American Center for Law & Justice
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the United States
The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) is a politically conservative, Christian-based social activism and watchdog for corruption organization in the United States. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and associated with Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The ACLJ was founded in 1990 by law school graduate and evangelical minister Pat Robertson to protect constitutional and human rights worldwide. ACLJ generally pursues constitutional issues and conservative Christian ideals in courts of law. The leaders of the ACLJ also occasionally engage in public debates to present their perspective on legal and constitutional issues.
The ACLJ arose in part as a right-leaning political answer to the American Civil Liberties Union. The name and acronym, ACLJ, was chosen to contrast with the ACLU. It has attracted much media attention for its lawsuits, such as its campaign to oppose changes to the constitution of Kenya that, according to the group, 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 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, alleging that the organization demonstrated "a pattern of inviting Islamic extremists with ties to terrorism to participate in these events".
In 2018, ACLJ attorney Jay Sekulow was serving on President Donald Trump's legal team. Another Sekulow client at the time was the American Christian pastor Andrew Brunson, in detention and facing charges in Turkey.
Notable legal cases
The Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice is Jay Alan Sekulow, an attorney and a Christian adherent of Messianic Judaism. 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 the case 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. Even if there were, Washington had a "substantial state interest" in not funding "devotional degrees." 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 denying 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 supporting prayer by students 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 regarding a Colorado law that restricted certain speech activity by pro-life demonstrators and lobbyists 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[dubious ]. 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 supporting proselytism 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 proselytism 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 proselytism at airport terminals. The Court agreed with Sekulow and held that the airport's prohibition violated the First Amendment.
In 1997 Jay Sekulow and Thomas Patrick Monaghan, Chief Counsel and Senior Counsel of the ACLJ, respectively, set up the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) in Strasbourg as part of the ACLJ's international strategy. Sekulow serves as Chief Counsel for the ECLJ. The following year the ACLJ set up the Slavic Center for Law and Justice (SCLJ) in Moscow. Both organizations on the European mainland have a full-time staff of religious rights attorneys. The ECLJ is active in the United Nations Organization and in the Council of Europe, and represents the interests of certain Christians in the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The ACLJ is one of several American Christian groups that are promoting conservative Christian laws in Africa, supporting controversial movements regarding LGBT rights, including support in Uganda for criminalizing homosexuality.
The ACLJ has been criticized by the ACLU for its stance on putting prayer in public school and by Americans United for confounding support of separation of church and state with being anti-religious. The Human Rights Campaign is critical of the ACLJ's finances citing that the organization does not meet "10 out of 20 of the Better Business Bureau’s standards for charity accountability" and that ACLJ obfuscates how much Sekulow earns from the organization.
- "US Groups Scrutinize Abortion Details in Kenya's Draft Constitution | East Africa | English". .voanews.com. May 24, 2010. Retrieved October 4, 2010.
- "No public school graduation ceremony at megachurch: Judge". USA Today. June 1, 2010.
- "Bill O'Reilly: The FBI and the IRS". Fox News. 2013-07-05. Retrieved 2018-03-26.
- "Kenya: The 'Yes' Camp Has It Right". allAfrica.com. June 3, 2010. Retrieved October 4, 2010.
- The Christian Science Monitor (1994-02-07). "ACLJ VS. ACLU: BATTLING ACRONYMS". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2018-03-26.
- "United States constitution". BBC. May 4, 2010. Retrieved August 15, 2010.
- "New York Mosque plans face lawsuit". Daily Telegraph. August 5, 2010. Retrieved August 15, 2010.
- AP (April 7, 2010). "Conservative Group Calls on Justice Dept. to Investigate Muslim Prayers on Capitol Hill". Fox News. Archived from the original on 13 November 2010. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
- Toobin, Jeffrey, "How Rudy Giuliani turned into Trump's clown", The New Yorker, September 10, 2018 ed. Retrieved 18-09-03.
- Feldman, Ari (2017-06-16). "Meet Jay Sekulow, A Jewish-Born Believer In Jesus, On Trump's Legal Team". The Forward. Retrieved 2018-03-26.
- "ACLJ Cases". Aclj.org. Archived from the original on 3 December 2010. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
- European Center for Law and Justice, About ECLJ Archived 2010-07-06 at the Wayback Machine.
- Kapya Kaoma (Nov 5, 2012). "Major Christian Right Actors Seek to Criminalize Homosexuality in Africa". Political Research Associates. Retrieved 2014-02-12.
- Andrews, 1994 (7 February 1994). "How Other Rights Groups View the ACLJ". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
- "10 Things You Should Know About the American Center For Law And Justice". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
- "American Center for Law and Justice". give.org. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
- Smietana, Bob (5 September 2011). "Tenn. lawyer's family, firm collect millions from charities". USA Today. Retrieved 7 January 2016.