Last updated July 23, 2018
IMPACT: The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) is an anti-Muslim law firm that engages in what it describes as “lawfare” against Muslim advocacy and civil rights organizations. AFLC regularly represents anti-Muslim clients, such as the American Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop the Islamisation of America, and AFLC’s co-founder serves as general counsel for the Center for Security Policy.
In January 2012, David Yerushalmi and Robert Muise co-founded the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC). Muise, an orthodox Catholic from Michigan, and Yerushalmi, described by the New York Times as a Hasidic Jew who has lived in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, describe their organization as “the nation’s first truly authentic Judeo-Christian public interest law firm.”
The AFLC describes “the Nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage” as facing an internal threat from “secular progressives and sharia-advocating Muslim Brotherhood interests.” AFLC seeks to engage in “lawfare” against this “internal threat,” as well as “civilization jihad,” through “litigation, education and public policy programs.”
David Yerushalmi, co-president, and co-chairman of the AFLC, is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as the “father of the anti-Sharia movement.” He also founded the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE), identified by the SPLC as an “anti-Muslim organization devoted to promoting his theory that Islam is inherently seditious.”
In 2010, Yerushalmi drafted “American Laws for American Courts” (ALAC), which has served as the model for “the enactment of 18 anti-Muslim laws in states in the US between 2010 and 2016,” according to a 2017 report released by the Haas Institute at UC Berkeley.
Robert Muise, co-president and co-chairman of the AFLC, has practiced as a constitutional law attorney since 2000, focusing on “pro-life,” freedom of speech, and anti-Muslim cases. Before co-founding the AFLC, Muise was Senior Trial Counsel at the Thomas More Law Center. While at the Thomas More Law Center, in 2011, Muise defended Florida Pastor Terry Jones, notorious for multiple Quran burnings, in a freedom of speech case concerning an anti-sharia protest outside of a Dearborn mosque.
In an interview on an episode of “The Choices We Face” by Renewal Ministries, published in August 2016, Muise described his work at the AFLC as “evangelizing,” stating: “That’s evangelizing. I try to do that through the court cases.”
In their work together at the AFLC, Muise and Yerushalmi have defended numerous anti-Muslim clients in cases involving transportation advertisements (here, here, here, here, here and here), an anti-mosque case, two “Muslim-free” gun ranges, a restaurant and “sharia compliant” insurance. AFLC has defended anti-Muslim individuals and organizations including Pamela Geller and her organizations the American Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop the Islamisation of America, as well as the Center for Security Policy.
In 2015, Yerushalmi and Muise co-authored a monograph, published by the SPLC-designated anti-Muslim hate group, the Center for Security Policy, titled Offensive and Defensive Lawfare: Fighting Civilization Jihad in America’s Courts. Yerushalmi and Muise claim that this publication “illuminates the civilization jihadists’ lawfare against America – and how it can be fought.”
Several anti-Muslim individuals serve on the AFLC’s Advisory Board, including the President of the Center for Security Policy, Frank Gaffney; contributing editor to the National Review, Andrew McCarthy; former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, who supported an ALAC-modeled ban on “sharia law” in Oklahoma; former Inspector General for the Department of Defense Joseph Schmitz, and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
In August 2017, the AFLC filed an amicus curiae brief at the U.S. Supreme Court in support of President Trump’s Muslim Ban, arguing that the Muslim Ban is “constitutional” and an “interim step to extreme vetting for Islamist sharia ideology.” They filed this brief on behalf of several SPLC-designated anti-Muslim figures, including Andrew McCarthy, Frank Gaffney, Dr. Robert J. Shillman, William G. Boykin.
The AFLC leadership is deeply connected to the Center for Security Policy (CSP). CSP president Frank Gaffney and CSP Senior Fellow Joseph Schmitz serve as Advisory Board members to the AFLC, and AFLC’s co-founder, Yerushalmi, has served as the General Counsel to the CSP.
At AFLC’s 2015 Freedom Fighter award dinner Advisory Board member Andrew McCarthy and Gaffney both received awards for their work with the CSP. In his speech presenting the Freedom Fighter Award to Gaffney, Yerushalmi said, “The Center for Security Policy became my model [for the AFLC].” Later in this speech he explained the foundational relationship between the AFLC and the CSP, stating: “Of course when I came to Frank and said we would like to establish the American Freedom Law Center, essentially as an adjunct, the legal tip of the sphere to the Center for Security Policy, the Center for Security Policy wrote a check for $400,000 as a foundational grant which enabled us to launch the organization.”
The AFLC is a registered 501(c)(3) organization, with an operating budget of over one million dollars, that “is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations.” Although the AFLC represents its clients pro-bono, Muise has earned a total executive compensation of over $900k since its founding.
In addition to a $400,000 foundational grant, the AFLC also received $150,000 from the CSP in 2016. The AFLC has previously received funding from other anti-Muslim funders including the MZ Foundation, the Abstraction Fund, the Alan Hope and Winters Family Foundation, and the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which was founded by Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller.