Tuesday, September 15, 2015


In my recent article about Jane Addams, I mentioned that she was one of the co-founders of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1920. That organization, now 95 years old, has been much appreciated by some people and much maligned by others.

According to their Twitter page, “The ACLU is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public interest law firm and advocacy organization devoted to protecting the basic civil liberties of everyone in America.
The ACLU has had a long and meritorious history of advocating for basic freedoms—especially freedom of speech and freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion—of individuals and groups in the United States.
Yet, some Christian groups, such as the Liberty Institute, charge the ACLU (along with the federal government) as being “aggressive opponents of religious freedom.”
And in June of this year, Ken Ham, the founder and CEO of the ultra-conservative Answers in Genesis, wrote on his blog that the ACLU “have consistently showed that they are hostile towards Christians and Christianity.”
These are just two of many examples that might be given of conservative Christians criticizing the ACLU—and that criticism goes all the way back to 1925, for the ACLU was behind John Scopes challenging the law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in the public schools of Tennessee.
To counter the ACLU, in 1990 the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) was founded by Pat Robertson, an ordained Southern Baptist minister whom Wikipedia refers to as a “media mogul.” (The similarity of the acronym was intentional.)
As you know, or would guess, the ACLJ is a politically conservative organization linked to the religious right. From the beginning it was associated with Regent University School of Law in Virginia, also founded by Pat Robertson
Since 2000, though, the ACLJ has been headquartered in Washington, D.C., and when I visited there I was impressed with its proximity to the Supreme Court Building, whose entrance is just a four-minute walk away.
Since 1992 the leader of ACLJ has been Jay Sekulow (b. 1956), who has an undergraduate and a J.D. degree from Mercer University, which was associated with the Georgia Baptist Convention until 2006.
Sekulow is a sharp, articulate spokesman for ACLJ. I have heard him speak, and chatted with him briefly, a couple of times, and I have also heard him a (very) few times on Bott Radio, where he has a 30-minute program five days a week.
His program is called “Jay Sekulow Live,” and Bott Radio calls it “a bold half-hour program addressing the problems of Christian rights in the workplace, school and marketplace of ideas.”
Through the years, most of those active in the ACLJ have reaped the benefits of “white privilege,” and it seems that they are now doing all they can to maintain “Christian privilege” as well.
That is a major difference between these two organizations: whereas the ACLJ primarily is an advocate for the religious freedom (as they understand it) of Christians, the ACLU is an advocate for the civil liberties of all Americans.
Recently, the ACLU of Kentucky has been quite active in the Kim Davis dispute that has been in the news so much. In early July they filed the initial lawsuit against Davis, the marriage license-refusing county clerk.
(I have been surprised, though, that the ACLJ has not become directly involved in the Kim Davis affair, as I expected them to.)
So, which most deserves support, the ACLU or the ACLJ? The former, I believe, for they seem to be the ones more actively seeking to love “neighbor” as “self.”


  1. I appreciate your distinction between religious freedom and Christian privilege. I'd suggest taking up that topic again sometime in a blog.

  2. I have had one first hand encounter with the ACLU. Initiated by the local executive director, while I was in refugee resettlement. The only word to describe them would be HATE. I was having dinner with a friend who was one of their supporters - he was stunned by the vicious outburst. A neighbor? Not in the least. (I do not generally like calling names.)

    1. There are people in all organizations, including church groups, who are not good representatives for their organizations and, sadly, cause negative feelings toward the organizations they represent.

      Since I live in Missouri, I looked for a recent news story about the ACLU here in Missouri. Here is part of one article I found about the Kim Davis issue:

      "ACLU of Missouri executive director Jeffrey Mittman said Davis, like any other U.S. citizen, is permitted to attend church where she sees fit, believe homosexuality -- or anything else -- is immoral, and even to petition for laws that reflect her religious beliefs.

      "But when acting as a public figure, she's obligated to perform the duties of her office, he said. Davis' actions constituted an unacceptable entanglement of church and state authority, Mittman said,

      "'As a government official, she cannot impose her religious beliefs on others,' he said."

      This doesn't at all seem hateful in any sense, and the neighbors in this case are the gay couples whose civil right to marry have been denied by Ms. Davis.

    2. While teaching a class on the US Constitution today, I was reminded of another personal encounter with the ACLU.

      About a year ago I had mentioned in a forum about an incidentof being mugged at gun-point just off the campus of UMKC several years back, by an African-American man who took my money, my wallet, and my jacket. (I can still see his face and gun to this day.) I filed a police report with a detailed description. No one was ever arrested. To this, a lawyer with the ACLU stated that I was by definition a racist for calling an innocent (never arrested or found guilty in a court of law) African-American man a criminal.

      These are not "neighbors". They are zealots who look to cause trouble to highlight their causes. If these are neighbors, we live in the wrong neighborhood (USA). They have a different definition of "justice" and the other good words perverted for their use. Given the choice, without knowing much of the other organization, I would probably choose the ACLJ in hopes of finding real "justice".

  3. Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson makes this pertinent comment:

    "A very revealing essay, Leroy. I trust the ACLU to defend the First Amendment to our Constitution and am grateful for their efforts here in Kentucky. The Kim Davis refusal to issue marriage licenses on religious grounds shows how some conservatives try to impose their religious views on the body politic."

  4. Thank you so much for this article, Leroy, and greetings from Bauru, Brazil! I have contacted the ACLU-MO/KS twice regarding two questions/problems. Their response: NOTHING! It would seem to me that they take on only cases that they can and will get only positive exposure and victory! That's not my kind of advocacy group, sorry. Although, I do try to support them when they have anti-conservative meat to chew on, heh heh heh. Greetings also to June! George M!

  5. I feel that both organizations have their rightful place and since we are Only human and Not perfect, the best of intentions sometimes go astray.
    Both make it sound like they are for Everyone, but as you said Leroy; Every organization has some people who are Not Good representatives for their cause.
    I try do judge people by their deeds and Not just their words.
    Thanks for this excellent Blog.

  6. I think you saw a recent reproduction of my 2013 article, "The Rev. meets the Godless ACLU."

    1. Here is a link to a copy of the article I assume he refers to: https://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/the-rev-meets-the-godless-aclu/

    2. Charles, I don't remember seeing your article about your contacts with the ACLU in Texas, but I enjoyed reading it just now. (And thanks, Craig, for making it easier/quicker for me to find the article online.)

      Actually, I haven't had any first-hand contact with the ACLU; I have just appreciated much of what they have done from afar (especially since I lived in Japan for 38 years). I appreciate what you wrote; thanks for calling my attention to it.

  7. Interesting you quote, "So, which most deserves support, the ACLU or the ACLJ? The former, I believe, for they seem to be the ones more actively seeking to love “neighbor” as “self." Have you forgotten the beginning of that passage from Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Personally I believe the ACLJ has chosen to put their work in the right order.