Type of Organization: Media, Politics, Grassroots
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is a tax-exempt, not-for-profit, religious corporation, as defined under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Center was founded in 1990 by Televangelist Pat Robertson and lawyer Jay Sekulow. It identifies itself as being “specifically dedicated to the ideal that religious freedom and freedom of speech are inalienable, God-given rights.”
One of the ACLJ’s most notable anti-Muslim activities was their outspoken criticism of the proposed construction of a Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan. In 2010, the ACLJ filed a lawsuit to prevent the construction of the Park51 center, objecting to its two block proximity to the site of the World Trade Center. ACLJ attorney Brett Joshpe acknowledged that their intervention in the construction was due to the Muslim nature of the center and insinuated that a mosque would be “offending and hurting the 9/11 victims’ families.” The suit was dismissed by the New York State Supreme Court.
Also in 2010, ACLJ supported Oklahoma’s “Save our State” Amendment, which aimed to prohibit state courts from considering foreign law or Sharia when constructing procedures. The amendment was later struck down in federal court and was found to be unconstitutional on the basis of its potential to do harm to Muslims, a ruling that was upheld by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in January 2012.
Despite the dismissal of its unconstitutional Sharia law ban proposal, the ACLJ continued to promote and advocate for its implementation. In 2011, the ACLJ published an anti-Muslim pamphlet titled “Shari’a Law: Radical Islam’s Threat to the U.S. Constitution,” which claimed that “devout muslims cannot truthfully swear oath to become citizens of the United States of America.”
ACLF has been instrumental in the fight against Islam being taught in public schools. In 2015, in Tennessee and Georgia, it deemed it “outrageous” for schools to teach that the three Abrahamic faiths worship the same god. Teaching about the five pillars of Islamic faith — belief in one god, daily prayer, giving to charity, fasting, and pilgrimage to Makkah — was said to be “indoctrination.”
In 2017 the ACLJ took steps to promote a story that the Obama Administration had prohibited the use of terms like “jihad” and “sharia.” The Center submitted FOIA requests to the Department of Homeland Security and six of its components claiming that “the American people need to know, and they deserve to know” who was behind this so-called “word-purge.” In actuality, the “purge” Is referring to an attempt to remove Islamophobic rhetoric from FBI training materials.
The ACLJ came out in full support of the discriminatory Muslim Ban in 2017. It filed multiple briefs at various levels of the judiciary to support the Ban and urge the courts to implement it as is.
Pat Robertson, ACLJ founder, is a media executive and Baptist minister known for being a key face of Christian conservative politics and frequently appears as a commentator on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). On a 2008 episode of his program on the CBN’s The 700 Club, Robertson falsely stated the following: “I want to say it again, and again, and again: Islam is not a religion, it is a political system bent on world domination … not a religion. It masquerades as a religion, but the religion covers a worldwide attempt to exercise power and to subjugate the world to their way of thinking.”
Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice and author of the 2015 book Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore. Sekulow frequently writes for the ACLJ and in a 2017 piece titled “The West and Radical Islam,” stated the following: “Without realizing what truly makes America exceptional and why radical Islamists and many other Muslims hate us, we will continue to lose this war…They are at war with us now and will continue to be long into the future, until we are destroyed.” Sekulow holds a prominent position in President Donald Trump’s legal team and is an active voice in much of conservative media through channels such as his own radio show, frequent appearances on Fox News, “The 700 Club” and Sean Hannity’s radio show.