The American Center for Law and Justice is an organization whose mission is to promote religious freedom and values that are ensured under the Constitution of the United States. It is a legal body that tries cases in courts around the country, including the Supreme Court, the highest court. It is also involved in legal and political issues in a number of countries around the world. Controversy swirls around the American Center for Law and Justice because of its overt promotion of the right wing political agenda.
The Founding of the ACLJ
The American Center for Law and Justice was founded in 1990 by evangelist preacher Pat Robertson, as a counterweight to the American Civil Liberties Union that Robertson felt was hostile to religion and right wing political values. Though its stated mission is to uphold the rights and liberties of Americans, the group mainly takes on cases that involve Christian and evangelical legal concerns and the political agenda that is clearly identified with the far right wing of the Republican party.
Leadership of the ACLJ
Jay Sekulow is the Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. He received his law degree from Mercer University, a private college with a Baptist background. He received his PhD from Robertson’s Regent University. He is a distinguished professor at Pat Robertson’s Regent University Law School. Mr. Sekulow is a frequent guest on a variety of media outlets, promoting his vision of religious rights in America and has his own legal issues cable television show. He has argued a number of cases before the Supreme Court.
American Center for Law and Justice Issues
The legal status of abortion is an ongoing issue that that American Center for Law and Justice advocates against, litigating the rights of protesters and fighting against “buffer zones” that allow patients free, untroubled access to clinics. The Center also works for issues of student-led prayer, use of public properties for religious purposes and the formation of Bible clubs and prayer clubs as part of extracurricular activities on school grounds. The ACLJ has also in the forefront in the fight against same-sex marriage and for passage of the Defense of Marriage Act.
American Center for Law and Justice Activities
The Center has brought a number of cases before the American court system to uphold their view on issues. Many of these cases promote the free speech rights of the devoutly religious or take on issues that Christian religious feel are a threat to them, such as the construction of Islamic centers in various communities. In fact, the ACLJ was instrumental in the fight against the Islamic center that was proposed near Ground Zero in New York. The Center is also active in Europe, representing the interests of Christians in the Court of Human Rights in Strasburg. The Center also works in African countries to block changes in the constitutions to allow abortion and the building of Islamic centers.
Because of its obvious religious right wing agenda, the American Center for Law and Justice takes a predictable side on issues that are brought before the court.
As a non-profit organization, the Center is exempt from taxes. It is funded strictly from donations, and questions about Sekulow’s large salary have often been at issue.
The American Center for Law and Justice was originally founded as a legal advocacy group to litigate cases not generally handled by the ACLU. It has since become part of a large, well-funded media empire that promotes a specific political agenda in the United States.