Alliance Defending Freedom

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Alliance Defending Freedom
Logo of Alliance Defending Freedom
MottoFor Faith, For Justice
FormationMarch 25, 1993; 25 years ago (1993-03-25)[1]
TypeNon-profit organization
Purpose"To advocate for religious freedom to uphold justice and preserve the right of people to freely live out their faith." [2]
HeadquartersScottsdale, Arizona[2]
Chapman Cox[2]
Michael Farris[2][3]
Revenue (2014)
Expenses (2014)$42,742,612[2]
Employees (2013)
Volunteers (2013)
Formerly called
Alliance Defense Fund

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is an American conservative Christian nonprofit organization with the stated goal of advocating, training, and funding on the issues of "religious freedom, sanctity of life, and marriage and family."[4] ADF is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona and runs the Center for Academic Freedom.[5] It also has four branch offices located in Folsom, California, Washington, D.C., Lawrenceville, Georgia and New York.[6]

The organization has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center,[7] for its efforts to "recriminalize homosexuality",[8] a designation criticized by then Attorney General Jeff Sessions as politically motivated.[9] Because of its budget, caseload, and network of allied attorneys, ADF is also seen as the most organized and influential Christian legal interest group in the country.[10]

ADF has argued nine cases before the Supreme Court and won all of them.[11]


James Dobson was a co-founder of Alliance Defense Fund, the predecessor of Alliance Defending Freedom.

In the early 1990s, people from various denominations[which?] began to notice what they saw as progressive values supplanting traditional Judeo-Christian values in American society and threats to religious liberty. They viewed the American Civil Liberties Union as a major contributing factor to the erosion of values.[12][13] In response ADF was incorporated in 1993[1] by Bill Bright (founder, Campus Crusade for Christ), Larry Burkett (founder, Crown Financial Ministries), James Dobson (founder, Focus on the Family), D. James Kennedy (founder, Coral Ridge Ministries), Marlin Maddoux (president, International Christian Media), and William Pew.[14]

ADF’s first president was Alan Sears who also served as CEO and Chief Counsel.[15] Sears was the staff executive director of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, popularly known as the Meese Commission.

In 1995, ADF took its first case, Rosenberger v. University of Virginia. The landmark case was described by law professor Marci Hamilton as a "fork in the road" with respect to judicial review of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Rosenberger involved a Christian newspaper at the University of Virginia which was denied student funding. ADF provided funding and the case was heard by the Supreme Court, resulting in a victory for ADF.[16]

In 2000 Blackstone Legal Fellowship was founded with 24 participants. The nine week intense summer internship program trains law students from a traditionalist perspective.[17]

The Christmas Project was launched in 2003. The annual initiative was organized in an effort to resist what the organization called the “censorship of Christmas.” In its press release ADF singled out the American Civil Liberties Union as the chief target of the campaign.[18] By 2004, the organization had contacted 3,600 school districts to inform them that they were not required by the Constitution to have holiday celebrations inclusive of all religions.[19]

In 2005 the first Day of Truth (now called "Day of Dialogue") was held with over 1,100 students in 350 schools participating. The annual event was created as a response to what the ADF believes is a homosexual agenda.

ADF launches the Center For Academic Freedom (CAF) in 2006, with a stated goal of advocating for college students in the areas of free speech and free exercise of religion. David French is CAF's first director.[20]

2008 marked the launch of Pulpit Freedom Sunday which has been called "perhaps [ADF's] most aggressive effort." The national event encourages pastors to include political endorsements in their sermons, in defiance of Internal Revenue Service regulations.[12]

On July 9, 2012, the Alliance Defense Fund changed its name to Alliance Defending Freedom. The name change was intended to reflect the organization's shift in focus from funding allied attorneys to litigating cases.[21]

By 2014, ADF had an annual budget of $40 million and more than 40 staff attorneys, and had "emerged as the largest legal force of the religious right, arguing hundreds of pro bono cases across the country."[12] The surprise hit God's Not Dead is released. The film's producer, Russell Rolfe stated that the inspiration for the film came from Alan Sears who shared a story about a First Amendment case where a college coed's faith is challenged.[22] Over 1,800 ministers enroll in the annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday.[23]

