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Their heritage guides the Sekulow family’s fight to protect America’s religious freedom


Jordan Sekulow

by Jordan Sekulow
Special to Beliefnet

When interfaith prayer is too controversial[1] for a memorial service in New York, it’s worth asking: how has America’s treatment of public religion changed?

“Hundreds and thousands of families turned to God more than they had in the past,” said former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani[2] when recently reflecting on the 9/11 attacks, “religion … play[ed] a major role in the healing of the city.”


Our nation was founded as a beacon of hope for those facing religious persecution, a place where people of all faiths could live together in harmony. America used to celebrate diversity. Today, our extreme political correctness dictates that any public expression of faith is looked down upon and shunned.

I’m sure that most of you are well versed in religion. At the same time, you may not know much about the people like me who regularly write about religion and politics.

My paternal great-grandfather, a Russian Jew, came to New York fleeing religious persecution when he was fourteen years old. My dad, Jay Sekulow, recently explained[3] how this heritage guides his work:


I think it’s not just being the grandson of an immigrant; it was the grandson of an immigrant who left Russia because of religious persecution. My grandfather faced that persecution at the time of the Russian Revolution, as a lot of Jewish people did in 1914, ’15, ’16 and ’17; and he came to the United States as a 14 year old. When he came here, I have this statue in my office which is a model of Ellis Island because my grandfather came through Ellis Island. . . . When I argue those cases at the Supreme Court of the United States—and I say this with deep admiration for living in this country—when they call my name and they say, “Mr. Sekulow, we will now hear from you,” (which they’ve done over a dozen times now and I’ve had a lot of cases up there, obviously), I always think about that. Here I am, Mr. Sekulow, the grandson of a Russian immigrant who came through Ellis Island, and his grandson is arguing cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. So I think both as it relates to this whole idea of religious freedom, but liberty and freedom generally, I take very personally.


The exclusion of religion from public life is something my dad has been fighting against since he was thirty years old.  In college, my Brooklyn-born father became a Christian. Yet, our family continues to embrace our Jewish heritage. You may be surprised to learn that some of my immediate family and nearly all of my extended family are not Christians. Sekulow’s run the religious gamut, from Orthodox and Reformed Judaism to evangelical Christianity.

Jay Sekulow


My brother and I were Bar Mitzvahed. My parents had two weddings on the same day – one at a synagogue, the other at a church. We don’t just support Israel because of its Biblical significance. The State of Israel is a modern refuge for the Jewish people, my family. Although I’m a Christian and my mother isn’t Jewish, I would have been Jewish enough for Hitler’s concentration camps. We never forget that.

Over twenty years ago, it was the animosity toward religion in the public sphere that took[4] my dad all the way to the Supreme Court.

Students . . . wanted to have a Bible club in high school. Now in today’s world, we think of that as a non-issue. They want to have a Bible club or religious club, what’s the problem? There are political clubs; you’re allowed to do these things. But back in the ‘80s, that wasn’t the case; and it actually took an act of Congress to authorize the law, and then that law was challenged in court. It ended up at the Supreme Court of the United States, and I argued that case in 1990s.


He won that case, the Mergens[5] case, but the battle to allow religious viewpoints in the public square continues to this day. One case the ACLJ has appealed[6] to the Supreme Court, whose courtroom contains the Ten Commandments, underscores the unresolved application of the First Amendment’s prohibition of the “establishment of religion.”

It involves a judge who had a rule of law displayed in his courtroom. It included the Ten Commandments but a lot of other documents as well, and he called it “Moral Absolutes.” The ACLU challenged it. They tried to get him held in contempt once for a previous case. We won the contempt. They then filed suit again. The court said that the ACLU individuals involved had standing and secondly (and this is what was so interesting here), that it violated the Constitution. This case is now pending, and we think the standing issue—can you simply, “I don’t like to see something, therefore I get to file a lawsuit” is what needs to be addressed. I think if the Court grants review—and I’m hopeful they will; it’s always an uphill battle—it will be because of that.


It is a battle that will continue. As long as there are organizations[7] attempting to silence public expressions of faith and politicians[8] willing to implement an incorrect interpretation of the separation of church and state, there will be people like us and organizations like the ACLJ[9] ready to fight any lawsuit, any government, or any politician, any time.

