- August 12, 2014
Last week, The Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America, representing one of the world’s largest Christian denominations, announced that Jay Sekulow will be the next recipient of their annual Athenagoras Human Rights Award. Sekulow is the chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a group that actively advocated against the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide.
According to the organization’s website, the award is given annually to a person or organization that “has consistently exemplified by action, purpose and dedication, concern for the basic rights and religious freedom of all people.” Since 1986, five Nobel Peace Prize laureates have received the award, including Mother Theresa, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter, Elie Weisel, and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.
"Perhaps the very last person I'd put on the same list as Mother Teresa and Archbishop Desmond Tutu is Jay Sekulow," said Sharon Groves, Director of the Human Right Campaign's (HRC) Religion and Faith Program "Their legacies of compassion, understanding and acceptance truly define what it means to be an advocate for justice and human rights. Jay Sekulow has dedicated much of his career to advocating against the basic freedoms, rights, and even safety of LGBT people in the United States and around the world. To honor Sekulow and his anti-LGBT bigotry with this award is not only shocking, but it contradicts the Christian commitment to protect the human dignity of all."
ACLJ’s materials are often explicitly homophobic, and their fundraising emails signed by Sekulow have warned that the homosexual agenda is “bent on destroying our communities” and “the family as we know it.” They’ve claimed that the state has a compelling interest to ban the act of homosexuality and have even advocated for writing discrimination into the constitution by securing 415,000 signed petitions in favor of a Federal Marriage Amendment. ACLJ has also fought efforts against same-sex marriage in a number of states including Washington State, New Jersey and the District of Columbia.
Furthermore, ACLJ and Sekulow have defended sodomy laws as well as the right to harass and exclude lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from fully and equally participating in society. Among other things, Sekulow was a staunch supporter of the Defense Against Marriage Act, has spoken out against school policies protecting LGBT students from harassment, and claimed that allowing openly gay Boy Scout Leaders would lead to the targeting of religious schools.
Sekulow is also active abroad, and through ACLJ’s affiliate offices in other countries, he lobbies foreign officials to “take the Christian's views into consideration as they draft legislation and policies," according to its website. In Zimbabwe, the office has worked with Dictator Robert Mugabe to keep same-sex marriage and homosexuality a criminal offense and does work in Kenya to shape laws to fit ACLJ’s vision of “family values”