In 2014, ADF achieved a legal victory in a case challenging the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Court ruled that the birth control mandate in employee funded health plans was unconstitutional.[24]

In 2016 Tony Abbott, the former prime minister of Australia and current Member of Parliament, gave an address to ADF regarding marriage. Abbott was an outspoken opponent of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia.[25]

In January 2017, Michael Farris became the new CEO of ADF. Farris lobbied Congress for the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, and is the founder of Patrick Henry College.[26]

The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed the organization as an anti-LGBTQ hate group[27] and described it as "virulently anti-gay".[28] The SPLC describes the group's mission as "making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities in the U.S. and internationally"; the group and its representatives have repeatedly engaged in defamation of[not in citation given] and scare tactics[not in citation given] against LGBT communities and persons in the USA.[29]

In July 2017 U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions attended ADF's Summit on Religious Liberty. Praising the group, Sessions said, “While your clients vary from pastors to nuns to geologists, all of us benefit from your good work.” LGBTQ rights groups criticized Sessions for his participation at the event. Dominic Holden wrote in BuzzFeed News that ADF's growing influence within the Federal government can be attributed to Sessions' support.[30][31][32]


Issue advocacy as a function of press releases[33]

  Religious liberty (45%)
  Pro-life (22%)
  Traditional marriage (21%)
  Not specified (12%)

ADF supports the inclusion of invocations at public meetings and the use of religious displays (such as crosses and other religious monuments) on public lands and in public buildings.[34] ADF opposes abortion, and believes that healthcare workers have a right to decline participation in the performance of abortions and other practices an individual health worker finds morally objectionable. ADF opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions, as well as adoption by same-sex couples based on their belief that children are best raised by a married mother and father. ADF believes parents should be able to opt their children out of sex education in schools that run counter to a family's religious beliefs.[34]

The international branch, ADF International, argued for European countries to be allowed to prohibit changing genders on government-issued identification documents unless the individual had gone "through a very specific medical setting, leading to genital surgery and sterilization."[35]


ADF is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization.[36] It had a budget of $9 million in 1999.[37]:84 ADF reported a total revenue of $61.9 million for the year ending June 30, 2015, and net assets of $39.9 million.[38]

Donors include the Covenant Foundation, the Bolthouse Foundation,[39] the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation,[16][37]:84, 255 the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, the Bradley Foundation,[40][41] The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, one of largest charities in the Pacific Northwest, donated nearly $1 million to ADF from 2007 to 2016.[42]

Blackstone Legal Fellowship[edit]

Sir William Blackstone in 1774

Blackstone Legal Fellowship is a highly competitive, nine week intensive summer legal training program. Notable faculty have included U. S. Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett. It was founded in 2000 for the purpose of preparing Christian law students for professional legal careers. The first class comprised 24 interns.[17] Since its inception Blackstone has trained more than 1,900 Christian law students.[43] In an interview, ADF co-founder Alan Sears said in 2000 Blackstone was created in response to his observation, "There’s got to be a better way for law students in America and for young lawyers than we currently have."[44] The program is made up of interns, called Fellows, from a diverse selection of law schools as well as elite institutions such as Harvard and Yale.[17] The program is named for Sir William Blackstone, the famed eighteenth century English legal scholar and jurist who wrote about the supremacy of God's law which had a profound impact on the Founding Fathers of the United States.[44]

In 2012, Sears was asked about the major achievements of ADF. He said "among the things I am most thankful for are our Blackstone Legal Fellowship graduates."[44]

In 2017 President Donald Trump's nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Amy Coney Barrett, was criticized by Senator Al Franken for teaching constitutional law at Blackstone. In her Senate committee hearing he referred to ADF as a "hate group." Barrett responded that the hate group label is "controversial." Barrett was confirmed to the court by a 55-43 vote in the Senate.[45]

Day of Truth[edit]

