May 26, 2017

Gordon grad serving as top lawyer to speaker of U.S. House to speak on campus Oct. 5

 

By Madeline Linnell, Managing Editor

Gordon alumnus Mark Epley is the General Counsel for the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and he is coming to Jenks’ Gregory Auditorium this Wednesday at 6 p.m. His job description is a rather long one.

“As Senior Advisor to the Speaker, I advise on all matters, but my specialty is legal issues,” Epley told the Tartan. Such legal queries encapsulate both prosecuting and defending cases.

For example, the speaker is a defendant in a lawsuit that was brought by the non-profit Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). Epley told a Tartan reporter the organization had asked the House Chaplain to invite its representative to provide a secular invocation to the House, but the Chaplain declined. So FFRF decided to sue the Chaplain and the Speaker, leaving Epley the job of advising Ryan on how to navigate through the situation.

Not only does Epley make recommendations or handle litigation, but he also serves as the Oversight Director. He oversees the Congressional duty of oversight — the need to ensure that written “laws have their intended effect.” Epley supervises this process. He also advises on ethics and other specific subjects like religious freedom and liberty.

Epley said he is “very grateful for my time at Gordon.”

If there was something in particular Epley learned while being a Fighting Scot, he said, it was how to write and think. Writing effectively is  “an undervalued skill that allowed me to distinguish myself,” Epley said.

The second skill he gained was critical thinking. “I have the honor and privilege to work with high-powered people in the United States. They are so smart, they can do anything; but many of them have uncritical views on what they believe and why they believe it.”

The ability to explain one’s worldview — to really poke at it and tease it out — is a “huge, huge good thing,” Epley said.

Though Epley experienced challenges working or studying within a Christian environment, he found his professors to be highly sympathetic and they helped him get through it. But his personal beliefs do not determine his professional dealings. “I am not a big fan of civic religion,” Epley said. “I am an agent. All the power I have is to serve my boss.” Indeed, he finds it a “high honor to work with the Speaker of the House, especially this one, with his character.”

While Epley cannot exercise his personal beliefs in his functions as General Counsel, Epley said, he encourages Christians to take advantage of their religious liberty and “go to the Public Square and say and do things that have a material effect that I can’t have.”

Epley is speaking as part of Gordon’s Conversations with the President series.

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