduct a series of meetings with government officials and key business and church leaders in the country, as well as to evaluate and consolidate their humanitarian efforts in vulnerable sections of society. The meetings all proved to be very constructive and provided insight into the progress in Zimbabwe and the potential for reconciliation, restoration, and reconstruction.
The ACLJ team met with leaders from all three of Zimbabwe’s main political parties, including the Prime Minister, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, and Minister of Tourism. The AfrCLJ’s participation in the constitution-making process has focused on helping to bring restoration to the country and preserving peace throughout the long and arduous drafting process. The AfrCLJ is hopeful that through continued efforts, Zimbabwe will have a new constitution that protects life, liberty, and freedom for all of its citizens.
In 2010, ACLJ Films released Choosing Life, a full-length documentary chronicling the history of the pro-life movement. It is one of the most powerful and influential movements in America today. Intensified by the Supreme Courts landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, the battle to protect the life of the unborn has spanned decades, yet still remains one of the most critical and provocative issues of our day.
This is the untold story of the pro-life movement from the perspective of the people who lived it. This powerful documentary brings new light to the years of struggle, the victories, and the setbacks as chronicled by pro-life leaders who waged the legal, legislative, and public relations battles to protect the sanctity of human life. This compelling story of the pro-life movement includes never-before-seen video of protests and demonstrations from the archives of ACLJ Films and features interviews with pro-life leaders such as ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, and Rev. Rob Schenck of Faith and Action. Choosing Life provides a unique behind-the-scenes look at history in the making of a movement that transformed the nation.
In 2011, the ACLJ Films released THE EXPORT: Radical Islam’s Map to the End of Democracy, a feature-length film, in order to educate the public on the dangerous threat that radical Islam poses to the Middle East, Israel, America, and the world. It exposes the truth about radical Islam and Sharia law and features hard-hitting footage of the threat posed by fundamental Islamic nations like Iran and its puppet terrorist organization Hamas.
The ACLJ team traveled with ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow from Washington, D.C., to New York, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv, as well as to an Israeli military base on the border of Lebanon in order to deliver in-depth analysis from the ground. This powerful documentary features expert commentary from senior Israeli officials as well as former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, and others.
In 2011, the ACLJ released Shari’ah Law: Radical Islam's Threat to the U.S. Constitution, a booklet about the threat of Shari’ah law infiltrating the judicial system of the United States. In this timely booklet, ACLJ attorneys show how Shari’ah law is wholly incompatible with the U.S. Constitution. As the booklet explains, “We are now seeing that some Muslim communities in the United States are seeking to be governed by Islamic Shari’ah, which is not only foreign to this country and not enacted by the proper authorities, but is also incompatible with the existing law of this land and, in many respects, contrary to natural justice.… Islamic Shari’ah is different from other religious law … [i]t encompasses all aspects of life, from crimes and punishments to personal family matters and mere greetings to passersby.”
The booklet provides a side-by-side comparison between the principles of the U.S. Constitution and Shari’ah law. For example, while the U.S. Constitution requires “due process” in the courts and “equal protection of the laws,” under Shari’ah law, a "woman's testimony is equal to half that of a man['s]" in court. This booklet is a powerful resource in protecting our constitutional system of law from the assault of Islamic Shari’ah law.
Live from Washington D.C. where it is heard daily on WAVA 780 AM and throughout the nation, The Jordan Sekulow Show takes the edge and immediacy of Twitter to talk radio with cutting analysis of today's politics and media landscape.
The host, Jordan Sekulow, is an attorney and the Director of Policy and International Operations for the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), contributor to the Washington Post, and one of the most followed conservatives on Twitter. The show regularly features elected officials and conservative leaders from the U.S. and across the globe.
When Israel defended its borders from terrorist attacks in 2009, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched an inquiry into whether Israel committed war crimes against the Palestinian Authority (PA). In an attempt to have Israeli soldiers charged with war crimes they did not commit, PA officials lodged a declaration in The Hague accepting ICC jurisdiction over “the territory of Palestine.” Yet, under the Rome Statute, which governs the ICC, only “States” are permitted to freely accede to ICC jurisdiction.
Beginning July 9, 2009, the ACLJ aggressively engaged this issue with the ICC. Jay Sekulow, ACLJ Chief Counsel, presented key legal arguments before the International Criminal Court in defense of Israel and the Israeli people who were victims of terrorism not war criminals. On April 3, 2012, the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC agreed with the ACLJ that the PA was not a state and thus could not accede jurisdiction to the ICC. The Chief Prosecutor of the ICC refused to pursue any potential charges against Israeli soldiers, ending a three- year battle to protect Israel’s right to defend itself and its citizens.