Tear down that wall!

"Tear down that wall!" Continued...

Issue: "Katrina: One year later," Aug. 26, 2006

Revolutionary movements, however, don't come of age without internal struggles. Liberty Counsel president Staver once was among the most enthusiastic supporters of the Alliance Defense Fund. He attended the group's first banquet in 1993, received ADF's very first grant, and served on the organization's grants and review committee from 1996 to 2004. But in 2004 Staver broke ties with ADF, following the lead of the American Family Association, the Center for Law and Policy, the Thomas More Law Center, and ACLJ.

Staver charged that ADF had not used its funds as effectively as it should have, and is using its fundraising ability to "freeze out" other religious-liberties groups. But in an interview with WORLD, ADF head Sears spread on a conference table two maps of the United States depicting victories won by ADF and allied organizations in cases involving traditional marriage and First Amendment rights on public university campuses. In black ink, he circled the summary of a case in California: "Won." A circle near Massachusetts: "Won." Georgia: "Won." New York: "Won." He said ADF's goal is to become a "$100 million a year organization," equal in budget to the ACLU. He said, "We're driven to raise funds to achieve growth because we're here to win."

Jay Sekulow and the ACLJ have also encountered criticism over finances. A November 2005 Legal Times analysis of public tax records raised questions about the use of contributions by the network of organizations Sekulow operates in conjunction with the ACLJ. For example, Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (CASE) is a nonprofit group listed in some donor solicitations as "doing business as ACLJ." CASE's board of directors has three members: Sekulow, his wife Pam, and his son Jordan. In 2001, according to the Legal Times report, CASE "paid a total of $2,374,833 to purchase two homes used primarily by Sekulow and his wife." But Sekulow told WORLD that the houses CASE purchased in 2001 are "routinely used" by senior members of his legal team.

Sekulow's salary was also an object of scrutiny. According to IRS filings, he earned a total of $483,825 from ACLJ and CASE in 2002, Legal Times reported. But in 2003, ACLJ's tax filings reported Sekulow's salary as zero. That same year CASE and ACLJ reported for the first time paying a new entity partly owned by Sekulow, the "Center for Law and Justice," a combined total of $1,358,988; Legal Times said that Sekulow confirmed his salary as "above $600,000." Sekulow did not comment on those specific amounts but said the Legal Times story overall was "inaccurate and unfair" and motivated by disgruntled ex-employees; he stated that criticism "goes with the territory" when an organization is successful. Donations, he added, are up 30 percent this year.

As the movement works through its growing pains, the most pressing religious-freedom issue for several of the groups is same-sex marriage. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty earlier this year released a series of scholarly papers that showed the far-reaching impact on religious freedom if the practice were broadly legalized ("A coming storm," June 10, 2006).

Since then, gavels have fallen like hammer blows on gay-marriage advocacy. In July alone, courts in New York, Nebraska, Georgia, Connecticut, Tennessee, Washington, and even Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal, issued rulings in favor of traditional marriage or its supporters. Christian public-interest litigators were involved in every case.

Such litigators still face an uphill battle. "In terms of objective relief, I don't know that they've yet influenced the constitutional landscape as much as their counterparts on the secularist left," the American Enterprise Institute's Levenick said. "But they are advancing arguments that are making headway in the public square and working their way upward, via students, into the legal academy."

Religious-liberty landscape

Key cases, key issues in the battle for free expression

The religious-liberty landscape looks far different than it did 25 years ago. If not for the religious-liberty movement, the United States might look "more like France, where the state is empowered to restrict public religious expression," said political science professor Hans Hacker.

Among the current battlefronts in the church-state war:

Religion in the public square

Christian religious-liberty litigators have posted a mixed record on Ten Commandments displays on government property, including a pair of June 2005 Supreme Court decisions in which the justices upheld a Decalogue monument in Texas while striking down one in Kentucky. Current case: Physician-attorney and church-state activist Michael Newdow continues his private First Amendment war with his second lawsuit to abolish the pledge of allegiance pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He is also planning an appeal in his suit against Congress to have the phrase "In God We Trust" stricken from U.S. currency.

Religious land use

Congress in 2000 responded, passing unanimously the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) to address conflicts between megachurches and local governments. Since then Christian legal groups have fought successfully for the right of churches both to expand and to use their own land in accordance with their religious doctrine. Current case: Attorneys in Boulder County, Colo., are awaiting a federal ruling on whether county commissioners violated RLUIPA when they refused to approve expansion plans for Rocky Mountain Christian Church.


Christian legal groups have worked successfully with state and federal lawmakers to draft and defend laws regulating abortion. The strategy has been an important factor in the overall national decrease in abortion. Current case: The Supreme Court agreed in June to expand its review next term of the federal partial-birth abortion ban, adding a second Bush administration appeal to the docket.

Free expression and equal access

Christian lawyers have fought the quest to kick Christianity off campus, notching wins covering everything from kindergarten drawings of Jesus to high-school pro-life T-shirts to faith groups at public universities. Current case: Arizona State University Students for Life in July filed suit against the school after officials, despite the lack of a written policy, demanded that the group purchase insurance and pay a $300 fee before being allowed to present a pro-life message on campus.

Same-sex marriage

Considered by many today's most pressing religious-liberty issue, homosexual marriage litigation erupted in dozens of states after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom authorized city licenses for same-sex marriages in 2004. With the aid of Christian legal groups, 44 states have laws that preserve the traditional definition of marriage; 18 states have passed constitutional amendments protecting marriage; 11 have ballot initiatives or legislative action pending in 2006. Current case: The constitutionality of Proposition 22, California's one-man/one-woman marriage law, is pending before a state court of appeals.

Lynn Vincent
Lynn Vincent

Lynn is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine and the best-selling author of 10 non-fiction books.


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