Jeb Bush’s Right to Rise PAC has hired an evangelical Christian legal advocate, Jordan Sekulow, as a senior adviser. The move could be crucial step in Bush’s outreach to the religious right as he tries to win over dubious voters in the conservative grassroots ahead of the 2016 GOP presidential primary.
Sekulow is the Executive Director of the conservative legal advocacy group American Center for Law & Justice. The group was founded by televangelist turned university president Pat Robertson in 1990 as a conservative alternative to the American Civil Liberties Union.
In the U.S., the ACLJ has advocated to protect the rights of Christian groups engaged in proselytizing and anti-abortion activism. Internationally, the group has worked to lobby foreign governments to adopt Christian values in their legal systems, which in some cases has meant promoting the criminalization of homosexuality.
News of Sekulow’s role was first reported by the Christian Broadcasting Network, for which Robertson serves as chairman. Robertson also co-founded the Christian Coalition and was closely affiliated with the Moral Majority movement established by fellow Southern Baptist leader Jerry Falwell.
Sekulow, 32, publicized his new role with Bush in a statement on Friday, when he explained that he will “begin a conversation with conservatives” to tout Bush’s “pro-life, pro-family, tax-cutting record.”
“Bush knows how to take bold conservative ideas and put them into action,” Sekulow insisted.
Bush, who converted to Catholicism in the nineties, has tried to dodge criticism that he isn’t conservative enough to woo far right voters. Many in the conservative base are sceptical of his sympathetic views on immigration and support for President Obama’s Common Core education standards. Furthermore, several aides who have been hired by Bush ahead of his potential presidential bid are supporters of gay rights. This has led to speculation Bush might also adopt a relatively progressive position on the issue.
Meanwhile, the religious base of the party is being aggressively courted by the likes of former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania), former Arkansas Gov. Mick Huckabee (R), and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who tout their personal faith as part of their hardline conservative views.
In a leaked memo from a top Bush adviser in January, Bush supporters were encouraged to highlight Bush’s faith in order to build support for his expected presidential campaign.
The memo quotes Bush sharing the spiritual story how his “faith was strengthened when I converted to my wife’s faith.”
“It gives me a serenity that, in a world of a lot of turbulence, is really important. It creates a moral architecture that simplifies things. There are views that I have, that are grounded in faith, that really aren’t negotiable and it just simplifies things.”
Sekulow, who had also worked for the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, did not respond to a request for comment on details of his new role at Right to Rise.
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