“Flawed” and “biased” is how a spokesman for the American Center for Law and Justice described an article in The Tennessean that painted the group’s principal officer Jay Sekulow as living a life of luxury bankrolled by the money he earned from defending Christian values in court.
The article, published this past weekend, claims that ACLJ and its affiliate organization, Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, for which Sekulow also serves as the principal officer, have paid out more than $33 million to Sekulow and members of his family, and businesses they own or co-own, since 1998.
ACLJ spokesperson Gene Kapp says in a statement that The Tennessean reporter’s financial analysis fails “to put 13 years worth of publicly-available documents into the proper context.”
The $33 million sum, which the article characterized as “significant financial benefits” to Sekulow and family, have actually gone to “pay no less than five outside lawyers,” explained Kapp, as well as to the “salaries for support staff (and) overhead.”
The funds, which roughly breaks down to $2.5 million a year, also pay for services, Kapp continued, like broadcast production and distribution, “that reach millions of Americans daily at substantially lower rates than ACLJ could otherwise obtain.”
Kapp asserted that both ACLJ and CASE have scrupulously adhered to accepted accounting practice and federal tax laws. He adds that the business arrangements involving Sekulow and his family members, on which the article cast aspersions, were reviewed by the IRS several years ago, when the two organizations were audited.
“The IRS found these arrangements to be in compliance with all tax laws applicable to tax exempt organizations,” the ACLJ spokesman emphasized, “and concluded that no changes should be made.”
Kapp also addresses the article’s implications that the relationship between ACLJ and CASE “is somehow inappropriate,” including that donors to ACLJ do not exactly know where their contributions are going or for what purposes they are being spent.
The ACLJ spokesman pointed out that the ACLJ-CASE relationship is not new, but has “been in place for more than two decades.”
The organization’s website “acknowledges the relationship,” Kapp said, “and highlights how donor funds are used to support the missions of the organizations – with 85 percent of every donor dollar going to the work of preserving religious and constitutional freedom.“
Kapp criticized The Tennessean’s reporting, noting that it was mostly a regurgitation of similar accusations made by Legal Times in 2005 against Sekulow, who is one of the most visible and successful Christian lawyers in the nation.
Over the past two decades, Sekulow has won numerous precedent-setting cases before the U.S. Supreme Court with the backing of CASE and ACLJ. They included cases where the high court protected the free speech rights of pro-life demonstrators, safeguarded the constitutional rights of religious groups to have equal access to public facilities, and ensured that public school students could form and participate in religious organizations (including Bible clubs) on campus.
“It’s not surprising,” said Kapp, “that an effective and successful legal and advocacy organization has come under attack from agenda-driven journalism.”