U.S. Supreme Court

Alliance Defending Freedom gains influence with Supreme Court wins

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A conservative Christian nonprofit called Alliance Defending Freedom is gaining influence with nine successful Supreme Court cases in the last seven years.

Now, with the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the group could become more influential than ever, the Washington Post reports.

ADF got a win on narrow grounds when the Supreme Court ruled in June for a Christian baker who cited religious reasons for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding. The court said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had violated the rights of the baker, Jack Phillips, by showing hostility to his religious explanation. The case was Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Kristen Waggoner had argued the baker’s case, and she hoped the Supreme Court would accept the case of a Washington state florist who refused to provide flowers for a gay wedding. On June 25, the Supreme Court ordered reconsideration of the florist’s case, Arlene’s Flowers v. Washington, in light of its Masterpiece Cakeshop decision.

The Washington Supreme Court had ruled against florist Barronelle Stutzman, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s order meant the case could still succeed. ADF told Stutzman that a reaction video would be filmed and sent to reporters, and media appearances would be scheduled. There was also a plea for donations.

The next day, Waggoner was back at the Supreme Court to mark the ADF’s second win this term. The Supreme Court ruled that requiring notices about the availability of state-subsidized abortions at anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers likely violated the First Amendment. The case was National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra.

The Post describes Waggoner as “the legal mind and public face” of ADF. The 45-year-old lawyer oversees 121 active cases at the organization, which has 63 lawyers. The ADF was founded in 1994 by a group that included James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ; and Alan Sears, who served as president and CEO of ADF until January 2017.

An ADF tax filing for the fiscal year ending in June 2017 reports contributions and grants of more than $50 million. Expenses included $7.8 million for advertising and nearly $2.8 million for professional fundraising.

According to a policy document on the ADF website, many lawyers provide their pro bono services to ADF or receive grants to pursue cases at rates below market value. The document says 50 percent of all attorney fees recovered for legal matters under a grant agreement will be returned to ADF to help fund additional legal action.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified the ADF as a hate group, saying the organization “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.”

David Cole, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represented the gay couple in Masterpiece Cakeshop, said he is unclear about the ADF’s motives.

“Whether they are truly committed to religious freedom, or whether they are using it as a way to package and sell their opposition to homosexuals and abortion, I don’t know,” Cole told the Washington Post.

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