The Alliance Defending Freedom states that it established the Day of Truth[46] "to counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective."[47] The Day of Truth is held annually following the Day of Silence, which is organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

ADF claims that students who have attempted to speak against same-sex relationships and behavior have been censored or, in some cases, punished for their actions under campus hate-speech rules, such as Chase Harper, a high school student whose activism sparked the first Day of Truth. Harper was suspended for wearing a T-shirt that read "Be Ashamed" and "Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned," and on the back read, "Homosexuality is Shameful" and "Romans 1:27." ADF filed an unsuccessful federal lawsuit against school officials on behalf of Harper, claiming his religious freedoms were violated. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court.[48][49][50]

The Day of Truth was first organized in 2005. According to ADF, over 1,100 students in 350 schools participated in the first Day of Truth.[51]

ADF announced that beginning in 2009, it had passed on its leadership role in the Day of Truth to an ex-gay organization, Exodus International,[52] who has prepared the resources for the event.[53] On October 6, Exodus International stated they will no longer be supporting or leading the Day of Truth.[54]

On November 11, 2010, evangelical Christian organization Focus on the Family announced it had acquired the Day of Truth event and was renaming it to the Day of Dialogue.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday[edit]

Pulpit Freedom Sunday in 2011

Pulpit Freedom Sunday is ADFs initiative designed to challenge the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits non-profit organizations including churches, from endorsing political candidates. According to the New York Times, ADF's campaign has become "perhaps its most aggressive effort."[12] In 2008 the program was launched with 35 churches participating—including several mega-churches. In an act of civil disobedience pastors include endorsements for political candidates in their sermons in defiance of Internal Revenue Service regulations and in hopes of triggering a court challenge based on First Amendment grounds. The inaugural 2008 event included Minnesota reverend Gus Booth who encouraged his congregation to vote for Senator McCain and had prohibited them from voting for Senator Obama because he supported US law on abortion rights.[55]

By 2014 participation in the event had grown to over 1,800 pastors. That brought total participation since 2008 to more than 3,800 pastors. At the same time the IRS indicated that it would ramp up enforcement of the prohibition against candidate endorsement at churches.[56]

In 2017 the Free Speech Fairness Act was introduced in the United States House of Representatives. The legislation proposes to permit political speech in churches. ADF supports passage of the bill.[57]

Notable cases[edit]

The ADF has been involved in several landmark United States Supreme Court cases, including Rosenberger v. University of Virginia, Good News Club v. Milford Central School and Town of Greece v. Galloway. Rosenberger was the ADF's first landmark case, described by law professor Marci Hamilton as a "fork in the road" with respect to judicial review of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.[16] Good News Club and Town of Greece established important precedents relating to Free Speech and the Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment respectively. But its most notable legal victory involved a 2014 case challenging the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Court ruled that the birth control mandate in employee funded health plans when the company is "closely-held" was unconstitutional. The case set a precedent for evaluating legal questions relating to religious liberty.[24] As of July 2018 the ADF has argued 9 cases before the Supreme Court in less than a decade and won all of them.[58]


Stephanie Ann Gray

The following is a list of people who are currently or have been affiliated with ADF.

See also[edit]

