Jay Sekulow

Trump and the evangelicals: Is a counselors’ association becoming too politicized?

Trump and the evangelicals: Is a counselors’ association becoming too politicized?

The ongoing entanglement of an important segment of U.S. evangelical Protestantism with the Donald Trump phenomenon keeps taking new and newsworthy turns.

The latest is a small but intriguing ruckus about, of all things, the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). Objections are being raised about political moves by the group’s president, Timothy Clinton (no relation to President Trump’s 2016 opponent).

The journalistic potential here is shown in an August 4 item about Aaron New of Central Baptist College in Arkansas and why he quit AACC. New is leading an online protest campaign to have the AACC and Clinton shun political activities. The effort claims not to be anti-Trump, but rather pro-political neutrality, and New identifies himself as a “conservative.”

However, New’s words about President Trump are pointed. He says Clinton has “gone out of his way to publicly confirm and praise” Trump while never offering any public criticism, especially regarding his bragging about sexual groping in the infamous “Access Hollywood” video. New thinks that silence was “unconscionable” for the leader of what he considers “the flagship Christian counseling organization.”

He continues, noting that Trump’s “character and behaviors are the kind that cause wounds and trauma to the very people that end up needing the care of Christian counselors.” He says fellow professionals work "with our clients every day" to counteract the psychological harm from such behavior.   

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Christian legal organizations get the editorial shaft from The Deseret News

Christian legal organizations get the editorial shaft from The Deseret News

When I saw the headline “Serving God by suing others: Inside the Christian conservative legal movement,” I knew the ensuing news article meant trouble.

Would the Deseret News (which produced the above piece) have referred to the Americans for Civil Liberties Union in such a demeaning fashion? Or the Freedom From Religion Foundation?

Both of those organizations spend much of their time suing other entities over religion.

So why all the love for the conservatives? We begin with this:

SALT LAKE CITY -- Roger Gannam cites the Bible to define his company's mission. That wouldn't be notable if he worked at a church or food kitchen, somewhere known for sharing the gospel with the world. But Gannam works at a law firm, suing others and representing those who have been sued.
His employer, Liberty Counsel, advocates for conservative Christian interests in cases related to the sanctity of life, family values and religious liberty, presenting the court system as a way to live out Jesus' "Great Commission."…
Liberty Counsel is part of the Christian legal movement, a collection of advocacy groups working in the legal, public policy and public relations arenas to advance and protect conservative Christian moral values. Together, these firms have turned the courts into key battlefields in the culture wars.

Actually, the courts have been culture wars battlefields for decades. See Griswold v. Connecticut, Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges.

The power of this movement will be on display this fall, when Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is argued before the Supreme Court.

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A religiously intriguing lawyer joins Trump defense team as a key adversary exits  

A religiously intriguing lawyer joins Trump defense team as a key adversary exits  

The addition of controversial attorney Jay Sekulow to President Donald Trump’s defense team is a wide-open invitation for journalistic personality stories. By all accounts, Sekulow, 61, is among America’s most zealous -- and effective -- religious litigators. He also hosts a daily radio show and has become an omnipresent Trump advocate on other media. 

Early coverage on his appointment left unexplored territory on the religion aspects of the sort noted by The Forward, the venerable liberal Jewish newspaper whose print and online editions reach a broad readership. Then The Washington Post published a June 27 jaw-dropper on Sekulowian finances.

More on money in a moment. If The Forward’s treatment seemed harsh, that’s certainly predictable. Sekulow has been in the middle of many social issues that are considered “conservative” while the paper has traditionally embraced socialists and liberal Democrats.

Moreover, Sekulow was raised in Reform Judaism, but became a “Messianic Jew” (that is, an evangelical Protestant of Jewish ethnicity) during college years at Mercer University, where he later earned his law degree. After work as a trial attorney for the IRS and a business lawyer in Atlanta, in 1990 he became chief counsel for the new American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson.  

Like Trump’s top lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, Sekulow is no expert in the Washington, D.C., quicksand the President finds himself in. But he’s battle-hardened, having argued 12 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court in his religion specialization. Early on, Sekulow grasped that federal judges are less than ardent supporters of religious freedom claims and switched to a civil liberties strategy exploiting other Bill of Rights guarantees, winning for instance a 1987 Supreme Court OK for airport pamphlet distribution by Jews for Jesus.

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