The Alliance Defending Freedom wants to take America back to the 3rd century. Literally. On the website for its legal fellowship program, the organization explains that it “seeks to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.”
“This is catholic, universal orthodoxy and it is desperately crucial for cultural renewal,” the explanation goes on. “Christians must strive to build glorious cultural cathedrals, rather than shanty tin sheds.”
While the Arizona-based organization has not made much progress in its mission of restoring the religious sentiments of the Byzantine Era, it has built a massive “legal ministry,” relying on 21st century attorneys and an eight-figure annual budget to reshape American law and society.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in 2012 and ruled that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages in 2013, dozens of legal challenges have been filed around the country over questions of whether insurance plans must provide contraception, whether states must allow equal access to marriage, and whether people with religious objections to birth control and homosexuality can opt-out of complying with those laws. In case after case, one organization has been at the helm of defending the Christian conservative position.
Many first heard of ADF earlier this year, when news reports identified it as one of the primary forces behind SB 1062, the vetoed Arizona bill that would have allowed businesses and individuals an exemption from LGBT nondiscrimination laws if complying would violate their “sincerely held” religious beliefs. That particular bill generated national outrage, but it was merely the latest effort in a decades-long effort by ADF, a tax-exempt organization committed to protecting the “God-given, constitutionally protected right to religious freedom” for Christians. Indeed, an ADF lawyer recently told a group of students that those who refuse to serve gay clients are modern-day heroes, like Rosa Parks’ civil disobedience in opposition to racial segregation.
Who exactly is the Alliance Defending Freedom? How did it become the go-to group for the Christian right’s cause?