April 21, 2022

The Roots of Alliance Defending Freedom

By
Scott Blakeman
Legal

A Vision for Freedom Series (Part 1): 

The Roots of Alliance Defending Freedom

The story of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a story of God’s faithfulness, goodness, grace, and provision. And it’s also a shining example of how God works through people open to His calling.  

The vision of ADF took shape in the early 1990s when a group of 35 Christian leaders, who led various churches and ministries across the United States, came together to solve a serious problem.

Image of the ADF Founders

These leaders, among whom was Dr. James Dobson from Focus on the Family, Dr. James Kennedy, founder of Coral Ridge Ministries, and Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, were growing more and more concerned about the future of religious freedom in the United States.

They saw the writing on the wall: hostility against people of faith was growing, as was the ability to freely live out their beliefs in the public square.

To compound the problem, there weren’t many places where people of faith could turn to seek legal recourse or support in this area. How could this happen in a country with a First Amendment that promises everyone the right to hold religious beliefs and the freedom to live out those beliefs in the public square?

It was time to meet the challenge. A legal organization dedicated to defending and preserving our first freedoms was desperately needed to fill a gaping hole in the legal space.

So, they got to work. One of the first things they did was name Alan Sears, a rising star in the religious freedom legal realm, as president, CEO, and general counsel. Sears laid a strong foundation for ADF’s flourishing, leading all strategic initiatives of the ministry from 1993 to 2017. He was eventually succeeded by ADF’s current president and CEO, Michael Farris.

From the outset, ADF’s forebears were committed to fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 19-20). They knew that Christ commanded them to live a life of making disciples to help expand His Kingdom. But part of fulfilling that commission involves stewardship: Christians are called to steward the gifts they have been given faithfully.

Outside the U.S. Supreme Court

Here in America, that includes the freedom to live out their faith without fear of government punishment.

They also knew that far more had to be done to protect religious freedom than had been tried up to that point. While the threats to religious liberty were multiplying, the number of Christians showing up in court to defend it was not. For religious freedom to have a future, that needed to change.

These leaders were serious about turning back the tide so that the doors for the Gospel could be kept open and lives, families, and the culture could be transformed.  

A True Alliance

From the very beginning, ADF’s founders were committed to alliance-building because there is strength in numbers. The task of preserving and protecting precious freedoms couldn’t be done in isolation.

ADF receives its inspiration for alliance building from the Church. Similar to the Body of Christ, the alliance is one body made up of many parts. Attorneys play different roles than church and ministry leaders. Non-profit volunteers play different roles than legislators. And business professionals play a different role than grassroots advocates. However, each person must play his or her particular role, under one shared vision, to ensure that religious freedom thrives.

From the very beginning, ADF has been determined to combine the wisdom, experience, and resources of thousands of legal professionals and its own attorneys, who all share a heartfelt conviction and commitment to see true freedom flourish.

An outgrowth of this focus on alliance building is the ADF Ministry Alliance that you’re a part of. There are more than 3,400 members who have joined together to help defend religious freedom for themselves, other Christ-centered churches and ministries, and future generations.

ADF has come a long way since 1994. It’s the world’s largest legal organization designed to preserve and defend religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, parental rights, and God’s design for marriage and family.

Along the way, it has won nearly 80 percent of its cases. It has played a pivotal role in more than 67 victories at the United States Supreme Court. That includes directly litigating and winning 13 Supreme Court cases since 2011.

There are thousands of allied attorneys across the country helping carry out ADF’s mission to stand for freedom. And ADF’s legal programs, like the Blackstone Fellowship, have helped train and inspire thousands of aspiring attorneys to boldly advocate for freedom’s future.

“I am the vine; you are the branches”

John 15:5 Verse

John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.

This is the verse ADF adopted to describe its ethos. Apart from Christ, ADF could do nothing.

But over the past three decades, ADF has been faithful to Christ’s command. It has helped countless clients defend their God-given freedoms. It has helped thousands of ministries better understand and defend their rights so they can continue serving the people God calls them to serve. And it has done what it set out to do since day one: help keep the doors open for the spread of the Gospel.

And Lord willing, that mission will continue for many years to come.

Read more from the "A Vision for Freedom" series:

Part Two: Securing Freedom for Generations to Come

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