David Yerushalmi

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David Yerushalmi (born 1956) is an American lawyer and political activist who is the driving counsel behind the anti-sharia movement in the United States.[1] Along with Robert Muise, he is co-founder and senior counsel of the American Freedom Law Center. He is also general counsel to the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., a national security think tank founded by Frank Gaffney described as far-right[2] and conspiracist.[3]

An Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn, Yerushalmi has been highly critical of liberal Jews, "progressive elites", and African Americans, and has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "a key figure in the U.S. anti-Muslim hate movement".[4] Yerushalmi has been described as a leader of the counter-jihad movement,[5] and as Stop Islamization of America's "in-house lawyer".[6]


Public policy[edit]

In the 1990s, Yerushalmi was of counsel and senior policy research director for the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, a neoconservative Israeli think tank with offices in Jerusalem and Washington, D. C.[7] Yerushalmi published an article on sharia-compliant finance Islamic law as a "Black Box" in the Utah Law Review (2008, Issue 3).[8] Yerushalmi has no formal training in Sharia law.[1]

American laws for American courts[edit]

Yerushalmi is the principal drafter of the American laws for American courts model legislation, which is an effort to prevent courts from taking foreign or international law into account; the legislation is aimed at banning sharia, Muslim religious law. The legislation has been enacted into law in several states, including Louisiana, Tennessee, Arizona, Kansas, and Oklahoma.[9]

The American Bar Association (ABA) generally opposes such legislation proposed by Yerushalmi because it is "duplicative of safeguards that are already enshrined in federal and state law". Furthermore, the ABA states: "Initiatives that target an entire religion or stigmatize an entire religious community, such as those explicitly aimed at 'Sharia law', are inconsistent with some of the core principles and ideals of American jurisprudence."[10][11]


Dearborn missionaries[edit]

Yerushalmi has been involved in filing several lawsuits against the city of Dearborn, Michigan, in response to treatment of Christian missionaries preaching to Muslims at the city's Arab Festival. Members of one group, Acts 17 Apologetics, had been arrested for disturbance of the peace; a jury acquitted them, and Yerushalmi's suit against the city resulted in the latter settling with a public apology and $300,000 in damages.[12][13] A judge threw out a similar case Yerushalmi had filed the same year on behalf of a group called Bible Believers; Yerushalmi had sued after the group were asked to leave the festival after speaking for over an hour, due to concerns of public safety and order. The case is currently being appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.[14]

Bus advertisement controversies[edit]

Yerushalmi has represented the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), an organization founded by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, in several legal actions against various transportation authorities around the country. The lawsuits stem from transportation authorities' decision not to run proposed advertisements by AFDI, including one advertisement in Detroit that promotes a website recommending "refuge from Islam".[15]

On January 31, 2012, Yerushalmi's legal group, the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed a request for a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York (MTA), seeking to have the MTA run an AFDI "pro-Israel / anti-Jihad" bus advertisement.[16] On Friday, July 20, 2012, federal judge Paul Engelmayer ruled that the MTA violated the First Amendment rights of AFDI when it rejected their advertisement.[17] In July 2012, Engelmayer issued a final ruling, striking down the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York’s (MTA) "no-demeaning speech" restriction and ordering the MTA to display the advertisement.

The judge’s order converted an earlier preliminary injunction into a permanent injunction, and it declared that the MTA speech regulation violated the First Amendment right to free speech. The judge also awarded FDI nominal damages.[18] Yerushalmi's subsequent effort to get advertisements critical of Islam to run on MTA property failed, after the agency changed its ad policy to prohibit bigoted material, which was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.[19]

On September 20, the American Freedom Law Center filed a federal lawsuit against the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) after the agency had refused to run similar proposed advertisement. WMATA had refused to run the advertisement "due to the situations [sic] happening around the world at this time", a reference to the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi and other uprisings in the Middle East.[20] On October 5, federal judge Rosemary M. Collyer, sitting in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted the Law Center's request on behalf of its clients for an injunction to halt WMATA's censorship of the advertisement. Collyer ordered the "Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority [to] display Plaintiffs’ advertisement no later than 5 p.m. on October 8, 2012."[21]