Jordan Sekulow is the Executive Director of the American Center for Law & Justice and the host of the Jordan Sekulow Show.[10] Follow him on Twitter @JordanSekulow.[11]



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Lisa White

    In Desoto County Mississippi, we are having a problem with the FFRF attacking our School District Superintendent regarding prayer before our school sponsored football games using the loud speaker system, because it was paid for with tax money.This problem is spreading thru other counties in our state and all thru the nation now. I know we need legal help with this fight. We have almost 7,000 people in 4 facebook pages joined together for our prayer rights. I’m wondering since the atheist groups have made it manditory to allow internet porn, gay rights, abortion, condoms passed out to students and other immoral disgusting things in our public schools but trying now to eliminate Bibles distributed to students, since all of this immoral behavior is against our religions, could we possibly get a court to grant any God of the Holy Bible worshipping people an exemption from public school taxes. We could use that money to start our own non=denominational school system and let the atheist use the public schools instead. In Mississippi the majority of the public school tax money is paid by God loving people. Please let me know what you think. Our facebook pages are “Desoto County 4 Prayer”, Take a Knee Desoto County, Prayer for Desoto County, and The National Day of Prayer and in those pages you will see we have a large and growing amount of people willing to fight this fight and we are not just letting this happen. Please help us, email me at Thank you and God Bless your family. Lisa White

  • http://Church&State Linda Whanger

    Why is it that whenever we hear “separation of church and state” today people tend to think that “religion” has no place in people’s lives? Actually, anyone who knows the history of the comment “wall of separation” knows that that thought was intended to have the original meaning of keeping the federal government out of religion. Isn’t there any way that an attorney can bring a person to court for doing away with our religious freedoms by arguing that the person is trying to establish a religion of atheism? I keep wondering about this, please let me know the possibilities. The religious freedom of all Americans should not be diminished by the few.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Rev. Paul Ricard

    It always boggles my mind as a Christian and as a pastor why some Christians feel they need the state to solidify their particular religion over others. As a Christian, I can pray anywhere I want, whenever I want. As a Christian, Jesus tells us, in Mt 6 to “pray in secret”. I don’t need a loudspeaker or official representatives of my religion forcing prayer on others. We prayed together in church yesterday and I then spent the rest of the day praying for this nation and all the nations of the world. If your religion requires government intervention for it not to fail, then your god is way to small!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Michelle Pirtle

    With all due respect Reverend, if you believe one word of the Bible, then you must believe every word. For the Word of God is complete and does not contradict but reinforces God’s will and commands. Everybody wants to use Matthew 6:5 as a reason to stifle prayer. But only a couple of verses down, Jesus publicly taught his disciples how to pray. Not only that, but over and over again in the gospels we read where Jesus gave thanks publicly and blessed the breaking of bread publicly. That is prayer, is it not? And Jesus prayed in front of thousands. So if we are going to use scripture to back up our “opinion”, use the entire Word, please! In acts, there were 120 praying in one accord until they received the promise of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14 & Acts 2:1). Later, Paul and Silus were praying and singing hymns in the prison and the prisoners listened (Acts 16:25). Again in Acts, Peter and John were commanded not to speak the Name of Jesus, and when the people heard, they “raised their voice with one accord” in prayer (Acts 4:24). All throughout the New Testament Paul exhorts the church to pray with one mind and one accord. The first church was not a building, it was PEOPLE. The people prayed together wherever they were. So, if we are to believe one part of the Word of God, we are to believe the entire Word of God. We cannot pick and choose what we want to solidify our own agendas. It’s God’s Word, not man’s. God does not lie, and if the Word of God is God Breathed, written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then we must adhere and believe EVERY WORD, not just the pieces that make us justified in our condemnation of others. Jesus said we must take up our cross and follow Him. That means to go AGAINST the world and be willing to be persecuted as Christ was persecuted. The sad thing is the church today only wants to be justified in their agreement with the world, not rebellion to the world. You will never know TRUE rebellion until you totally surrender to Christ and the Word of God and REBEL AGAINST THE WORLD! God bless and I pray the eyes of the church be enlightened to the ENTIRE Word of God!

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