Alliance Defending Freedom

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is one of the most influential right-wing groups in the United States. ADF legally launders discrimination behind the rhetoric of “religious freedom” to restrict the rights of marginalized people — causing it to be classified as a hate group.


Summary Extremism Key Players Influence Related Orgs

Summary

The Alliance Defending Freedom was founded in the early 1990s by a group of influential conservative Christian leaders including Focus on the Family’s James Dobson and Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright alongside Alan Sears (who infamously published a book on the “homosexual agenda.”) The group was initially conceived as an alternative to the ACLU as the Christian right in the United States felt increasingly threatened by the LGBTQ and reproductive rights movements and the growing secularization of public life. Over the past 30 years, ADF has risen in the annals of American power, earning the distinction of “the most influential group working to roll back LGBTQ rights in America.” It has also been classified as a hate group.

Over time, ADF developed a language of “religious freedom” to fight for the supremacy of the Christian right over others. In short, ADF claims that first amendment protected “religious freedom” gives individuals a carte blanche right to discriminate against historically oppressed groups. Notably, ADF won a SCOTUS case which gave a business owner the ability to deny services to LGBTQ persons because of his “religious freedom.” ADF’s pioneering use of “religious freedom” has led to attacks on abortion access, birth control access, civil rights of LGBTQ people, and the separation of church and state.

Over the past 30 years, ADF has grown rapidly. ADF now has over 3,000 “allied attorneys” who have sworn to oppose marriage equality, abortion access, and deny gender identities. As of 2017, this “legal army,” as Sears called it, had won 49 SCOTUS cases by  and donated over 1 million pro-bono legal hours to fight for ADF’s discriminatory causes. ADF also enjoys a large influence over the Trump administration, sending allied attorneys to cabinet jobs and federal judgeships.

Extremism

ADF’s core belief is that conservative Christians are discriminated against in American society.

ADF sees LGBTQ and abortion rights as threats to religious liberty.

ADF’s foundational belief is that conservative Christians face discrimination in American society, and that “religious liberty” must be protected to fight this “discrimination.” “This burgeoning ‘legal army’ has helped ADF advance its foundational narrative: that conservative Christians, in particular, face persecution in the United States. It was the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty that represented the arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby in its successful lawsuit to gain a religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide a contraception-coverage benefit. And it was the American Center for Law and Justice that won a major case in 2009 regarding the display of the Ten Commandments on public property. But no organization has played a more pivotal role than ADF in shaping and testing ‘religious freedom’ as the Christian right’s latest legal strategy in the culture wars. And while the Federalist Society has positioned itself as the right’s screening agency for the federal judiciary, no other conservative Christian legal organization has propelled so many attorneys into state and federal government, where they are now in positions to oversee the restructuring of civil-rights and First Amendment law in ADF’s mold.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

ADF has become the leading group producing model language on “religious freedom” and pushing it as a major right-wing political cause. “Founded 24 years ago because, as its longtime president Alan Sears once put it, ‘the homosexual agenda threatens religious freedom,’ ADF now rivals some of the nation’s top private law firms in Supreme Court activity. It has trained thousands of lawyers, many of whom have gone on to government service at the federal, state, and local levels. The organization has helped shape ‘religious freedom’ legislation; provides grants to other Christian-right organizations; and presses school districts to adopt its model policies on issues like transgender facility access. ADF now exerts far more influence than other legal organizations that litigate religious-freedom cases, such as the American Center for Law and Justice, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and Liberty Counsel. As the courts have ruled in favor of marriage equality over the past decade, ADF has positioned itself at the very center of the efforts to curtail LGBTQ rights under the guise of religious freedom.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

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ADF and its leaders hold hateful anti-LGBTQ views; the group has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

ADF is a Southern Poverty Law Center recognized hate group.

ADF is a recognized hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Founded by some 30 leaders of the Christian Right, the Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal advocacy and training group that has supported the recriminalization of homosexuality in the U.S. and criminalization abroad; has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad; has linked homosexuality to pedophilia and claims that a “homosexual agenda” will destroy Christianity and society. ADF also works to develop “religious liberty” legislation and case law that will allow the denial of goods and services to LGBT people on the basis of religion. Since the election of President Donald Trump, the ADF has become one of the most influential groups informing the administration’s attack on LGBT rights working with an ally in Attorney General Jeff Sessions.” [SPLC, Accessed 10/25/19]

ADF frequently references a conspiratorial “homosexual agenda,” which is designed to undermine “religious liberty” in American society.

“[ADF] claims it is equipping attorneys to ‘battle the radical homosexual legal agenda.’” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 7/24/17]

An ADF attorney claimed a hate crime against a gay man was a hoax meant to advance “the homosexual agenda.” “An attorney for anti-LGBT extremist group the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) peddled the myth that the story of Matthew Shepard’s brutal anti-gay murder was fabricated in order to advance the ‘homosexual agenda.’” [Media Matters, 10/28/14]

ADF posted a blog titled: “More Proof: The Homosexual Agenda Clashes With Religious Freedom.” [ADF Website Archive, 10/25/12]

ADF Founder and then-President Alan Sears cowrote a book titled “The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing The Principal Threat To Religious Liberty Today”.

In 2003, ADF Founder and then-President Alan Sears cowrote a book titled “The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing The Principal Threat To Religious Liberty Today.” “Societal gains by LGBT people have long been in the group’s sights, however. Alan Sears, ADF’s longtime president, CEO and general counsel, cowrote a book in 2003 called ‘The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Liberty Today,’ in which he argued that the repeal of anti-sodomy laws would lead to a roll back of ‘laws against pedophilia, sex between close relatives, polygamy, bestiality and all other distortions and violations of God’s plan.’” [ABC News, 10/06/17]

The book was cowritten with Sears’ then-ADF college Craig Osten. “Alan Sears, then-president of ADF (he was president until January, 2017) publishes a book he co-wrote with then-ADF colleague Craig Osten titled The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today, which was heavily advertised for sale on the ADF website and offered in fundraising pitches for years. The book is the authors’ attempt to describe how far the conspiracy of ‘the homosexual agenda’ has infiltrated the country and undermined Christianity through things like media and educational institutions.” [SLPC, 7/24/17]

The book compared the LGBTQ rights media campaigns of the 70s and 80s as “a war of propaganda, just as Hitler did so masterfully in Nazi Germany.” “Sears and Osten described the media campaign conducted by LGBT activists in the 70s and 80s (as summarized in the account After The Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90s) to ‘a war of propaganda, just as Hitler did so masterfully in Nazi Germany.’” [SLPC, 7/24/17]

The book claimed that “the very future of our nation is at risk if the homosexual agenda continues to advance unchecked?” “The authors ask, ‘How far down the road have homosexual activists taken us to their goal of unbridled sexual behavior and the silencing of the church?’ (p. 14)  ‘The very future of our nation is at risk if the homosexual agenda continues to advance unchecked,’ (p. 27) the authors state.” [SLPC, 7/24/17]

The book claimed that LGBTQ activists attempt to “indoctrinate children” and link homosexuality to pedophilia. “Sears and Osten also claim that homosexual activists are attempting to ‘indoctrinate children’ as early as kindergarten. (p. 52) The authors link homosexuality to pedophilia: ‘Despite ever-present denials by homosexual activists, the link to child sex (adults promoting sex with young boys) and homosexual behavior is alarming.’” [SLPC, 7/24/17]

The book also claimed that history “ignores” the “[roles] of homosexuals in top positions in Hitler’s regime.” “In a footnote in a section on ‘Safe Spaces,’ Sears and Osten challenge the adoption of the pink triangle by the LGBT community: ‘According to homosexual activists, the pink triangle was used by Nazi Germany to identify homosexuals who were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Their history ignores the role of homosexuals in top positions in Hitler’s regime.’ (p. 155)” [SLPC, 7/24/17]

ADF believes that sexual orientation is a choice and argues against legal protections for LGBTQ people on this basis.

ADF has repeatedly argued in court that sexual orientation should not be considered a protected class because of the right-wing belief that sexuality is a choice. “Our review of ADF’s briefs also found that the organization repeatedly argued in court that sexual orientation is not a suspect class, and as such that laws denying LGBTQ rights should not be subject to strict scrutiny. That argument is based partly on ADF’s contention, common on the Christian right, that sexual orientation and gender identity, unlike race, are matters of choice.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

ADF publicly opposed a law which would have made LGBTQ persons a protected class for hate crimes. “Alliance Defense Fund attorneys warn that the U.S. Senate should not pass H.R. 1913, the so-called ‘hate crimes’ bill. If it becomes law, ADF attorneys say the bill could severely impede Americans’ constitutional rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression while creating additional legal protections for those engaged in homosexual behavior that are not available to everyone else.” [Alliance Defending Freedom, 5/01/09]

ADF published a pamphlet titled “The Truth About Homosexuality” which claimed that there was “no credible evidence…that in any way proves homosexuality is an innate characteristic.” “After decades of claims, there is no credible evidence based on scientific research, that in any way proves homosexuality is an innate characteristic. To date no one has been able to duplicate studies that have claimed to find a genetic component to homosexuality. Regardless, the Bible is clear on its teaching related to homosexual behavior. To act on such an impulse is sinful and both socially and personally destructive.” [ADF “Truth About Homosexuality,” Printed March 2005]

ADF represented a bakery owner who won a SCOTUS decision which allowed private businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people — and called it a victory for religious liberty. “The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who had refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple. The court’s decision was narrow, and it left open the larger question of whether a business can discriminate against gay men and lesbians based on rights protected by the First Amendment…Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Mr. Phillips, said the ruling was a victory for religious liberty.” [New York Times, 6/04/18]

ADF uses hateful stereotypes and language to advance its anti-LGBTQ arguments in court.

ADF purposely and repeatedly misgendered a high school student in a court filing. “The complaint identifies the trans student as ‘Student X,’ a sophomore who is engaged in athletics. It identifies her repeatedly — and insistently — as a ‘male’ with male pronouns. Defending this choice in a footnote, ADF explains, ‘although Plaintiffs are aware that Student X professes a female gender identity, it is his [sic] male sex that is relevant to determining whether Plaintiffs’ rights have been violated by Defendants’ actions.’ In other words, it helps ADF’s case to make this student sound like she’s not a girl.” [ThinkProgress, 8/09/16]

The Nation: “In a 2006 case in Maryland, ADF maintained that ‘sexual fidelity is rare among homosexual men’ and that ‘the average homosexual relationship is short.’” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

ADF has argued in court that since unmarried gay couples have a “revolving-door of adult sexual partners” they should be precluded from having the right to adopt a child. “Although the organization had long opposed allowing same-sex couples to marry, in another parenting case, this one in Arkansas in 2010, it used the fact that the couple could not marry as an argument against allowing them to adopt. ‘It is logical to prevent children’s exposure to the illicit sexual conduct and revolving-door of adult sexual partners that often accompany cohabitation, ADF argued.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

In a 2009 case, ADF argued a lesbian couple should not be allowed to keep the baby they had fostered because their home cannot be treated “just as good as any other.” “In a 2009 case in West Virginia, arguing against a lesbian couple’s adoption of a baby they had fostered, ADF noted that the couple had insisted that the court be ‘forced to treat their home as just as good as any other.’ But, ADF wrote, ‘this cannot be.’” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

ADF pushed for trans individuals to be sterilized in Europe.

ADF unsuccessfully argued for European laws which would require sterilization of trans citizens in order for their gender identity to be legally recognized. “One component of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) decision to list the legal powerhouse organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as an anti-LGBT hate group is the substance of their work abroad, which has recently included defending — albeit unsuccessfully — European laws requiring the sterilization of transgender citizens seeking administrative recognition of their preferred gender.” [SPLC, 7/27/17]

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ADF holds extremist and debunked views on abortion and spends more than 20% of its portfolio pursing legal action to restrict abortion access.

22% of ADF’s legal portfolio goes directly to anti-abortion work.

According to a 2017 release, 22% of ADF’s legal work focuses exclusively on restricting access to abortion. “Religious liberty makes up most of ADF’s advocacy, but cases pertaining to marriage and life also make up a sizeable portion of its portfolio—45 percent of the group’s press releases focus on its work for religious liberty, while 22 and 21 percent of its releases highlight its advocacy against abortion and for traditional marriage, respectively.” [Religion & Politics, 8/19/17]

ADF has defended abortion-clinics protestors, abortion bans, and other restrictive abortion laws in state and federal court. “ADF has also been an active litigant in the anti-choice movement, defending protesters outside abortion clinics in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, including another Supreme Court victory in 2014. The organization has defended restrictions on abortion like Arizona’s ban on the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy; an ‘informed consent’” law in South Dakota; a late-term abortion ban in Nebraska; and Texas’s HB2, which was struck down by the Supreme Court last year.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

ADF equates abortion to genocide.

ADF posted a blog titled: “News You Should Know: Abortion = Genocide.” [ADFLegal.org, 6/07/19]

ADF repeats false medical claims about abortion.

ADF: “Keeping abortion legal does not protect women. Abortion certainly kills babies in the womb, but it can also lead to injury or death for the mother”… “Keeping abortion legal does not protect women. Abortion certainly kills babies in the womb, but it can also lead to injury or death for the mother. Alliance Defending Freedom has assisted Allied Attorneys in litigating several such cases and will continue to protect the physical well-being of both mother and child. Abortion can lead to premature birth in subsequent pregnancies. According to a report by the Charlotte Lozier Institute ‘a growing body of worldwide evidence suggests that the association between preterm birth and history of induced abortion is indeed credible.’” [ADFLegal.org, Accessed 10/16/19]

  • …But a landmark 2018 study found abortion in America to be extremely safe, and complications of any nature are “rare.” “Abortions in the United States are safe and have few complications, according to a landmark new study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The report, called ‘The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States,’ examined the four major methods used for abortions — medication, aspiration, dilation and evacuation, and induction — and examined women’s care from before they had the procedure through their follow-up care…Calonge says the researchers found that about 90 percent of all abortions happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. And complications for all abortions are ‘rare,’ the report says.” [NPR, 3/16/18]

ADF blogpost: “Study after study shows that mental suffering often accompanies aborting a child”… [ADFLegal.org, Accessed 10/16/19]

  • …But according to a 2010 study published in Social Science And Medicine, researchers “found little support for the abortion-as-trauma framework.” “Because of the potential for confounding, published research claiming to find relations between abortion and poor mental health indicators should be subjected to scrutiny and reanalysis. Using the same data and conducting the same analyses as CCSR (2009), we found that their results were not replicable, nor did our numbers approach theirs in the case of 15 mental health disorders. Moreover, we found little support for the abortion-as-trauma framework. Instead, our findings suggest that structural, psychological, and sociodemographic risk factors associated with both having an abortion and having poor mental health drive a relationship between abortion and mental health. Therefore, policy, practice, and research should focus on addressing the correlates of having mental health problems, such as violence and prior mental health problems.” [Social Science and Medicine, Vol.72, No. 1, pp. 72-82, 10/23/10]
  • …A 2018 American Medical Association study showed “no evidence” that “abortion causes depression. “Abortions don’t cause depression…researchers reported Wednesday. The study is the latest to show no evidence that abortion causes depression. Policies that cite damage to mental health as a reason to restrict access to abortion are not based in fact, the researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Psychiatry. “The repercussions of abortion for mental health have been used to justify state policies that limit access to abortion in the United States,” the team, led by Dr. Julia Steinberg of the Department of Family Science at the University of Maryland, wrote….Some anti-abortion-rights groups claim that psychiatrists have a diagnosis called ‘post-abortion syndrome’ or ‘post-abortion stress syndrome’, although no such diagnosis exists in medical texts.” [NBC News, 5/30/18]

ADF claims that Planned Parenthood will put making money off of abortion before women’s health and reporting instances of abuse.

ADF blogpost: “The abortion industry drives down the standards for women’s healthcare.” [ADFLegal.org, Accessed 10/16/19]

ADF claimed that Planned Parenthood promotes “risky sexual behavior” so that it can increase its “biggest income generator—abortion.” “Yet Planned Parenthood engages in similar practices that escape the attention of most Americans. It claims to provide ‘preventive services,’ aimed at showing young women how to avoid pregnancy while simultaneously promoting risky sexual behavior that increases the likelihood of pregnancy and disease. The profitable outcome of that duality is an expanded market for contraception, testing for sexually transmitted disease (STD), and Planned Parenthood’s biggest income generator – abortion.” [ADF “Investigate The Plan,” 2014]

ADF claimed that Planned Parenthood covers up and disregards child abuse in order to continue to provide abortion services. “Unfortunately, being ‘non-judgmental’ can lead to bad judgment. Instances of sexual abuse of minors have been overlooked by Planned Parenthood staff – despite the laws that require medical providers to report it – and that disregard of the law can cause a child to become trapped in an ongoing cycle of exploitation. If there are no consequences to the sexual predator, then the abuse keeps happening. And if it keeps happening, Planned Parenthood’s services are needed repeatedly.” [ADF “Investigate The Plan,” 2014]

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Key Players

Founder and Former President

Alan Sears

Alan Sears is the founder and long-time President and General Counsel of ADF. Sears left the organization in 2017, but previously presided over a massive expansion of the group’s finances and legal network and built ADF into the one of the most influential far right groups in America. According to ADF’s website, Sears has seen his policy recommendations implemented in 20 state governments. Sears infamously co-wrote a book titled The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing The Principal Threat To Religious Liberty Today in 2003. The book compared LGBTQ rights campaigns to Nazi agitprop and claimed homosexuality fosters pedophilia.

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Former ADF Counsel, Current Director of HHS Office Of Civil Rights

Matt Bowman

Matt Bowman is a former ADF Counsel who spent years fighting against abortion rights and access to birth control, including the Obama-era birth control mandate. Bowman worked as a full-time anti-abortion activist at ADF years, during which time he was arrested for protesting gay-friendly and reproductive rights policies. Bowman now serves as the Director of the Office of Civil Rights at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, giving him significant influence over the civil rights of the very people he spent years marginalizing at ADF.

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Founder, Focus On The Family, ADF

James Dobson

James Dobson is a founder of influential right-wing Christian fundamentalist groups in the United States including ADF, Focus on The Family, and Family Research Council. Dobson is perhaps best known for his role as the leader and public face of Focus On The Family, a position which he held from 1977 until he was forced out in 2010 for what he called his “divisive” views. During his time at Focus On The Family, the group denied the existence of trans people, opposed marriage equality, and founded one of the largest anti-abortion pregnancy center networks in the country. Dobson himself proclaimed that the patriarchy is god’s will, said Spongebob Squarepants was “pro-gay” propaganda, and personally advocated for fathers to show their sons their penises in order prevent them from “becoming gay.” Since leaving Focus On The Family, Dobson blamed the Sandy Hook shooting on legalized abortion and LGBTQ rights, called immigrants “violent criminals,” and recorded a radio ad endorsing alleged pedophile Roy Moore for the U.S. Senate.

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Influence

ADF allied attorneys and former ADF counsel hold high-ranking positions in state and federal judiciaries.

As of 2017, 18 ADF-affiliated lawyers worked in 10 state attorney general offices. “At the state level, at least 18 ADF-affiliated lawyers now work in 10 attorney-general offices; all of them were appointed or elected in the past five years.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

In Trump’s first year as president, he nominated four ADF-affiliated judges to federal judgeships. “And in just one year, Trump has nominated at least four federal judges who have ties to ADF—Amy Coney Barrett, recently confirmed to the Seventh Circuit; Kyle Duncan, nominated to the Fifth Circuit; and Jeff Mateer and Michael Joseph Juneau, both nominated to district courts.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

Trump nominated a 36-year-old ADF-affiliated lawyer to a federal judgeship who publicly opposed LGBTQ marriage laws; she is among the youngest federal judges in the country. “Senate Republicans voted Monday night to advance the nomination of Allison Jones Rushing, yet another of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees who is troubling for a number of reasons. Rushing worked for Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian organization that has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. She has argued that there were ‘moral and practical’ reasons for banning same-sex marriage. But it’s her age that may be most notable: She is 36. If she gets confirmed this week, as expected, she will be the youngest federal judge in the country. She has practiced law for only nine years, and her career has focused on defending corporations. She has tried just four cases to verdict or judgment.” [HuffPost, 3/2/19]

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ADF-affiliated lawyers hold high positions in Trump’s HHS, and ADF has coordinated with HHS to push discriminatory policies.

HHS ensured ADF was intimately involved with the launch of HHS’ Office for Civil Right’s (OCR) discriminatory Conscience and Religious Freedom (CRF) Division…

HHS staff coordinated with Alliance Defending Freedom staffer Kellie Fiedorek for the rollout of HHS’ New CRF Division — Fiedorek was supposedly representing one of the OCR event speakers as her attorney. 

[EF FOIA Response, Office for Civil Rights Contractors Emails, Obtained 1/23/19, page 1076 & Page 477]

 

[EF FOIA Response, Office for Civil Rights Contractors Emails, Obtained 1/23/19, page 1348]

 

[EF FOIA Response, Office for Civil Rights Contractors Emails, Obtained 1/23/19, pages 1079-1084]

HHS Staffer Ariana Grossu thanked ADF Lawyer Kellie Fiedorek for “all of her help” regarding the press releases surrounding the creation of OCR’s discriminatory Conscience And Religious Freedom Division.

[EF FOIA Response, Office for Civil Rights Contractors Emails, Obtained 1/23/19, pages 1079-1084]

HHS invited extreme anti-abortion groups to celebratory launch of the Office of Civil Rights Conscience and Religious Freedom division including ADF, SBA List, Charlotte Lozier Institute, Students For Life, USCCB, March For Life, First Liberty, Americans United For Life, Thomas Moore Society, and Live Action.

[EF FOIA Response, Office for Civil Rights Contractors Emails, Obtained 1/23/19, page 226]

 

HHS’s OCR CRF division spearheaded a “religious liberty” rule which would allow for discrimination in the medical field — paralleling the ADF’s ideological goals.

In April 2019, Politico reported that “The Trump Administration is preparing to roll back protections for transgender patients while empowering health care workers to refuse care based on religious objections.” “The Trump administration is preparing to roll back protections for transgender patients while empowering health care workers to refuse care based on religious objections, according to three officials with knowledge of the pending regulations. The long-expected rules have alarmed patient advocates and public health groups, which have warned the health department that the rules could harm vulnerable populations’ access to care. Meanwhile, the rules have been eagerly anticipated by religious-rights groups and conservative states that have lobbied for the changes.” [Politico, 4/24/19]

On May 2, 2019 HHS released the finalized rule will make it easier for health care workers to deny care based on moral/religious beliefs. “The Trump administration Thursday finalized new rules making it easier for health care workers to refuse to provide care that violates their religious or moral beliefs, advancing a policy favored by anti-abortion groups and Christian conservatives closely allied with the Trump administration. [Politico, 5/2/19]

  • There’s limited evidence that religious workers need special protections. “The rule has faced scrutiny from health advocates, who say there’s limited evidence that religious workers need special protection and that LGBTQ patients and others could face new discrimination. The rule also relies on years-old online polling data, which the pollster — Kellyanne Conway — said at the timewas not representative.” [Politico Pro, 10/18/19]

In November 2019, a federal judge struck down the religious refusal rule so that it could not go into effect that month. “A federal judge on Wednesday struck down a Trump administration rule that would have let medical providers opt out of participating in medical procedures based on their religious or moral objections. The 147-page decision from the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York means the rule won’t take effect as expected Nov. 22.” [Wall Street Journal, 11/6/19]

The Office for Civil Rights’ CRF Division is overseeing the rules. “That division, which is overseeing the upcoming rules, has quickly grown to at least 10 staff and contractors who include a mix of former Hill GOP staff and Christian conservatives.” [Politico, 4/24/19]

  • The CRF Division was created in large part to execute these exact rules. “The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights is creating a new division to protect health workers with moral or religious objections to performing certain procedures, including things like abortions or sex reassignment surgery for transgender patients. The new division is called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, and will be officially announced Thursday morning at an event at HHS. According to an invitation to the event provided to BuzzFeed News, the division will specialize “in enforcement of and compliance with laws that protect conscience and free exercise of religion, and that prohibit coercion and discrimination.” HHS did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment. The announcement comes as conservative groups have urged the Trump administration to provide protections for medical workers who have been fired or believe they have been professionally discriminated against for refusing to perform procedures they oppose for religious or moral reasons.” [Buzzfeed News, 1/17/18]

National Women’s Law Center says that the rule is “an enormous expansion” of longstanding conscience protections, dangerous for LGTBQ people and those seeking abortions. “…patient advocates have warned the rules, which were first proposed over a year ago, could make it harder for women to receive emergency abortions or access contraception, and they say providers may be able to refuse care to gay and transgender patients… Gretchen Borchelt of the National Women’s Law Center called Thursday’s announcement ‘an enormous expansion’ of longstanding conscience protections. ‘It would mean a woman seeking birth control at a pharmacy could be turned away,’ Borchelt said. ‘A woman facing an unintended pregnancy could be denied information about her options.’ [Politico, 5/2/19]

The rule aligns with ADF’s core belief that LGBTQ rights is threat to “religious liberty.” “Founded 24 years ago because, as its longtime president Alan Sears once put it, ‘the homosexual agenda threatens religious freedom,’ ADF now rivals some of the nation’s top private law firms in Supreme Court activity. It has trained thousands of lawyers, many of whom have gone on to government service at the federal, state, and local levels. The organization has helped shape ‘religious freedom’ legislation; provides grants to other Christian-right organizations; and presses school districts to adopt its model policies on issues like transgender facility access. ADF now exerts far more influence than other legal organizations that litigate religious-freedom cases, such as the American Center for Law and Justice, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and Liberty Counsel. As the courts have ruled in favor of marriage equality over the past decade, ADF has positioned itself at the very center of the efforts to curtail LGBTQ rights under the guise of religious freedom.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

HHS Office Of Civil Rights Director Matt Bowman spent years at ADF pushing and defending discriminatory legal interpretations.

Matt Bowman is the former HHS General Counsel and the current Office for Civil Rights (OCR) director.

[Twitter, 5/29/19]

Bowman spent years working as a lawyer at ADF. “As a lawyer at the Alliance Defending Freedom, Mr. Bowman assailed the contraceptive coverage mandate on behalf of colleges, universities and nonprofit groups that had religious objections to the rule.” [New York Times, 7/10/17]

Bowman was a principal author of federal rules rolling back requirements for employers to include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans.  “A principal author of the rules, Matthew Bowman, a top lawyer at the Department of Health and Human Services, represented March for Life in 2014 when he was a lawyer at the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal advocacy group.” [New York Times, 7/10/17]

  • At ADF, Bowman “spent years attacking the requirement that most health insurance plans cover contraception under the affordable care act.” “From his post at a Christian legal advocacy group, Matthew Bowman spent years attacking the requirement that most health insurance plans cover contraception under the Affordable Care Act.” [New York Times, 7/11/17]
  • Before his time at HHS, Bowman “was involved in numerous court cases in which religious organizations and employers challenged the contraceptive coverage rule, which he calls the ‘abortion pill mandate.’” “The Affordable Care Act says insurers must cover certain preventive services at no cost. But the Trump administration says the law does not explicitly require coverage of contraceptives—an argument Mr. Bowman made for plaintiffs in court cases. In the last five years, Mr. Bowman was involved in numerous court cases in which religious organizations and employers challenged the contraceptive coverage rule, which he calls an “abortion pill mandate.”” [New York Times, 7/11/17]

At ADF, Bowman represented multiple anti-abortion centers in a lawsuit against an Illinois state law that would require doctors, nurses, and pregnancy centers to provide information or referrals to patients who ask about abortion. “Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing multiple pregnancy care centers, a pregnancy care center network, and a doctor and her medical practice filed suit Thursday in federal court against Gov. Bruce Rauner after he recently signed a bill into law that forces them to promote abortion regardless of their ethical or moral views. The lawsuit also names Bryan Schneider, secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation…. ‘No state should attempt to rob women of the freedom to choose a pro-life doctor, but that is the choice that Illinois is eliminating by mandating that pro-life physicians and entities make or arrange abortion referrals. To make matters worse, the state did this by amending a law designed specifically to protect freedom of conscience,’ said ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. ‘As our lawsuit explains, the law is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution and both federal and state law, which protect citizens from being forced by the government to live and act in a way contrary to their faith and conscience.’” [Alliance Defending Freedom, 9/30/16]

At ADF, Bowman represented anti-abortion centers in California in a suit against a state law that required CPCs to inform women about abortion options; a federal appeals court upheld the law and ruled against the pregnancy centers. “A federal appeals court Friday unanimously upheld the constitutionality of a new California law that requires religiously affiliated pregnancy clinics to inform women about abortion options. The law, which took effect in January, says licensed clinics must disseminate information to women about government programs that provide free or low-cost services for family planning, abortions and prenatal care. About 200 crisis pregnancy centers in California are affiliated with religions that oppose abortion. Three nonprofit groups that run these clinics sued to block the law, contending that it violated their rights to free speech and freedom of religion. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, saying the law did not discriminate against or infringe upon anyone’s 1st Amendment rights…Matthew Bowman, an attorney who represented the clinics in the case, said the ruling conflicted with decisions by courts elsewhere and might be appealed. The new law requires clinics and nonmedical counseling centers to provide the notices in 12 or 13 languages in some counties and to include them in advertisements, said Bowman, senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, which opposes abortion and advocates for religious liberties. ‘No one should have to choose between offering women free help or having to violate our beliefs and recommend the destruction of a human life—and then provide directions on how to get it done for free,’ Bowman said.” [LA Times, 10/14/16]

HHS Solicitor General Noel Francisco, an ADF allied attorney, asked SCOTUS to discipline lawyers who represented a migrant girl seeking an abortion

As an ADF “Allied Attorney,” Francisco provided pro bono legal services to the extremist group. “Francisco worked as a private attorney for the firm Jones Day law firm prior to joining the Justice Department, where he provided pro bono legal services to ADF. The organization, which the Southern Poverty Law Firm has designated as a hate group for its anti-LGBTQ advocacy work, had listed Francisco as an “allied attorney,” a term reserved for lawyers who have done pro bono work for ADF and signed its “Statement of Faith.“ That statement includes a “commitment to believing in the divinity of Jesus Christ, that God designed marriage for one man and one woman, and that homosexual behavior is ‘sinful and offensive to God,’” according to the Nation… In an unusual move, in December, ADF attorney Kristen Waggoner shared almost half of her allotted time for U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case with Francisco. The case involves a baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple on religious grounds. ADF and Francisco both urged the Roberts Court to side with the baker, arguing to greatly expand the rights of religious objectors from complying with civil rights laws.” [Rewire, 4/25/18]

Francisco failed to disclose his relationship with ADF during his Senate confirmation process… “Solicitor General Francisco is the fourth-highest-ranking official in the Department of Justice. During his Senate confirmation process, Francisco failed to disclose his prior relationship with ADF.” [Rewire, 4/25/18]

…And the Trump administration has refused to provide records detailing Francisco’s ties to ADF. “A lawsuit filed Tuesday asks a federal court to order the Trump administration to disclose records detailing the relationship between Solicitor General Noel Francisco and the far-right religious litigation mill Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Filed by the nonprofit legal organization Democracy Forward Foundation, the lawsuit is in response to what advocates allege is the administration’s refusal to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by Democracy Forward Foundation in December 2017. That request sought documents and records relating to Francisco and any potential ongoing relationship with ADF.” [Rewire, 4/25/18]

HHS OCR Senior Advisor Justin Butterfield is a former ADF Blackstone Legal Fellow.

Justin Butterfield is the Senior HIPPAA Advisor to the HHS Office of Civil Rights.

[HHS Directory, Accessed 10/25/19]

Butterfield was a Blackstone Legal Fellow. “Justin Butterfield is Senior Counsel for Liberty Institute. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 2007. During his time at Harvard, Mr. Butterfield served as the student coordinator for the Veritas Forum, was a member of the Federalist Society, and was heavily involved with the Harvard Law School Christian Fellowship. He is also a Blackstone Fellow.” [Libertry Institute, Accessed 10/25/19]

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ADF is the leading right-wing group pushing for “religious liberty” laws in the United States, which restrict civil liberties, and has had an outsized presence at SCOTUS.

The Nation: “But no organization has played a more pivotal role than ADF in shaping and testing ‘religious freedom’ as the Christian right’s latest legal strategy in the culture wars.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

Media Matters: ADF is the most influential group working to roll back LGBTQ rights in the United States. “The group is in many ways the most influential group working to roll back LGBTQ equality in the country, frequently targeting basic protections for transgender students and pushing religious exemptions policies.” [Media Matters, 7/30/18]

From 2014-2017, ADF won seven SCOTUS cases, and from its founding to 2017 ADF won 49 SCOTUS cases. “During the 2015-16 term alone, the Court heard three ADF-supported cases. And since 2014, ADF has been a part of seven victories at the Supreme Court, bringing our total to 49 wins in only 23 years. To put this in context, roughly 7,000-8,000 cases on a host of issues are submitted to the Supreme Court each year, and the Court accepts about 1% of those cases (75 to 80 cases). In contrast, and evidencing the importance of the work of ADF, since the founding of ADF, the Supreme Court has accepted approximately 33% of the ADF-supported cases submitted.” [ADFLegal.org, 2/01/17]

ADF won the SCOTUS Masterpiece Cakeshop case, in which it argued that laws which protect historically marginalized people violates the free speech of others. “At the core of Masterpiece Cakeshop is a radically revisionist idea: that laws protecting the civil rights of historically marginalized groups can violate the free-speech rights of the people who refuse to serve them. Although ADF has also charged that the Colorado law violates Phillips’s right to the free exercise of religion, a shadow looms over that claim, cast by the Supreme Court’s 1968 decision in Newman v. Piggie Park. There, the owner of a South Carolina barbecue chain claimed that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ‘contravene[d] the will of God” and infringed on his right to the free exercise of religion, because his beliefs ‘compel him to oppose any integration of the races.’ The Supreme Court rejected these claims as ‘patently frivolous.’ Notably, ADF has put its free-speech claim, rather than the free-exercise-of-religion claim, front and center in its brief, casting Phillips as an artist whose freedom of expression has been violated.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

ADF filed 23 lawsuits challenging the contraceptive mandate and three of those cases made it before SCOTUS, including the Hobby Lobby case whose decision exempted private employers from it. “ADF filed 23 lawsuits challenging Obamacare’s contraception-coverage benefit, three of which reached the Supreme Court on the merits, including Conestoga Wood, which was consolidated with Hobby Lobby. ADF also took part in 22 cases advocating bans on same-sex marriage, including representing county clerks who objected to marriage equality in Virginia and Oklahoma.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

According to a 2017 study, over one-third of state level anti-trans “bathroom bills” modeled their language on ADF’s work. “According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 38 anti-transgender bills have been introduced or been active in 2017 in states across the country, 28 of which involved ‘single-sex facility restrictions’ and specifically targeted public schools or government buildings (which include public schools). Nearly all of those bills are now dead. Media Matters and Rewire’s legislative tracker determined that 10 of the 28 anti-trans ‘bathroom bills’ had language resembling ADF’s policy.”  [Media Matters, 11/27/17]

ADF has defended abortion-clinics protestors, abortion bans, and other restrictive abortion laws in state and federal court. “ADF has also been an active litigant in the anti-choice movement, defending protesters outside abortion clinics in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, including another Supreme Court victory in 2014. The organization has defended restrictions on abortion like Arizona’s ban on the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy; an ‘informed consen’” law in South Dakota; a late-term abortion ban in Nebraska; and Texas’s HB2, which was struck down by the Supreme Court last year.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

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ADF trains and maintains an “army of lawyers” to spread their right-wing discriminatory ideology.

ADF has a “legal army” of over 3,000 allied attorneys who as a condition of their allegiance must swear that homosexuality is a sin and oppose marriage equality.

Over 3,000 attorneys are allied with ADF. “With this swelling war chest, ADF has been able to assemble what its founder Sears has called a ‘legal army.’ Its ranks include more than 3,000 allied attorneys who litigate ADF cases pro bono, as well as 1,800 graduates of the Blackstone Legal Fellowship. Through these networks, ADF has exerted its influence throughout the conservative legal world, across law firms, state and federal governments, and the judiciary.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

The Nation: “To become an ‘allied attorney,’ one must agree with ADF’s 11-point statement of faith, which includes a commitment to believing in the divinity of Jesus Christ, that God designed marriage for one man and one woman, and that homosexual behavior is ‘sinful and offensive to God.’” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

ADF’s 11-point statement of faith also requires the denial of gender identities and the opposition to abortion.

[ADF, Accessed 10/25/19]

The Nation: “ADF states that its allied attorneys have so far donated more than 1 million hours of pro bono work, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

ADF runs the Blackstone Fellowship program to indoctrinate young lawyers into its ultra right-wing Christian orthodoxy

ADF runs the Blackstone Legal Fellowship program to train young attorneys in its right-wing Christian ideology. “The Blackstone Legal Fellowship trains law students on how to apply ADF’s principles to the public realm, offering ‘the highest level training in Christian worldview and constitutional law to help break the stranglehold the ACLU and its allies have on our nation’s law schools and judicial system.’” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

As of 2017, there were 1,800 Blackstone Fellowship graduates. “With this swelling war chest, ADF has been able to assemble what its founder Sears has called a ‘legal army.’ Its ranks include more than 3,000 allied attorneys who litigate ADF cases pro bono, as well as 1,800 graduates of the Blackstone Legal Fellowship. Through these networks, ADF has exerted its influence throughout the conservative legal world, across law firms, state and federal governments, and the judiciary.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

ADF acknowledged in their own materials that Blackstone Fellows are trained inthe robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.” “Indeed, part of the nine-week program includes a rigorous reading guide that lists tomes by scholars widely considered to hold radical religious views—a reality openly acknowledged by the Alliance, which warns that: ‘Some materials may even contain assertions that may be construed (or misconstrued) to be unnecessarily sectarian, or even offensive to one’s particular theological or ecclesiastical tradition. No offense and certainly, no proselytizing, is intended. Rather, Alliance Defending Freedom seeks to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.’” [Rewire.News, 5/13/14]

A Blackstone Fellowship graduate praised the program for its focus on returning America to the “orthodoxy of our Christendom in order to win back the rule of law.” [The Nation, 11/28/17]

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ADF exports its hateful and discriminatory agenda abroad.