Legal groups

Related legislation


  1. ^ a b "Alliance Defending Freedom". Business Entity Details. State Corporation Commission. Commonwealth of Virginia. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". Alliance Defending Freedom. Guidestar. June 30, 2014.
  3. ^ "ADF Names New CEO". Alliance Defending Freedom. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  4. ^ "Who We Are". ADF. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  5. ^ ADF Center for Academic Freedom - Faith has a Voice
  6. ^ "International Overview". Alliance Defending Freedom. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  7. ^ "Alliance Defending Freedom | Southern Poverty Law Center". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  8. ^ "Alliance Defending Freedom". Southern Poverty Legal Center. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  9. ^ "Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks at the Alliance Defending Freedom's Summit on Religious Liberty". Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  10. ^ Bennett, Daniel (2017). Defending Faith: The Politics of the Christian Conservative Legal Movement. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0700624607.
  11. ^ "Inside the Christian legal powerhouse that keeps winning at the Supreme Court". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-10-26.
  12. ^ a b c d Eric, Eckhholm (11 May 2014). "Legal Alliance Gains Host of Court Victories for Conservative Christian Movement". New York Times. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  13. ^ McFeely, Tom (January 18, 2012). "Alliance Defense Fund's Chief Convert" [interview with Alan Sears]. National Catholic Register. Retrieved 2017-10-14. Referring to Ron Rosenberger and his volunteer lawyer, Alan Sears explains that ADF "raised money, and ... funded the petition for certiorari that asked the United States Supreme Court to hear their case" and that later it "funded the costs of the case and a number of amicus briefs."
  14. ^ [1], With Gratitude, for the Giants Whose Shoulders ADF Stands On
  15. ^ "ADF Names New CEO - Alliance Defending Freedom". Retrieved 2017-01-11.
  16. ^ a b c Posner, Sarah. "The Legal Muscle Leading the Fight to End the Separation of Church and State Archived August 31, 2007, at the Wayback Machine." April 1, 2007, Washington Spectator Online
  17. ^ a b c Dexter, Duggan (16 Feb 2014). "How tomorrow's legal activists start the journey with a trip to Arizona". Arizona Daily Independent. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  18. ^ "Alliance Defense Fund Announces Plan to Fight Censorship of Christmas". Alliance Defending Freedom. 20 Oct 2003. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  19. ^ "ADF Launches 'Christmas Project' to Protect Right to Religious Expression". The Christian Post. 29 Nov 2004. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  20. ^ "About CAF". Alliance Defense Fund. 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-02-19. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  21. ^ "Alliance Defense Fund now Alliance Defending Freedom" (Press release). Alliance Defending Freedom. 2012-07-09.
  22. ^ Hallowell, Billy (25 Mar 2014). "'God's Not Dead' Producer Answers Critics Who Say Film Is Too Over the Top". The Blaze. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  23. ^ Anugrah, Kumar (11 Oct 2014). "Over 1,800 Pastors Take Part in Pulpit Freedom Sunday". The Christian Post. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  24. ^ a b Allison, Sherry (December 5, 2017). "Who Is The Alliance Defending Freedom, The Legal Team Behind Masterpiece Cakeshop?". Colorado Public Radio. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  25. ^ Doran, Matthew; Roscoe Whalan (25 Jan 2016). "Tony Abbott to address US conservative Christian lobby group on marriage views". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  26. ^ "ADF Names New CEO - Alliance Defending Freedom". Retrieved 2017-01-11.
  27. ^ "Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Address Anti-LGBT Hate Group in Closed-Door Event". Southern Poverty Law Center. July 11, 2017.
  28. ^ See:
  29. ^ O'Hara, Mary Emily (April 8, 2017). "This Law Firm Is Linked to Anti-Transgender Bathroom Bills Across the Country". NBC. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  30. ^ Freedom, Religious (2017-07-13). "Sessions: Faith Inspired MLK Jr. To March For Civil Rights". The Federalist. Retrieved 2017-08-11.
  31. ^ CNN, Laura Jarrett. "Sessions reveals in closed-door speech new protections for religious liberty on the way". CNN. Retrieved 2017-08-11.
  32. ^ Holden, Dominic (4 Dec 2017). "How This Anti-Trump Evangelical Is Quietly Taking Advantage of The Trump Presidency". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  33. ^ Bennett, Daniel (19 Sep 2017). "Masterpiece Cakeshop: Meet the Christian Legal Group Behind the High-Profile Court Case". Religion & Politics. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  34. ^ a b Gizzi, John (2009). "Alliance Defense Fund Promotes Religious Freedom". Human Events. 65 (28): 21.