Pamela Geller defamation case[edit]

Yerushalmi represented anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller in a $10 million defamation lawsuit filed by Omar Tarazi, the lawyer for Rifqa Bary's parents.[22][23] Geller, while blogging about the controversy extensively given her work at the American Freedom Defense Initiative, had criticized Tarazi during the Rifqa Bary litigation, which arose after the 17-year-old Rifqa converted from Islam to Christianity and ran away from her Ohio home in the summer of 2009 to take refuge with Christian friends in Florida. Bary had alleged that her father threatened to murder her in an honor killing.[24] The case was settled out of court, with both sides claiming victory, when Geller agreed to remove the posts from her blog in exchange for the case being dropped.[25]

Challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act[edit]

In July 2014, the American Freedom Law Center sued Barack Obama, alleging that the Obama administration had violated its constitutional duty to "faithfully execute" the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). On May 15, 2015, the court dismissed the lawsuit for lack of standing.[26]

In 2014, Yerushalmi and Muise took over the appeal of Cutler v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, another constitutional challenge to the ACA. The challenger in that case, Jeffrey Cutler, had a personal (but not religious) objection to the ACA's requirement that he buy insurance, and "filed suit challenging the religious exemption in the Affordable Care Act as an unconstitutional establishment of religion." The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected Cutler's claims, holding that his Establishment Clause claim failed on the merits and that he lacked standing to pursue an Equal Protection Clause claim.[27]

On 2012, Yerushalmi and Muise of the AFLC represented Priests for Life (a Catholic anti-abortion organization) in a suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York challenging the contraceptive mandate provision of the ACA. The case was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Frederic Block for lack of ripeness because the government stated that the new implementing regulations would not be finalized until August 1, 2013. However, according to Yerushalmi, Priests for Life did secure a stipulation of non-enforcement from the government as a result of AFLC's motion for a preliminary injunction.[28]

Constitutional challenge to bailout of AIG[edit]

Yerushalmi, as co-counsel, filed a federal lawsuit in 2009 against the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, challenging a portion of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 that appropriated $40 billion to fund the federal government’s majority ownership interest in AIG. The lawsuit argued that the use of taxpayer dollars to fund Sharia-based loans made by AIG subsidiaries violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. While federal Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff rejected the request by the U.S. Department of Justice to dismiss the lawsuit, he ultimately granted summary judgment for the government in January 2011, finding that the religious involvement did not achieve the "excessive entanglement" required under earlier rulings. The decision was appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals;[29] on June 1, 2012, the Court of Appeals dismissed the case, ruling that the plaintiff did not have standing.[30] On October 12, 2012, Yerushalmi and the American Freedom Law Center filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, asking the Court to review the appellate court's decision, which the Court denied.

Allegations of racism[edit]

The Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center have described Yerushalmi's views as racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Islamic. He stated, in a 2006 essay, that "most of the fundamental differences between the races are genetic". Yerushalmi is against what he views as a politically correct culture that doesn't openly discuss the reasons "the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote."[31] According to the SPLC, Yerushalmi has called blacks "the most murderous of peoples", and reportedly once called for undocumented immigrants to be placed in "special criminal camps", detained for three years, and then deported.[32] Yerushalmi has denied ever having made racist statements. In 2011, he was listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of 10 people in the United States' Anti-Muslim Inner Circle.[33]

That same year, the Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive Washington-based think-tank, published the widely-read report Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, disclosing a network of anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim activists and campaigners, and their financiers, among which Yerushlami has significant place. The report was published as an online presentation Islamophobia Network.[34] In 2015, CAP published an updated version, "Fear, Inc. 2.0".[35]

He has recently been called one of three core activists and theorists of bigotry that flourished against Muslims and immigrants during the two Obama administrations.[36]


  1. ^ a b Elliott, Andrea (July 30, 2011). "The Man Behind the Anti-Shariah Movement". The New York Times.
  2. ^ O'Donnell, S. Jonathon (January 2018). "Islamophobic conspiracism and neoliberal subjectivity: the inassimilable society". Patterns of Prejudice. 52 (1): 1–23. doi:10.1080/0031322X.2017.1414473. ISSN 0031-322X. S2CID 149212940.
  3. ^ "Frank Gaffney Jr". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 2023-08-15.
  4. ^ "David Yerushalmi". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  5. ^ "The Counter-Jihad Movement & the Making of a President". WNYC Studios. September 11, 2017.
  6. ^ Blumenthal, Max (2020). The Management of Savagery: How America's National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump. Verso Books. ISBN 9781788732307.
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  8. ^ Yerushalmi, David (2008). "Shari'ah's "Black Box": Civil Liability and Criminal Exposure Surrounding Shari'ah-Compliant Finance". Utah Law Review. 2008 (3): 1019. Archived from the original on 11 November 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  9. ^ Sacirbey, Omar (17 May 2013). "Anti-Shariah Movement Gains Success". Huffington Post. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
  10. ^ "Mark Schlakman: No need for foreign-law bill". Gainesville.com. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
  11. ^ "Account Suspended". Lhrtimes.com. Archived from the original on June 30, 2013. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
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  13. ^ Warikoo, Niraj (6 May 2013). "Dearborn 'regrets' Arab fest arrests, must post apology for 3 years". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
  14. ^ "Judge tosses Arab Festival lawsuit filed by Christian missionary group | Detroit Free Press". freep.com. Retrieved 2015-11-07.
  15. ^ Rice, Stephanie (28 July 2010). "'Anti-Islamic' bus ads appear in major cities". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  16. ^ Klasfeld, Adam (4 April 2012). "Polemic Israel Campaign May Head to New York". Courthouse News Service. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  17. ^ Weiser, Benjamin (20 July 2012). "M.T.A. Violated Rights of Group, Judge Says". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
  18. ^ Weiser, Benjamin (20 July 2012). "M.T.A. Violated Rights of Group, Judge Says". New York Times. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
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  20. ^ Wilber, Del (September 20, 2012). "Pro-Israel group files federal lawsuit against Metro". Washington Post. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  21. ^ Wilber, Del (October 5, 2012). "Metro ordered to display pro-Israel ads that it worried might incite violence". Washington Post. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  22. ^ Gray, Kathy Lynn (7 September 2010). "Bary-case lawyer files $10M defamation lawsuit". Columbus Dispatch. Archived from the original on 12 October 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  23. ^ Welsh-Huggins, Andrew (14 October 2010). "Defendants in Lawyer's $10 Million Defamation Suit Cite Free Speech". Associated Press. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  24. ^ "Investigative Summary OR-73-1741" (PDF). Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-14. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
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  26. ^ "v. Obama". American Freedom Law Center. Retrieved 2015-11-07.
  27. ^ Cutler v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 797 F.3d 1173, 1179. (D.C. Cir. 2015).
  28. ^ Jeffrey, Don (Apr 15, 2013). "Priests for Life's Contraceptive Mandate Suit Dismissed". Bloomberg.
  29. ^ "American Freedom Law Center Attorneys to Argue Before Federal Appellate Court that AIG Bailout Was Unconstitutional". Press release. American Freedom Law Center. Archived from the original on 2 June 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  30. ^ "Murray V. United States Department Of Treasury | Findlaw". Caselaw.findlaw.com. 2012-06-01. Retrieved 2015-11-07.
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  33. ^ Robert Steinback (2011-06-17). "The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle | Southern Poverty Law Center". Splcenter.org. Retrieved 2015-11-07.
  34. ^ "Fear Inc. - The Islamophobia Network". islamophobianetwork.com. The Islamophobia Network. 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  35. ^ "Fear, Inc. 2.0 – Center for American Progress". www.americanprogress.org. CAP - Center for American Progress. 11 February 2015. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  36. ^ Noureddine al-Haimoud, Melouka Arabi,'Islamophobia Network in the United States During the Obama Administration: Structure, Strategies and Objectives,' Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 23 October 2022 pp.1-13