Alliance Defense Fund

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) was founded in 1994 by more than 30 Christian ministries, as a response to the American Civil Liberties Union, to defend "family values." ADF's major focus is strategizing and coordinating with hundreds of lawyers and right-wing groups to defend what they define as "Christian legal issues." Examples include anti-gay cases like Boy Scouts of America v. Dale and Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network, and a national strategy to "protect marriage," following Vermont's decision to allow same-sex civil unions. People for the American Way notes that ADF's founding groups "are influential members of the Right, they are pro-life and anti-gay and their ultimate goal is to see the law and government of the US enshrined with conservative Christian principles." In 2004, ADF's total revenue was $17,921,146 (fiscal year ended June 2004), with net assets of $20,581,560. [1]

"In 1994, ADF solicited funds on Christian radio with an ad claiming, 'Pro-life demonstrations may soon be illegal. ... Religious broadcasting may soon be censored. Hiring homosexuals in Christian schools, churches, and even as Sunday School teachers may soon become the law of the land. ... Don't let Christianity become a crime' ... In 2003, ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears and ADF Vice President Craig Osten "expanded on that theme" in The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today, "which ties homosexuality to pedophilia and other "disordered sexual behavior," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 2005.

ADF claims a high success rate in their legal challenges: "God has granted wins in almost three out of four cases decided (John 15:5). Cases that strengthen our position in the battle for religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and traditional family values." [2]

In its 2007 fiscal year, ADF spent $3,951,791 on direct litigation, according to Guidestar.[1]


According to its website[3], ADF runs six programs:

  • National Litigation Academy - "a state-of-the-art lawyer training project" providing training to sympathetic lawyers so that they can handle "free-speech, religious liberty, or other matters involving constitutional law" of importance to ADF
  • Blackstone Fellowship - a "nine-week summer leadership development program in law and servant ministry" for law students, primarily those between their first and second year of law school, to "profoundly influence Christian law students to take their training and knowledge into positions of influence where they can bring about needed change in America's legal system"
  • Scholarships - the William Pew Religious Freedom Scholarship Competition, for law students, with awards of $500 to $5000
  • Case Funding - to help "people suffering religious discrimination," who can "not afford attorneys"
  • Case Litigation / Mentoring - "to train newly licensed attorneys in the fine art of litigating--and winning--legal matters protecting religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and traditional family values"
  • Faith & Freedom Sunday - "a national Church-based day of prayer and instruction - and a rapidly growing grassroots movement - to secure religious freedom in America"; the third observance is scheduled for October 3, 2004[4]

National Litigation Academy: Training Lawyers

"What motivated D. James Kennedy and other conservatives—including James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family and William Bright of the Campus Crusade for Christ—to form the ADF was the impression that Christians were losing too many such battles," Peter Slevin wrote in the July 10, 2006, Washington Post.

"'It was just years of seeing the ACLU and its cronies attacking religious organizations or religious exercise,' Kennedy said. 'And, very frequently, there was nobody that even showed up to defend the Christian position.'

"To change the equation, the alliance hired Reagan-era prosecutor Alan Sears. He later brought in corporate lawyer Jeffery Ventrella. Mostly under Ventrella's watch, the ADF has schooled more than 800 outside lawyers, each promising to donate 450 hours to the cause."

Against student fees

ADF has been involved in several university cases. In 1998, ADF filed a lawsuit claiming that religious groups at Ohio's Miami University did not have equal access to university funding and facilities. The Center for Campus Free Speech warned: "this attempt to ensure 'equal access' for all voices could be overshadowed by the broader strategy behind this case. It is an effort to limit debate on campus that is being driven by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). ADF is the right-wing legal foundation that is backing this suit and similar cases in Wisconsin and Minnesota attacking mandatory student fees. ADF's literature claims their lawsuits will 'eliminate millions of dollars from those who oppose biblical values, religious freedom, and the spread of the gospel'. They hope to forward their own political cause by dismantling student activities fees."[5] Other groups that have used legal challenges in an attempt to limit the use of student fees include the Pacific Legal Foundation and Individual Rights Foundation.[6]

Cupertino case -- the "banning" of the Declaration of Independence

On November 22, 2004, ADF lawyers filed suit on behalf of Stephen Williams against the Cupertino Union School District in Cupertino, California. Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at Stevens Creek Elementary School, had been told not to use class handouts that proselytized for Christianity. His suit alleged that his First Amendment rights had been violated. Because one of his handouts included excerpts from the Declaration of Independence making reference to God, the ADF's press release about the case was headlined "Declaration of Independence Banned from Classroom". Fox News and other conservative outlets gave heavy play to that distorted version of the story. [7] Alan Keyes also repeated ADF's spin: "Someone was mentioning to me that there is a school district now in America where they will no longer teach the Declaration of Independence to the students. Why? Because it mentions God. ... [N]ow we’re being told that on account of some doctrine that has been promulgated by the courts, it is now unconstitutional to teach our children about the Declaration." [8] The truth, as pointed out in an answering press release from the school district, was that "The Declaration of Independence, sections of the United States Constitution, and other historical documents are re-printed in our textbooks, displayed in some of our school buildings, and taught in our social studies curriculum and lessons."