  35. ^ Amend, Alex (2017-07-27). "Anti-LGBT Hate Group Alliance Defending Freedom Defended State-Enforced Sterilization for Transgender Europeans". SPLC. Retrieved 2017-11-26.
  36. ^ "Alliance Defending Freedom". Exempt Organization Select Check. Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  37. ^ a b Stewart, Katherine (2011). The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children. PublicAffairs. ISBN 978-1586488437.
  38. ^ "Alliancer Defending Freedom Comparative Assets". Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  39. ^ "The Bolthouse Foundation". The Bolthouse Foundation. 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  40. ^ "Affirmation of Faith". Bolthouse Foundation. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  41. ^ Curtis, Polly; Quinn, Ben (2 September 2011). "Abortion debate: Dorries campaign urged to reveal how it is funded". BBC. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  42. ^ "A Vancouver Charity is Funding a Group Backing North Carolina's Anti-Transgender "Bathroom Bill"". Willamette Week. Archived from the original on 13 April 2016. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  43. ^ "Blackstone Legal Fellowship". Alliance Defending Freedom. 2018. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  44. ^ a b c McFeely, Tom (January 18, 2012). "Alliance Defense Fund's Chief Convert". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 4-Feb-2018.
  45. ^ a b McIntire, Ken (12 Sep 2017). "Religious Freedom Advocates Rebuke Al Franken for 'Hate Group' Slur". The Daily Signal. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  46. ^ Day of Truth Participant Manual Web site
  47. ^ "Day of Dialogue | Join the Dialogue". 2012-02-27. Archived from the original on 2009-04-11. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  48. ^ "'Day of Truth' provides response to homosexual-themed day". Baptist Press. 2005-03-29. Archived from the original on 2013-09-27. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  49. ^ ADF attorneys seek justice for high school student silenced on Day of Truth, Alliance Defense Fund
  50. ^ "T-Shirt Wars". Box Turtle Bulletin. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  51. ^ Day of Truth participation statistics Archived 2008-06-26 at the Wayback Machine., Day of Truth website
  52. ^ "Hostile Questions". Day of Truth. 2012-02-27. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  53. ^ Homosexuality FAQ Sheet[permanent dead link], Day of Truth website
  54. ^ ": Day of Truth Support Pulled". Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  55. ^ Lampman, Jane (26 Sep 2008). "Pulpit politics: Pastors to defy IRS". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  56. ^ Kumar, Anugrah (11 Oct 2014). "Over 1,800 Pastors Take Part in Pulpit Freedom Sunday". The Christian Post. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  57. ^ "Free speech fairness language clears House as part of tax bill". Alliance Defending Freedom. 16 Nov 2017. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  58. ^ Contrera, Jessica (4 July 2018). "Inside the Christian legal powerhouse that keeps winning at the Supreme Court". Washington Post. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  59. ^ a b c d e f g "Blackstone Legal Fellowship". Alliance Defending Freedom. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  60. ^ a b c "Leadership". Alliance Defending Freedom. 2018. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  61. ^ Ross, Janell (1 Jun 2016). "Who, exactly, is David French, the 'Never Trump' white knight candidate?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  62. ^ Lane, Emily (15 May 2015). "Religious freedom bill sponsor Rep. Mike Johnson: Superman for Louisiana's religious right?". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  63. ^ Broach, Drew (19 Jan 2018). "Kyle Duncan, Michael Juneau backed in 11-10 votes to be federal judges in Louisiana". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  64. ^ Knight, Robert (22 Oct 2016). "A Mountaintop Victory Over the ACLU". American Thinker. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  65. ^ "Meet Alan". Alan Seabrough State Representative. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  66. ^ Bierschbach, Briana (10 Jan 2018). "The campaign to become Minnesota's next attorney general is crowded, intense — and very much under the radar". MinnPost. Retrieved 2 February 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bennett, Daniel (2017). Defending Faith: The Politics of the Christian Conservative Legal Movement. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0700624607.
  • Budziszewski, J. (2006). Natural Law For Lawyers. ACW Press and The Blackstone Legal Fellowship. ISBN 978-1932124798.
  • Sears, Alan; Craig Osten (2005). The ACLU vs. America: Exposing the Agenda to Redefine Moral Values. B&H Books. ISBN 978-0-8054-4045-4.
  • Sears, Alan; Craig Osten (2003). The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today. B&H Books. ISBN 978-0-8054-2698-4.

External links[edit]