15 Oct Interview with Jordan Sekulow
Which battles are the “right” battles? Today on the broadcast, we discuss the battles we fight as Christians—often silently—that the world may not always understand.
About Jordan Sekulow
Jordan Sekulow is an attorney and cohost of Jay Sekulow Live!, a syndicated radio program providing cutting analysis of today’s political and legal landscape with elected officials and conservative leaders.
Jordan Sekulow has extensive background as a conservative grassroots political organizer. He served as the National Youth Director for the Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential campaign and as a consultant to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Jordan Sekulow regularly appears as a guest commentator on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, and other national media outlets, where he is chosen for his expert analysis of complex legal issues and his conservative political savvy. He was a contributor to the Washington Post’s “On Faith” section with his own Washington Post blog entitled “Religious Right Now” from 2010-2013, where he covered social conservatives’ involvement in shaping America’s legal, political, and cultural landscape. He also publishes articles for various nationally renowned conservative and mainstream publications such as the Washington Times, The Daily Caller, Human Events, and the National Review Online.
SNEAK PEEK: If you’re too much of a silent majority and you’re not kind of asserting, “Hey we’re here and we want this right,” and “We’re not going to let them divide us,” between “Well you’re too conservative,” or “If you fight for this, then there’s something wrong with you or “If you fight for this, it’s not politically correct,” or “If you fight for this, then ultimately we lose to the radical minority that wants to take out any history whatsoever, any references of our Judeo-Christian founding Fathers.”
EASLEY: Everyday on the broadcast ACLJ Jordan Sekulow and his father Jay Sekulow, they engage in issues just like this with Mikey Weinstein. A heated debate between Jay and Mikey continues.
If you have an advocate who can stand between you and this ominous thing called the government or someone fighting you, that believes in Christ, that is going to fight for what’s right and may help you at some point in time for persecution, or if something unfair happens to you, we all want justice and at certain times you might come across an issue that is close to your heart and is close to mine.
Well, Jordan, thanks so much for joining me on the broadcast. It’s ironic however,you’re in D.C. and I’m in your father’s studio in Franklin,Tennessee so that’s kind of (unfinished thought).
SEKULOW: Yes, in Washington, we have a team here, we push through to make an impact in Washington, which people sometimes ask, “What’s it like living there?” The good thing is there’s a lot of people fighting the right battles here and we’re part of that.
E: Let’s talk about the right and wrong battles. As believers in Christ, you and I serve a greater master, one that the world is certainly not going to always understand. Before we talk about some specific issues, how do you keep your faith in this fight, Jordan, knowing “I have to honor Christ first and foremost, as well as fight for this good thing?”
S: That’s right. It’s interesting, here in Washington and we’re very blessed in the United States because we have these basic rights and most of the battles we’re talking about and we’re about, our being fought here in the United States. The majority of our team, our staff, are from all over the world and are based here. We’re different. To put a new perspective on it, after you spend time with staff and in places where you don’t have the inalienable rights that are not just government created, or they’re are just not words on paper;they’re words that mean something. So that’s what I think helps to keep the faith through all the battles; that we have this special opportunity, we’re born here for a purpose, for a reason that those of us who grew up here can experience that and are blessed with the unique gifts, and abilities. Those of us who practice in this area of law, or communicate the message, or work on Capitol Hill, or government affairs, we know we’re supposed to be here for a reason. I think it keeps you grounded and it’s just bigger than politics and bigger than one case.
E: Ok, it’s bigger than politics in one case. It’s bigger than policy, but we have to acknowledge that a lot of evangelical believers, a lot of Christians in a broad umbrella; they don’t see it this way. It’s not a right and wrong issue too often; it’s a moral flatness.
S:That’s how we got into a lot of the problems we’re in now. It’s that people for a long time, including the church were pretty meek and mild when it came to protecting rights. It was was kind of assumed that these rights would always be here. Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about just the basic; what’s in the First Amendment, the free exercise of religion. The fact now that we’re having to defend World War 1 Memorials when there’s really no one around and if they have any kind of religious symbols whatsoever. There’s one right outside Washington DC now, a cross that’s been there. I’ve lived in D.C for over a decade. I didn’t know about that specific memorial and now it’s under attack and legal threats and the towns facing tough economic times.These were maybe not battles people assumed were coming, but the reality is the writing was on the wall. It was coming from the Supreme Court cases; things that were maybe more controversial and you say, “Ok, maybe this won’t impact me.” It’s started off with the prayer issue in the sixties, but that went from prayer in public schools and young people who are taking that same philosophy, and that same legal interpretation and saying, “Well, if that’s not ok, neither is the cross, neither are the Bible verses that are used all over Washington D.C. and on our National Monuments.” These are now under real legal attack. We’re winning these in court, but if we weren’t there in court, you’d be leaving it up to governments especially local governments, who may not have the money to defend these cases, who would rather just appease those who are threatening lawsuits and so that’s why groups like us exist. The reason really for our existence in the beginning, the ACLJ, were because of cases like that. We’re talking about school boards and local communities, and we’ve had those cases even in the last eight, nine years, make it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Ten Commandments Monument that was in Utah was one of them. So this was a city, and a town, Pleasant Grove, Utah, and they decided to fight; they decided to stand their ground on that issue and they won 9-0 at the Supreme Court. You can still win these cases, but you have to be willing to fight.
E: When it comes to fighting, we have this oxymoron, we’re all pacifist until war comes to our shore. We saw it in 9/11, probably in our generation, this decade, but that was as my daughter in a public school came home and said, “Dad, prayer is back in the school.” Because kids were praying in the hall on 9/11 and 9/12 and of course a decade later we forget about that extent. There is a large population Jordan, push back again that they just don’t see it as that important.
J: I was thinking about the scope of how important everything is. So, these cases you may see on television for a couple of days, talked about on radio and maybe mentioned in your local news as well because it’s a big deal, at least it’s news worthy. Then they pass on something and something else happens in the news and you have to realize the reason why we file so many briefs throughout the year in cases that we may not even highlight on our own radio broadcast or on our website is because the precedence that are set are so important.
E: Why do we see seemingly a duplicity here? Everything is fine and we work so hard to be politically correct on every other faith group except Christians. You can vilify Christians day in, day out, but God help you if you say something irreverent about Islam, or the Koran, and certain groups. You’d be in real danger, not just a slap on the wrist!
S: Sure! It’s interesting, we document this pretty closely because we come against these very radical atheists groups who you would think, if you didn’t know anything about them, would be just as opposed to Islam and just as opposed to other religious faiths.
E: Judaism? Jehovah’s’ Witness? Mormonism?
S: Right! No problem with that. If they’re tough enough to put out the Bible, a grim fairy tale, and Bible warning labels stickers, to sell on their website to raise money, then why don’t they have a Koran warning label? The only answer I’ve ever heard them say is that they’re going after the majority which takes us back to the beginning of the broadcast. The idea here is if you’re too much of a silent majority, and you’re not asserting that, “Hey, we’re here; we want this right,” and we’re not going to, “Let them divide us” between “Well, you’re too conservative if you fight for this,” and “There’s something wrong with you if you fight for this,” “It’s not politically correct if you fight for this,” then ultimately we lose to the radical minority that wants to take out any history whatsoever, any references to the history of our Judeo Christian founding and we’re talking about fairly mundane references as well. As believers, the idea that a War Memorial may have a cross is not so shocking to most Americans, even Americans who aren’t Christians. That’s not who’s bringing these challenges; it is and always has been a very radical, secular community, but they’re seizing on one: that there are more and more people taking their non belief or belief position and more sympathetic to it, and also the idea that we didn’t fight for so long that now even though we can win some of these cases it’s seems the most outrageous. Like the War Memorial, they become ten, twenty year legal battles and they cost a lot and they make people think twice. We’re fighting over memorials that are from the twenties, fifties, sixties,and they make people think twice about “What about a new memorial?” We don’t even usually talk about that on the air.
E: You’ll have to endow it for future legal battles.
S: Yes, exactly! We may be too politically correct a country to even do it and that tells you a lot too, of how far they’ve come, not always winning in court. Though they’ve certainly had big victories like prayer, and even to the point where they say you can’t have prayer at a football game, but we’ve seen students pray on their own. They always have those rights. Some of it’s just education; sometimes people need to know that when they say a School Administrator can’t pray, it doesn’t mean your students can’t pray and we’ve seen that have some effect. But I’m always worried about what you mentioned, which was that people get gungho about things and they start doing it and then a few years later everybody forgets what happened.
E: I often tell the church where I serve to be loving, kind, gentle, and firm, and smile. It seems like we’re so afraid and then if we do engage, we’re not alway loving, and we’re not always kind, but to be able to be loving, kind, gentle, and firm, and smile, and state your opinion because we do have that freedom. Paul wrote in Romans 13,Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God. So we’ve got this uncomfortable concept that Paul’s recognizing Rome, which is not all that different from some of the ways we have sort of become and we serve as Augustine said,“We’re citizens of two kingdoms.” So to live in those two kingdoms and to be a believer in the world, not of the world. Man, I’m kind of worn out Jordan! How do I as a college kid, as a young adult, as a husband, a mom, stay engaged in these issues without this being just consuming and exhausting, and Yes, I know it’s wrong, but what do I do about it?
S: You’ve got to keep the perspective. Some of us battle that more than others, especially, I think, in the line of work that we’re engaged in every single day. You can get jaded from it; you can get pretty downtrodden and of course it’s all consuming to a point because there is so much going on, but we go back to the fact that our government was created and gave us rights as citizens. We live in a unique place where taking your government to court is a constitutional right and so if we aren’t exercising and I think at least trying to, you’re not going to win every case; you’re not going to win everything when you stand up for what you believe is right. You can’t win everything, but you’re going to win more often if you do actually get involved. So whether or not it’s at your school board, and there’s a seat open and you think maybe I could run for that, maybe I shouldn’t, or find someone who can in your community and support them. It could start at that very local level and you could have a huge impact and we’re supposed to be doing that. I think part of our faith is that we take advantage of where we are and those of us who are blessed to be born here in the United States of America, we can look at the bad that’s happening, but if we just sit there then we’re not really doing what we can. We all have the ability to effect things for good and I think that’s part of our faith, is that we have a legal system that works. You can file the lawsuit; we have an electoral process where you can effect real change and people can get elected and not just at the federal level, but at the community level and so all of that combined is, I think, how we really exercise our faith especially in a country like this where we can blame our government, but ultimately our government is a representative of our selves.
E: How do you encourage younger audiences and even some thirty, forty, fifty year olds who don’t vote; they haven’t registered; they don’t care about it; they say it doesn’t matter; the electoral college is what it is; what do you say to them?
S: You know there’s people that look at voting that way and say, “Well, see my vote won’t matter. I’m from this state,” and they focus all of their attention on Presidential Politics and the big election years, and ultimately most of the decisions that you’re faced with day to day are made from people who are elected at the local level, state level,and so many times those elections are not the best advertised. It’s a little tougher to get information, but from now on most of us out there have very little excuse because you’ve got the unbelievable power of the internet to inform you, to get involved in these elections. To me it’s the first step. For young people out there, once you are able to exercise that right, registering to vote, and for those who maybe haven’t before, it’s the starting point, to get yourself engaged, to know what the issues are, and to care about them and to do something about it.
E: Let’s talk a little bit about Pastor Saeed Abedini. You got involved with this quite some time ago?
S: That’s right. It was the summer of 2012 when Saeed, who was an American citizen was first arrested in Iran in July and we got involved. We were about twenty four hours within his arrest, and we were involved with the family and we didn’t go public with anything. People may be a little surprised at that. This is how we have tried to handle these cases of persecution before in the past, until December of 2012. So right during Christmas just before 2013, we went public because it was apparent that Saeed would be tried and if you’re going to be tried in Iran, you’re going to be found guilty of something. That’s when we went public and when people started finding out about it.
E: Now he’s serving an eight year sentence, but you’ve had a lot of stops, and starts, and some hopes and dashed hopes, so where does that stand now?
S: You know this is one of the toughest situations to take on and thankfully the American people realized this is something they could be engaged in and they had to get their government’s attention. It was unfortunate to an extent; the first real petition drive, and I say this a lot of times speaking at places, because it does tell you the troubles we face, that we had to spend six months and almost seven hundred thousand people who signed a petition to get our executive branch, the Obama Administration, to publicly engage with this. Now ultimately, the President of the United States, President Obama, has spoken out. He did so publicly, calling for Saeed’s release at the National Prayer Breakfast, but that was after more than a year of people, more than a year of going on every television network we could, and any interview we could. We are very thankful Pastor Saeed’s wife is American and she’s here, so unlike most of the persecuted church and persecuted folks around the world, Saeed has a wife who’s able to speak out publicly and she’s been to the United Nations with me a number of times; she’s given remarks at the United Nations Human Rights Council of the European Parliament, and of course with our elected officials here in Washington DC and around the country. Because of that ultimately, we were able to get our government to take it seriously, but it was very difficult. It took a lot of people getting active and I know now they are very concerned because though the U.S. Government said these things publicly, and we have this dialogue with Iran, that the United States has not had since the revolution there in 1979, why is Saeed not home? I do have some positive information in that while this process continues and we have work going on that I can’t even get into on the broadcast, we’ve got teams all around the world in places that are not the natural places you’d think we’d be going to for help or the most logical places if you didn’t think very deeply about it. Saeed is actually in a private hospital right now. He’s still technically in prison, but he’s been there for a few weeks and everyday there is an improvement. He’s not gotten actual medical treatment, but he’s been given pain medication, obviously better food, better conditions, sanitary conditions, and has gotten to spend a lot more time with his family that’s still in Iran, which has been good for information purposes to know what’s been going on. At this point, Iran has not budged and we work hard everyday and we hope for a miracle. It will be a miracle type situation, however it turns out. We always have two goals: the first goal is to keep him alive and the second goal is to get him home and that’s first goal is very important.
E: And we’re going to direct folks to the website where you can go to Be Heard Project. To find out more it’s BeHeardProject.com. How do you keep the Christian from yawning, the believer who lives in the midwest, or lives in a more remote area, maybe not in the Northern Virginia D.C. vibe, cosmopolitan area that’s busy? You know, they say, “I want to go to work; I want to pay my taxes; I want to enjoy my family, go to church, maybe, go out to eat once or twice a week.” Wow, help me with that man, that woman, that young adult.
S: They all have to realize thatyou don’t have to be living this everyday to want to have an impact on it. Washington is some of the United States, but you could live in a rural congressional district, but you’re congressman’s vote is the same as a congressman who may represent an area of New York City. It’s not as if they have less influence, even if you’re in a rural state that isn’t a huge populated area because you’ve got two U.S. Senators, who are casting these votes. They make a difference. They have no more power than senators from New York, and no less power so it’s important on that front. The second part especially when we go to the issues like Saeed Abedini and the persecuted church is that we all have to realize that for us we may read the New Testament and a lot of the persecution of Paul and it’s not as real time. We kind of see it as this is what was happening in the Roman Empire. But these folks, like Saeed, who were Americans but born in Iran, grew up most of their life here, his wife born in Iran, for them the New Testament is very real time. So for all of us who may be in these areas of the world, and parts of the world where we’re blessed to have the freedoms, and we’re not experiencing the persecution, our brothers and sisters are, and until that wrong is righted we’ve got a lot of work to do. For most people that would be a lifetime’s worth of work and probably more to right the wrongs. It’s getting worse in the world and America’s been a very positive voice in the world, but when we retreat,unfinished thought. Listen! There’s some strain of that within conservatives as well. But when we retreat, the persecution gets worse and remember that our brothers and sisters in many of these countries are the minority, something that most of us have never lived within our lifetime.
E: Jordan Sekulow is the Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice also known as ACLJ. Thanks so much Jordan. Appreciate your time.
S: Thanks Dr. Easley.
E: Again, I turn us to Paul’s Words, to the younger Timothy in his first letter to him, Chapter 2:“First of all then, I urge that entreaties, and prayers, petitions,thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings, and all who are in authority, so that we may lead in a tranquil and quiet life in all Godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” It’s hard sometimes when our government’s going a different way than we prefer. It’s hard to be the last group, that it’s okay to vilify, to be a Christian today. But the call that all of us can do, regardless of getting involved in a local election perhaps, or maybe writing your particular representative,or being involved in some committee work, all which is fantastic, but Paul says,“First of all, I urge you to entreat, to pray, to petition, and even to give thanks on behalf of all men, for kings, and all who are in authority. Why? Here’s the clause:so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all Godliness and dignity. Simply, the purpose of government is for you and me to have aquiet, tranquil, good, Godly life.So when government moves away from that, and you and I have a chance to cast a ballot, to be involved in something that’s good, maybe that’s a decision that you can make this year. Maybe that’s something that you’ve never done before but you can learn a little bit more about what it means to go to the Polling Station, to learn how those things work,to register to vote, to learn about the candidates on your local ballet. But you’re praying for those men and women that they’ll do good because that’s God’s job for the government. When governments stray is there a lot of things that we’d like to do? Or could do? But this is one we know we must do, is to pray for those who are in authority. This is Michael Easley inContext.