If what I am reading about Jay Sekulow is true, it tells us a lot about the Christian Right’s crusade for religious liberty. Sekulow is a lawyer, talk show host, and chief counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ).
ACLJ was founded by Pat Roberson in 1990 at Regent University School of Law for the purpose of defending a conservative view of the United States Constitution. Today the ACLJ is associated with Sekulow, a graduate of Regent Law School.
Back in 2005, the Legal Times described Sekulow as “the leading Supreme Court advocate of the Christian Right.” This role apparently makes him a lot of money. According to the Legal Times he used over $2.3 million from a nonprofit he controlled to buy two homes and lease a private jet. Here is a taste of that article:
Sekulow’s financial dealings deeply trouble some of the people who have worked for him, leading several to speak with Legal Times during the past six months about their concerns — before Sekulow assumed his high-profile role promoting President George W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominees.
“Some of us truly believed God told us to serve Jay,” says one former employee, who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisal. “But not to help him live like Louis XIV. We are coming forward because we need to believe there is fairness in this world.”
Another says: “Jay sends so many discordant signals. He talks about doing God’s work for his donors, and then he flies off in his plane to play golf.”
Still another told Legal Times, “The cause was so good and so valid, but at some point you can’t sacrifice what is right for the sake of the cause.”
Sekulow shrugs off the criticism and makes no apologies. “I wouldn’t pretend to tell you we don’t pay our lawyers well,” including himself, says Sekulow. “As a private lawyer, I could bill $750 an hour, but I don’t.” He does lease a jet, he says, and he does sometimes use it to reach the golf course — but with donors or vendors, he insists. “We’ve been doing this for 20 years and never had a blip” of financial irregularity.
Nothing in the relatively loose regulations that govern nonprofits prohibits family members from serving on boards, drawing salaries, or spending money. But critics say the extravagant spending burns up money that Sekulow solicits from donors for legal causes. Citing the high cost of litigating Supreme Court cases, Sekulow wrote in a 2003 fund-raising letter, “We are asking God to prompt every member of the ACLJ to get involved personally in this effort.” He added later, “Please send a generous gift right away.”
Read the rest here.
Fast-forward to 2017 and it appears that little has changed with Jay Sekulow. He continues to use appeals to God to fund his efforts and, apparently, his lavish lifestyle. The only major difference between 2005 and 2017 is that he now serves as counsel to the President of the United States.
Want to know what Sekulow has been up to since the Legal Times piece? Click here. And here.
I don’t know if what Jay Sekulow is doing is legal or not. What I am interested in is the way that the crusade for religious liberty in America is lining his pockets. (I do not know if Sekulow embraces the views of the so-called Prosperity Gospel, but it would not surprise me if he did). Sekulow is a regular commentator on Fox News and has become a prominent and bombastic legal voice for the Christian Right. He has done a great deal to convince conservative evangelicals that their religious freedom is being threatened. He appeals to the fears of his followers. When Sekulow shows up, conservative evangelicals are comforted. He has their back. He will fight for them. He will take their case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Sekulow’s star will continue to rise among the Court Evangelicals as long as there are more and more threats–real and imagined– to religious liberty. And as long as there are threats to religious liberty, Sekulow can keep asking for money. Hmm….
Below is a video of Sekulow in action. Notice how he and Megyn Kelly root their understanding of religious liberty in the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.