ADF encourages spiritual leaders to endorse candidates from the pulpit

In September, 2008 the ADF organized "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," which it described as "a legal effort designed to secure the First Amendment rights of pastors in the pulpit." Pulpit Freedom Sunday is associated with the ADF Pulpit Initiative. [9]

ADF encouraged the participating religious figures to send copies of their sermons to the Internal Revenue Service, in hopes of inducing a challenge to the law barring religious organizations and other nonprofit groups that accept tax-deductible contributions from using their affiliation with the nonprofit to intervene or attempt to influence partisan political campaigns. [2]

The ADF claimed that the event was needed "to restore the rights of pastors to speak freely from the pulpit without fear of punishment by the government for doing what churches do: speak on any number of cultural and societal issues from a biblical perspective." [10] ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley claimed that "ADF is not trying to get politics into the pulpit. Churches can decide for themselves that they either do or don’t want their pastors to speak about electoral candidates. The point of the Pulpit Initiative is very simple: the IRS should not be the one making the decision by threatening to revoke a church’s tax-exempt status. We need to get the government out of the pulpit." [11]



Tobacco document information

Two ADF founders, Bill Bright and James C. Dobson, appears on a list of religious leaders who "respect the views" of the tobacco industry that was found in the Philip Morris documents. The document was found in the files of Howard Liebengood of Philip Morris. [3]


Accessed July 2012: [4]

  • Alan Sears - President, CEO, and General Counsel
  • Alfonso Aguilar - Executive Director, Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles
  • Roger Brooks - Partner, Litigation Department, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP
  • Chapman B. Cox – Chairman - Retired attorney, Former General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense
  • Edward Christie, Jr. - Senior Vice President of Administration and Chief Financial Officer, Caring People Alliance
  • Marjorie Dannenfelser - President and Chairman of the Board, Susan B. Anthony List
  • Nathan Estruth - Vice President, Procter & Gamble FutureWorks
  • Allen Ginsborg - Vice Chairman - Managing Director & Principal, NewMark Merrill Mountain States
  • Mark Maddoux – Treasurer - Missionary, Denton Bible Church
  • Tom Minnery - Senior Vice President of Government and Public Policy, Focus on the Family
  • Dale Nabb - Retired corporate executive, Former Chief Executive Officer, PSPA
  • Charles W. Pickering, Sr. - Senior Counsel, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC
  • John Rogers - U.S. Chief Operating Officer, Campus Crusade for Christ International (now Cru)
  • Terry Schlossberg - Renewal Advisor, Presbyterian Coalition

Board of Directors (2006)

The following list of the Board of Directors is current as of July 10, 2006: [12]


  • American Center for Law and Justice, founded by evangelist Pat Robertson [13]
  • Liberty Counsel, backed by the Rev. Jerry Falwell [14]
  • A 2007 press release by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State states, "Alan Sears’ Alliance Defense Fund took in $26.1 million in 2006, an increase of $4.1 million over last year."[5]
  • Guidestar reports that in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2007 ADF has assets of $38,905,923 (from June 30, 2007 Form 990) and income of $31,674,124 (from June 30, 2007 Form 990).[6]
  • An April 1, 2007 article in the Washington Spectator by Sarah Posner says "Some of the [ADF's] major donors include the Covenant Foundation, financed by the "Granddaddy" of the Texas Christian Right, business mogul James Leininger; various members of the Amway-Prince Automotive empire, including the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, whose vice president, Erik Prince (Edgar and Elsa's son, and brother of Betsy DeVos, wife of the Amway magnate, right-wing financier, and unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard DeVos), founded the Blackwater USA military-security firm; and the Bolthouse Foundation, which is underwritten chiefly with profits from Bolthouse Farms, a family-run California company whose products are often seen at organic markets and Whole Foods. Bolthouse requires recipients of its grants to pledge adherence to a statement of faith that includes the declaration that "man was created by a direct act of God in His image, not from previously existing creatures" and a belief in "the everlasting blessedness of the saved and the everlasting punishment of the lost."[7]

Contact Information

Alliance Defense Fund
15333 N. Pima Road, Suite 165
Scottsdale AZ 85260
Phone: 1-800-TELL-ADF

Related SourceWatch Resources

External links






  1. Guidestar "Accomplishments" list for Alliance Defense Fund, 2007. Web site accessed September 26, 2008
  2. Laurie Goodstein, New York Times Ministers to Defy I.R.S. by Endorsing Candidates Politics section. September 25, 2008
  3. Partial Listing of Those Who Respect Our Views] February 1996. Bates No. 2046953072/3080
  4. Alliance Defense Fund Leadership, organizational web page, accessed July 10, 2012.
  5. Americans United for the Separation of Church and StatesReligious Right Funding Increases, AU Research Shows Press release. October 15, 2007
  6. GuidestarAlliance Defense Fund, Inc., General Information, accessed September 26, 2008
  7. Sarah Posner ARMY OF GOD: The Legal Muscle Leading the Fight to End the Separation of Church and State Washington Spectator, April 1, 2007, Page 2 of 3 page electronic version