The news recently broke that Jay Alan Sekulow, chief counsel for the far Right American Center for Law and Justice, is a member of Trump’s legal team. This should give us pause for a number of reasons. The ACLJ is one of the most effective Christian Right legal advocacy organizations, and it plays an important role in the global culture wars as well, with branches in Europe, Russia, and East Africa. In fact, Sekulow shows up in my latest foreign policy long read, “Between Trump and Putin: The Right-Wing International, a Crisis of Democracy, and the Future of the European Union,” available online now with Political Research Associates and in the spring 2017 print issue of PRA’s magazine, The Public Eye.
Rather than write about Sekulow at length here, I thought I’d use the blog to point readers to the excellent analysis Julie Ingersoll has published on Religion Dispatches. Here’s a quotation that highlights the importance of outfits like the ACLJ to cultivating the Christian Right’s persecution complex, which, as a smart article that appeared in Politico (h/t Greg Dworkin of Daily Kos for tweeting it at me) today pointed out, goes a long way toward explaining white Evangelicals’ affinity for Trump:
Founded in 1990 by Pat Robertson, ACLJ played a central role in promoting a narrative of persecution and minority status for conservative Christians. The name ACLJ was a deliberate play on the conservative bogyman, the formidable ACLU.
In 1996, then Executive Director of ACLJ Keith Fournier wrote in apocalyptic language about “Religious Cleansing in America.” Hans Hacker, in a 2005 book on the rise of these Christian law firms notes that (in 2005) the argument that Christians were a minority in need of protection was not persuasive in the broader religious right. That same year, Sekulow was chosen as one of Time magazine’s 25 most influential evangelicals.
A little over a decade later, conservative Christians across the country have come around to the ACLJ’s perspective and now see themselves as targeted by powerful elites, one step away from imprisoning and executing people for their faith. They conflate literal persecution experienced around the globe with their experiences in the U.S. in which their views are sometimes labeled bigoted and narrow-minded.
For the rest of Ingersoll’s analysis, click here. I also recommend reading Andy Spears on Sekulow’s involvement in Islamophobic initiatives. For more links to further information on Sekulow and the ACLJ, see also the mini-thread of mine on Twitter that starts with this tweet: