Other Group

Alliance Defending Freedom

Website:

www.adflegal.org/

Location:

Scottsdale, AZ

President:

Michael P. Farris

Type:

Legal Advocacy

Formation:

1994

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a right-of-center Christian litigation and advocacy organization. ADF represents clients on issues like protections for religious exercise, Christian understandings of marriage and sexuality, freedom of expression, and Title IX. The Alliance Defending Freedom claims over 400 court victories for freedom of speech of college students and 11 Supreme Court wins since 2011. [1]

Critics have alleged that the Trump administration collaborated with ADF on policy and on nominees for judicial and administrative positions, including the initial elevation to a federal lower-court judgeship of now-Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. [2] Other left-of-center critics, most notably the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), claim ADF’s opposition to legal recognition of same-sex marriage is camouflage for an anti-gay prejudice. [3] SPLC labeled ADF a “Hate Group” for its alleged bias against LGBT people. [4]

Background

A number of conservative Christian advocates, most prominently Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, and James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, formed the Alliance Defending Freedom under the name Alliance Defense Fund in 1994. Activists hoped to counter the legal success of left-progressive organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which had won court decisions to further secularist agendas including eliminating prayer in public schools. ADF grew to become the largest legal group representing the so-called religious right. In 2014, the New York Times characterized Alliance Defending Freedom as successful in “wielding constitutional arguments without invoking religion.” [5]

In 2000, the Alliance Defending Freedom created the Blackstone Legal Fellowship that awards internships to law students. The Fellowship has fostered over 1,600 internships in over 300 organizations. [6]

Since its inception, the Alliance Defending Freedom claims to have played a role in 60 U.S. Supreme Court victories, claims to have an overall win rate of 80%, boasts of a network of over 3,700 allied attorneys and 300 allied organizations, and says it has contributed $225 million in pro bono hours and $52 million in case funding. [7]

Prominent Lawsuits

Wedding Services

The Alliance Defending Freedom represented baker Jack Phillips in arguing that making a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple’s wedding celebration would violate his religious beliefs. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. [8]

School Transgender Policies

ADF is representing female athletes opposed to Connecticut and Idaho policies allowing persons born male who identify as female to participate in athletic competitions against athletes born female. It argues the policies deprive the girls of athletic opportunities in violation of Title IX. [9]

The Alliance Defending Freedom challenged the U.S. Department of Education in two cases for requiring schools to allow students who identify with a sex other than that as which they were born into restrooms, locker rooms, showers, and overnight accommodations of their sex of identification. The policy was a product of the Obama Administration where students could choose their own gender and facilities. School noncompliance meant forfeiting funding for programs like special education and lunches for those in need. In 2017, the DOE revoked the Obama-era rules. [10]

Obamacare

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandated that businesses pay for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs as part of insurance coverage for employees or face crippling fines under the Obamacare law. ADF represented the Hahn Family and Conestoga Woods Specialties against Sylvia Burwell, the Obama administration’s Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Supreme Court accepted the case and it was argued in parallel with Hobby Lobby Stores v Burwell, due similar facts. [11] It ruled that owners of closely held corporations do not have to violate their religious beliefs to run a business. [12]

Covid-19 Shutdowns

In Nevada, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) permitted businesses like casinos, theme parks, gyms, restaurants, and bars to re-open amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he continued to restrict churches with threats of civil and criminal penalties if they allowed more than 50 attendees. ADF represented Calvary Chapel’s challenge to the order and secured a ruling in the Chapel’s favor before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December 2020. [13]

Critics of Alliance Defending Freedom have focused on the group’s support for a traditionalist Christian understanding of sexuality, charging the group is anti-gay and anti-transgender for opposing social liberal policies activists assert are in those groups’ interests. [14]

Alan Sears

The founding CEO of ADF was Alan Sears, who drew criticism for his 2003 book, The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today. The New York Times described it as portraying “harsh views,” alleging that social-liberal LGBT-interest advocacy would create “broken families and broken lives,” and that gay people were “trapped.” [15]

SPLC “Hate Group” Designation

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a controversial left-wing watchdog of supposed extremist groups, designated Alliance Defending Freedom as a “hate group” for its social-conservative and traditionalist Christian positions on sexuality and related issues. [16] by initiated numerous attacks on the group. While ADF has denounced the label as “baseless slander,” left-leaning organizations and major corporations have relied on the list, with Amazon excluding ADF from its charitable giving program, AmazonSmile. [17] Then-U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) used SPLC’s designation to compare the ADF to the notorious Cambodian dictator Pol Pot while questioning Amy Coney Barrett about her connections to ADF. [18] Metropolitan-liberal media outlets including NBC, ABC, CNN, and Teen Vogue have also spread the SPLC’s branding of ADF. [19]

U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-OK) defended ADF with a letter of concern to ABC News. Lankford said that ABC, an advocate of free speech, should not label ADF as a “hate group” due its belief in traditional marriage and religious liberty. Lankford claimed SPLC’s designations lack legal and factual basis. [20] ADF has claimed the allegation led to the need for security for their attorneys, employees suffering public verbal attacks, and a refusal by Microsoft for nonprofit pricing. [21]

References

  1. Tedesco, Jeremy. “Amazon’s Banner Year Means It’s Time To Stop Limiting Its Customers’ Charitable Choices.” The Daily Wire. The Daily Wire, January 11, 2021. https://www.dailywire.com/news/amazons-banner-year-means-its-time-to-stop-limiting-its-customers-charitable-choices. ^
  2. Posner, Sarah. “The Christian Legal Army Behind ‘Masterpiece Cakeshop’.” The Nation, December 11, 2017. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/the-christian-legal-army-behind-masterpiece-cakeshop/. ^
  3. Eckholm, Erik. “Legal Alliance Gains Host of Court Victories for Conservative Christian Movement.” The New York Times. The New York Times, May 12, 2014. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/12/us/legal-alliance-gains-host-of-court-victories-for-conservative-christian-movement.html. ^
  4. “Alliance Defending Freedom.” Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed January 23, 2021. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/alliance-defending-freedom. ^
  5. Eckholm, Erik. “Legal Alliance Gains Host of Court Victories for Conservative Christian Movement.” The New York Times. The New York Times, May 12, 2014. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/12/us/legal-alliance-gains-host-of-court-victories-for-conservative-christian-movement.html. ^
  6. “Blackstone Fellowship FAQ’s.” Blackstone Legal Fellowship. Accessed January 23, 2021. http://www.blackstonelegalfellowship.org/?page_id=1993. ^
  7. About Us | Alliance Defending Freedom. Accessed January 23, 2021. https://www.adflegal.org/about-us. ^
  8. Crowe, Jack. “SCOTUS Rules in Favor of Baker Who Refused to Make LGBT-Wedding Cake.” National Review. National Review, June 4, 2018. https://www.nationalreview.com/news/masterpiece-cakeshop-religious-liberty-wins-landslide/. ^
  9. “Search.” ADF. Accessed January 23, 2021. https://www.adflegal.org/search?search_term=title%2BIX&type=case. ^
  10. Kramer, Sarah. “Two Important Victories in the Fight for Student Privacy.” Alliance Defending Freedom. Alliance Defending Freedom, October 17, 2017. https://www.adflegal.org/blog/two-important-victories-fight-student-privacy. ^
  11. “Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell.” Alliance Defending Freedom. Accessed January 26, 2021. https://www.adflegal.org/case/conestoga-wood-specialties-v-burwell. ^
  12. Raman, Sandhya. “Legal Challenges Are Threatening Trump Administration Changes to the ACA.” Roll Call, April 1, 2019. https://www.rollcall.com/2019/04/01/legal-challenges-are-threatening-trump-administration-changes-to-the-aca/. ^
  13. Kramer, Sarah. “Great News! 9th Circuit Rules in Favor of Nevada Churches.” Alliance Defending Freedom, December 16, 2020. https://www.adflegal.org/blog/great-news-9th-circuit-rules-favor-nevada-churches.    ^
  14. Tedesco, Jeremy. “Jeremy Tedesco: Southern Poverty Law Center Wrongly Targets Conservative Groups – like Mine.” Fox News. FOX News Network, March 29, 2019. https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/jeremy-tedesco-southern-poverty-law-center-wrongly-targets-conservative-groups-like-mine. ^
  15. Eckholm, Erik. “Legal Alliance Gains Host of Court Victories for Conservative Christian Movement.” The New York Times. The New York Times, May 12, 2014. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/12/us/legal-alliance-gains-host-of-court-victories-for-conservative-christian-movement.html. ^
  16. French, David. “Media Beware: The Southern Poverty Law Center Has Become a Dangerous Joke.” National Review. National Review, May 9, 2018. https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/07/splc-dangerous-lies-alliance-defending-freedom-no-hate-group/. ^
  17. Tedesco, Jeremy. “Amazon’s Banner Year Means It’s Time To Stop Limiting Its Customers’ Charitable Choices.” The Daily Wire. The Daily Wire, January 11, 2021. https://www.dailywire.com/news/amazons-banner-year-means-its-time-to-stop-limiting-its-customers-charitable-choices. ^
  18. Harsanyi, David. “Democrats Are Increasingly Comfortable With Religious Tests.” Reason.com. Reason, September 8, 2017. https://reason.com/2017/09/08/democrats-are-increasingly-comfortable-w/. ^
  19. Weaver, Corrine. “ABC, NBC under Fire after Smearing Christian Organization as a ‘Hate Group.’” Fox News. FOX News Network, September 27, 2017. https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/abc-nbc-under-fire-after-smearing-christian-organization-as-a-hate-group. ^
  20. Brown, Lauretta. “Sen. Lankford Confronts ABC Over Calling Alliance Defending Freedom a ‘Hate Group’.” Townhall. Townhall.com, July 31, 2017. https://townhall.com/tipsheet/laurettabrown/2017/07/31/sen-lankford-confronts-abc-over-calling-alliance-defending-freedom-a-hate-group-n2362615. ^
  21. Tedesco, Jeremy. “Jeremy Tedesco: Southern Poverty Law Center Wrongly Targets Conservative Groups – like Mine.” Fox News. FOX News Network, March 29, 2019. https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/jeremy-tedesco-southern-poverty-law-center-wrongly-targets-conservative-groups-like-mine. ^
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Alliance Defending Freedom


Scottsdale, AZ