Alliance Defending Freedom: Their History, Foundational Beliefs, And Victories


Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is 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, the group is known for its work upholding Christian ideals, but its reach extends to people of all faiths and backgrounds. Whether Muslim, Mormon, or atheist, ADF is committed to the rights bestowed to all Americans by the Constitution. Outside the US, the group has been instrumental in preventing or actively stopping genocide against religious minorities, including Yazidis and Shia Muslims.

Deeply Held Beliefs

ADF is built on a foundational belief that religious freedom is fundamental to human dignity. One of their most famous cases was Arlene’s Flowers v. State of Washington, which involved a floral artist who was asked by a longtime customer to create a floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding. Despite referring the client to several other florists nearby, the client decided to sue for the denial.

The question at the heart of the disagreement is whether the florist should be forced to use her art to promote messages that contradict her beliefs. If she believes marriage is between one man and one woman, ADF maintains that the government should not force her to compromise those personal tenets. They ask only that Americans be free to act in ways that are consistent with their beliefs without fearing punishment from the government. Up next on the docket, ADF will argue a similar case on behalf of a graphic designer in Colorado who expressed her right to create websites in line with her beliefs about marriage.

The organization has also gained notoriety for defending students, as was the case for Michelle Gregoire. This college student was arrested for ‘trespassing’ after handing out small copies of the Constitution. Despite being on an outdoor walkway, she was punished for explaining to campus security that she had a right to express her beliefs thanks to the very document she was passing out to other students. Since 2011, ADF has directly represented a range of organizations and individuals in 14 victories at the Supreme Court, and the group has been involved in 72 Supreme Court victories. From family-owned businesses to town councils, ADF has been instrumental in securing freedom for those who come to them.

ADF believes that Constitutional freedoms must be protected. This is just one of the reasons why they defend children’s civil rights in schools. ADF filed a case against a Virginia school board that enacted policies based on Critical Race Theory because the teachings were radical and violated students’ civil rights by treating them differently based on their race, and by compelling them to support ideas contrary to their deeply held moral, philosophical, and religious beliefs.

Various respected institutions have recognized Alliance Defending Freedom’s efforts far and wide. ADF International boasts accreditation from the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the European Parliament and Commission, and the Organization of American States (OAS). They also have close ties with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and participatory status with the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights.

Famous Cases

Taking on some of the most contested issues of the day, ADF has been involved in the following cases:

  • In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, ADF defended cake artist Jack Phillips’s right to run his business in accordance with his deeply held beliefs.
  • In Uzuegbunam v. Preczewsk, ADF defended Chike Uzuegbunam at Georgia Gwinnett College for telling fellow students about his Christian faith. Georgia Gwinnett College claimed its staff had the right to deny Chike his constitutional right to freedom of speech. Thankfully, the Supreme Court disagreed.
  • In the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, the courts overturned a decision that forced pro-life pregnancy centers to give their clients information about how to obtain an abortion.
  • In Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, the state of Missouri excluded churches from receiving a state grant to resurface their playground. The court ruled that a generally available public benefit should also be allowed to extend to religious institutions.
  • In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, an Arizona town put stringent restrictions on Pastor Clyde Reed’s signs inviting people to his church’s services. This town did not impose the same rules on other public signs, and the courts found that religious speech should not have different standards imposed on it than other types of speech.

Alliance Defending Freedom has made some serious strides for all Americans, not just those they directly represent in court. No matter where the political winds blow in the future, the group will continue to stand up for principles at the very heart of the Constitution.

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