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Monday, Feb 26, 2024
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Opinion: Jay Sekulow should be allowed to speak at Founder’s Day

Founders’ Day is planned for Feb. 5 in Willingham Hall at 10 a.m. Archived photo by Katie Atkinson
Founders’ Day is planned for Feb. 5 in Willingham Hall at 10 a.m. Archived photo by Katie Atkinson

Let me begin by stating that I find the political philosophy of Jay Sekulow repugnant, and his disdain for the LGBT community, Muslims and undocumented immigrants is directly contrary to my values as a liberal. I strongly believe that all people, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and legal status have a positive role to play in my country and contribute to its success as a nation. As a liberal holding these values, however, I believe that Jay Sekulow must be allowed to speak.

Part of Mercer University’s mission is “to enrich the mind and spirit by promoting and facilitating an open and rigorous search for truth and understanding.” To accomplish this mission, students have an obligation to question everything, their classmates, their professors, their community, their society and their nation, but most importantly, students must question themselves. If students do not find their worldview challenged every day while at Mercer, then this institution has failed them.

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There are some who assume offhandedly that challenging our views necessarily implies a weakening of them, but this could not be further from the truth. In challenging my ideas about politics and society, I believe that I have  strengthened my opinions and learned new ways of responding to such challenges. And of course, some evolution of my opinions is inevitable.

In my conversations with students on campus concerning Sekulow, there seems to be a common refrain: Jay Sekulow’s unabashed homophobia and discriminatory views, as demonstrated by an article from the Advocate, make him ineligible to represent Mercer University at Founders’ Day. This assertion is inherently flawed.

First, this argument reduces Sekulow to his opinions alone and completely ignores him as a person. Second, its proponents forget that Jay Sekulow is a product of this university, where he earned both his Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctorate. His other achievements post-Mercer aside, his résumé will always read “graduate of Mercer University,” and as a graduate, he represents Mercer every day in his career.

Third, this institution is not committed to producing students that embrace every plank of the liberal platform. Rather, students ought to leave Mercer prepared to handle the challenges of everyday life and armed with the knowledge and skills to be successful. No one can deny that Jay Sekulow meets this description, for he has risen to the upper echelons of the US legal system and argued twelve separate cases before the Supreme Court. I may disagree with his motivations and agenda, but I cannot say that Sekulow is not a successful graduate.

When all is said and done, Founders’ Day is an apolitical event, and Jay Sekulow will not be giving a political speech. I firmly believe that there is much that I can learn from his experience at Mercer University and subsequent success in the legal system. Moreover, I hope that Mercer students will have the maturity to distinguish between the person and the personal views of Jay Sekulow and welcome him back to our campus.

Founders’ Day 2018 offers an extraordinary chance for constructive discussion about crucial issues on campus, and I am optimistic that my liberal peers will engage with more speech and counter-arguments rather than with censorship.


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