A Colorado baker was found in violation of the state’s anti-discrimination laws for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. A young woman was prohibited from handing out pocket-size copies of the U.S. Constitution on a campus outdoor walkway. A law forcing pro-life pregnancy centers to provide their clients with information about how to obtain free or low-cost abortions. These are just some of the cases taken on by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the world’s largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, marriage and family, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.
Launched in 1994 by Christian community leaders, Alliance Defending Freedom positions itself as a stalwart advocate of the First Amendment right of all people to exercise their faith freely.
Since 2011, ADF has directly litigated 14 victories at the Supreme Court, championing religious liberty, marriage and family, parental rights, free speech, and the sanctity of human life. One of their most widely known cases, Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, drew the entire nation’s attention. The case involved a baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding because it went against his religious beliefs. It raised a fundamental question: Can a person be forced to use their artistic abilities to speak messages in violation of their religious or philosophical beliefs? In a foundational 7-2 ruling, the Court ruled in favor of the baker, Jack Phillips, showing that the state of Colorado had acted with impermissible hostility towards Jack’s faith.
In the area of student advocacy, ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom (CAF) focuses on the protection of the free speech rights of students on campuses all over the country. According to its website, CAF’s objective is to protect against schools using speech codes to silence students unconstitutionally and to prevent the abuse of “non-discrimination policies” that limit student groups’ free association. CAF’s campus work boasts a 100% success rate against anti-free speech zones, over 435 campus victories, and a 91% win rate in direct litigation.
A significant tenet of ADF’s core beliefs is the sanctity of life. One of ADF’s history-making cases involved defending Eleanor McCullen, a pro-life sidewalk counselor. Alliance Defending Freedom helped McCullen take on the state of Massachusetts for creating a “buffer zone” around abortion centers, which required pro-life advocates to stay at least 35 feet away from the building doors. After eight years of litigation, freedom prevailed when the Massachusetts Supreme Court unanimously struck down the Massachusetts buffer zone law.
A more recent case involving the protection of human life involved a friend-of-the-court brief filed by ADF on behalf of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA, in support of the protection of the terminally ill and disabled from assisted suicide. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court concluded that “the law of manslaughter may prohibit physician-assisted suicide, and does so, without offending constitutional protections.”
In recent months, parental rights have taken center stage in public school classrooms. A promise to America’s parents posted on the ADF website states that “children belong first and foremost to their families” and that they are not “mere creatures of the state.” ADF seeks to promote laws that give parents “Accountability, Choice and Transparency (ACT)” and offers a Parents Toolkit on Critical Theory to help parents understand their rights better. One of the cases currently being litigated by ADF in the area of Parental Rights is CI v. Albemarle County School Board, a lawsuit filed by a group of five religiously and ethnically diverse families against racially divisive ideology adopted by the school board.
In addition to its legal work within the United States, ADF’s international branch – Alliance Defending Freedom International – is involved in legal advocacy on behalf of Christians and religious minorities worldwide. ADFI has played a pivotal role in 26 victories before the European Court of Human Rights and is accredited by the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the European Parliament and Commission, and the Organization of American States (OAS).