List of court cases involving Alliance Defending Freedom

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Pro-life and pro-choice activists demonstrate on the steps of the United States Supreme Court building during Gonzales v. Carhart.

Alliance Defending Freedom (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 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.[1] 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 was unconstitutional. The case set a precedent for evaluating legal questions relating to religious liberty.[2] Since 2015, ADF has played a role in five victories at the Supreme Court.[2]

ADF was founded in 1993 with the stated goal of advocating, training, and funding legal cases on the issues of "religious freedom, sanctity of life, and marriage and family."[3] In 2012 the organization shifted its mission of funding allied attorneys to direct representation of clients though litigation.[4] ADF has been described as "the largest legal force of the religious right arguing hundreds of pro bono cases across the country.[5]

List of cases[edit]

Following are legal cases in which the ADF has played a significant role, either by representing a party, filing an amicus brief, or otherwise participating in a substantial manner:


  • Rosenberger v. University of Virginia (1995). ADF provided funding to defend a student newspaper which was denied university funding due to its religious nature. The case was litigated all the way to the Supreme Court.[6]



  • City of Littleton (CO) v. Z.J. Gifts (2004). The Supreme Court ruled unanimously against an adult bookstore in a case involving business licensing.[8][9]
  • Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow (2004). The Supreme Court, in an unanimous opinion, held that the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance did not violate the First Amendment.[10]
  • Williams v. Vidmar (2004). In November 2004, the ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Cupertino, California elementary school teacher against his school principal and school board members.[11] The lawsuit was settled without money changing hands and without changes in school policies.[12]
  • Perry v. Schwarzenegger. ADF represented Proposition 8 proponents in the Federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the proposition, which limited marriage in California to one man and one woman.[13] Their participation generated some criticism. The religious rights law firm Liberty Counsel, which has litigated opposition to same-sex marriage in California since 2004, criticized Alliance Defense Fund's handling of the case.[14]




  • Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York (2012). The ADF lost this case challenging New York City's prohibition on holding worship services in the City's public schools, and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.[5]



  • Reed v. Town of Gilbert (2015). In a First Amendment case, a pastor's right to place signs announcing church services was upheld by the Supreme Court.[33][34][35]
  • Holt v. Hobbs. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, held that an Arkansas prison policy which prevented a Muslim inmate from growing a short beard according to his deeply held religious beliefs was unconstitutional.[36]


  • Zubik v. Burwell. Two ADF cases, Geneva College v. Burwell and Southern Nazarene University v. Burwell were consolidated into Zubic and heard before the Supreme Court in 2016. The case addressed non-church coverage of mandated contraceptives under Obamacare. The individual cases were returned to the respective courts of appeal.[37]
Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado.
Audio recording of oral argument at Masterpiece Cakeshop.


  • Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer (2017). In an important First Amendment case the Supreme Court ruled that a Missouri playground resurfacing program violated freedom of religion guaranteed by the Free Exercise Clause. ADF represented the petitioner.[39]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Issues, Alliance Defense Fund
  4. ^ "Who We Are". ADF. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Sharon Otterman (March 30, 2015). "Supreme Court Leaves Intact New York's Ban on Religious Services in Schools". Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  6. ^ Robert Booth Fowler. Religion and Politics in America: Faith, Culture, and Strategic Choices ... Retrieved September 24, 2013.
  7. ^ Joel Stashenko (February 3, 2009). "Conservative Christian Group Targets New York". Retrieved September 24, 2013.
  8. ^ "City of Littleton v. Z.J. Gifts D-4, L.L.C." Oyez. January 20, 2018. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  9. ^ "Colorado, Petitioner v. George Woldt and Francisco Martinez, Jr". Free Court Dockets. 2002. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  10. ^ "US Supreme Court Docket". FindLaw. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  11. ^ Boyer, Peter J. "A Reporter at Large: Jesus in the Classroom". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 24, 2013.
  12. ^ California teacher, district settle religion lawsuit | First Amendment Center – news, commentary, analysis on free speech, press, religion, assembly, petition Archived February 22, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ Farrell, Michael B. "Will California gay-marriage trial go to Supreme Court?" Christian Science Monitor January 26, 2010: N.PAG. Academic Search Premier. Web. December 7, 2011.
  14. ^ "California Judge Strikes Down Prop 8 Marriage Amendment". Liberty Counsel. August 4, 2010. Archived from the original on August 9, 2010. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  15. ^ "High court rules pro-life protests a lawful right". The Washington Times. February 27, 2003. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  16. ^ "Protecting young women: Pro-life organizations urge high court to uphold parental notification law". Alliance Defending Freedom. August 9, 2005. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  17. ^ Beard, Sterling (August 22, 2013). "NM Supreme Court Finds Refusing to Photograph Gay Wedding Illegal". National Review Online. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
  18. ^ Gentilviso, Chris (August 22, 2013). "Elane Photography v. Vanessa Willock: Court Rules Against Photographer In Gay Bias Case". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
  19. ^ Gershman, Jacob (August 22, 2013). "Photographers Discriminated Against Gay Couple, Court Rules". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
  20. ^ "School Choice Research". Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  21. ^ "Legal ministry's CEO will discuss religious freedom". Catholic Transcript Magazine. August 27, 2012. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
  22. ^ Gorbman, Randy; Juan Vazquez (May 5, 2014). "Supreme Court Rules Prayers in Greece Can Continue". WXXI News. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  23. ^ Eric, Eckhholm (May 11, 2014). "Legal Alliance Gains Host of Court Victories for Conservative Christian Movement". New York Times. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  24. ^ Cunningham, Paige Winfield (July 30, 2014). "Abortion clinics: Drawing the line". Politico. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  25. ^ Cassidy, Suzanne. "Meet the major legal players in the Conestoga Wood Specialties Supreme Court case". Lancaster Online. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  26. ^ Geidner, Chris (January 14, 2014). "Oklahoma Ban On Same-Sex Marriages Is Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules". Buzz Feed. Retrieved January 15, 2014.
  27. ^ Victory for academic freedom: 4th Circuit says professor's speeches, columns protected by First Amendment – Alliance Defending Freedom
  28. ^ Mike Adams Wins His Day in Court |
  29. ^ Mike Adams Lawsuit | Jury Verdict | UNC Wilmington
  30. ^ A Victory for Free Speech: Atheist Turned Christian Professor Wins Lawsuit Against University Archived March 22, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  31. ^ Dujardin, Peter (February 14, 2014). "Reaction mixed to Virginia judge's ruling in same-sex marriage case". Daily Press. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  32. ^ Barnes, Robert; Portnoy, Jenna. "Appeals court upholds decision overturning Virginia's same-sex marriage ban". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
  33. ^ Cortman, David (June 23, 2015). "An Important Blow for Free Speech". National Review. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  34. ^ "Church sign case seems to sidestep religious freedom issue". MSNBC. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  35. ^ "Supreme Court will hear Gilbert church-sign case". azcentral. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  36. ^ "Holt v. Hobbs". SCOTUSblog. 2015. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
  37. ^ Liz, O'Connor (November 30, 2015). "HHS mandate cases court will hear known collectively as Zubik v. Burwell". Catholic News Service. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
  38. ^ Kraemer, Kristen M. (July 17, 2017). "Richland floral shop owner wants US Supreme Court to review ruling". Union Bulletin. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  39. ^ Hurley, Lawrence (June 26, 2017). "Supreme Court Backs Church In Key Religious Rights Case". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  40. ^ Kurtz, Steve (31 Jan 2018). "The Tenth Amendment: Out of the shadows and into the spotlight". Fox News. Retrieved 24 February 2018. This term, Supreme Court watchers are paying close attention to “Masterpiece Cakeshop”—the gay wedding cake case—which could be a landmark in First Amendment jurisprudence.
  41. ^ Farber, Madeline (November 16, 2017). "Supreme Court to hear anti-abortion and free speech case: A breakdown of NIFLA v. Becerra". Fox News. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  42. ^ Howe, Amy (June 26, 2018). "Opinion analysis: Divided court rules for anti-abortion pregnancy centers in challenge to California law". SCOTUSBlog. Retrieved June 26, 2018.
  43. ^ AMANDA PRESTIGIACOMO (16 October 2018). "Atlanta To Pay Out $1.2 Million To Christian Fire Chief After Violating His First Amendment Rights". The Daily Wire. Retrieved 17 October 2018. After a December 2017 ruling found that the city discriminated against Mr. Cochran and violated his First Amendment rights by firing him for expressing Christian views with which they disagree, the city council on Monday agreed to pay out $1.2 million to the former chief for damages and attorneys' fees, reports Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the organization which represented Mr. Cochran.
  44. ^ "Atlanta City Council Votes To Settle Ex-Fire Chief's Lawsuit For $1.2 Million". CBS Atlanta. Associated Press. 16 October 2018. Retrieved 17 October 2018. Atlanta’s City Council has voted to settle a $1.2 million lawsuit brought by the city’s former fire chief who was dismissed after he wrote a book that included anti-gay passages.

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