ADF has United Nations special consultative status, allowing it to access to treaty and convention drafting meetings. “The United Nations has granted ADF a special consultative status, which allows its attorneys access to treaty and convention drafting meetings. C-Fam also has the same status.” [Media Matters, 1/19/18]

  • ADF has held this status since 2010. “The Alliance Defense Fund has officially been granted special consultative status at the United Nations. This status will allow ADF attorneys to attend and intervene at treaty and convention drafting meetings and help craft language that affirms religious freedom, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.” [org, 7/28/10]

ADF intervened in a European court to fight against a gay couple who wanted to right to live together in Romania. “In a separate international case, ADF submitted an intervention in April to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against a married Romanian and American gay couple who were fighting for their right to live together.” [Media Matters, 1/19/18]

ADF gave legal assistance to a group which gathered three million signatures to launch a referendum which would constitutionally ban gay marriage in Romania. “ADF International also highlighted its work before the ECJ in its Annual Report 2017. Additionally, ADF gave legal assistance to a ‘Coalition for Family’ in Romania that worked to collect 3 million signatures across the country in order to get a referendum ‘to amend the constitution to prohibit gay marriage’ up for a vote. Anti-LGBTQ hate group Liberty Counsel also gave legal assistance and organized for Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to LGBTQ couples in 2015, to visit the coalition.” [Media Matters, 1/19/18]

ADF presented oral arguments to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to oppose marriage equality. “On May 17 of last year, ADF International presented oral arguments before the IACHR against legalizing marriage equality in its member states.” [Media Matters, 1/19/18]

ADF argued in opposition to marriage equality in Costa Rica. “ADF International showcased this work in its Annual Report 2017, writing that its team argued ‘in defence of Costa Rica’s definition of marriage.’ ADF and another anti-LGBTQ hate group, C-Fam, both participated in the 47th annual session of the OAS General Assembly.” [Media Matters, 1/19/18]

ADF unsuccessfully argued for European laws which would require sterilization of trans citizens in order for their gender identity to be legally recognized. “One component of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) decision to list the legal powerhouse organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as an anti-LGBT hate group is the substance of their work abroad, which has recently included defending — albeit unsuccessfully — European laws requiring the sterilization of transgender citizens seeking administrative recognition of their preferred gender.” [SPLC, 7/27/17]

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Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions consulted with ADF on how to handle “religious liberty” cases.

While serving as AG, Sessions gave a closed-door speech to ADF in July 2017. “Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered a speech to an alleged hate group at an event closed to reporters on Tuesday night, but the Department of Justice is refusing to reveal what he said. Sessions addressed members of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which was designated an ‘anti-LGBT hate group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2016, at the Summit on Religious Liberty at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, in Dana Point, California.” [ABC News, 7/12/17]

In October 2017, Session’s Justice Department issued a guidance on “religious liberty…” “Attorney General Jeff Sessions consulted Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal advocacy group that champions conservative Christian causes, ahead of issuing controversial guidance to government agencies and departments on Friday about how to interpret federal religious liberty protections. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a group whose stated mission is to ‘keep the doors open for the Gospel by advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family,’ hailed Sessions’ announcement, while a number of leading LGBT advocacy groups condemned the move for effectively offering a religious exemption for sexual orientation discrimination.” [ABC News, 10/06/17]

…Sessions consulted and had “listening sessions” with ADF lawyers for guidance on “areas of federal protections for religious liberty most in need.” “In a call with reporters, ADF senior counsel Greg Baylor confirmed to ABC News that Sessions met with the group during a series of so-called ‘listening sessions’ convened by the Attorney General, who says he was ‘seeking suggestions regarding the areas of federal protection for religious liberty most in need of clarification or guidance…’ The Department of Justice did not indicate that it consulted any LGBT rights groups, however.” [ABC News, 10/06/17]

Sessions later codified the religious liberty guidance by creating a “religious liberty task force” in the Justice Department. “Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday announced the Department of Justice’s creation of a ‘religious liberty task force’ to ‘help the department fully implement our religious guidance.’” [CNN, 7/31/18]

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The leaders of influential anti-abortion group Americans United For Life (AUL) launched their anti-abortion crusading careers at ADF.

AUL’s current president/CEO and general counsel previously worked for ADF.

Current AUL President and CEO Catherine Glenn Foster worked at the Alliance Defending Freedom for seven years before landing AUL’s top position. Foster spent seven years with Alliance Defending Freedom at its Washington D.C. office, where she was litigation counsel advocating for the dignity of all human life in federal and state trial and appellate courts, and led ADF efforts in the areas of euthanasia, assisted suicide, excellence in care, and related topics.” [AUL.org, Accessed 3/26/19]

Current AUL General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer Steven Aden served as the Alliance Defending Freedom’s senior counsel before joining AUL. “Americans United for Life is excited to welcome Steven H. Aden, J.D., to the organization as their new Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel, where he will be overseeing all legal operations of AUL. Steve comes from an extensive background in pro-life litigation and previously served as senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom.” [AUL.org, 9/07/17]

AUL brands itself the “legal architect of the pro-life movement.”

AUL calls itself the “legal architect of the pro-life movement.” [AUL.org Archive, 8/22/18]

Americans United For Life “pioneered” a strategy of pushing legislation in states in the hopes that such efforts would eventually undermine reproductive rights at the federal level.” “AUL is the pioneer of the state-based model legislative strategy, which has exploded, in the past few years. AUL’s specific strategy works to save lives today while undermining the so-called “reliance” interest adopted by the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey: the false idea that women ‘rely’ on abortion to succeed in American society.” [AUL.org Archive, 8/22/18]

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