In an interview with NPR’s Fresh Air, reporter David Kirkpatrick details one organization’s radical efforts to erase the protections and existence of LGBTQ+ people, despite its innocuous self-branding as a religious freedom group representing the majority of Americans
WASHINGTON — In a discussion with NPR’s Terry Gross that aired yesterday, reporter David Kirkpatrick illustrated the coordinated and cunning legal and political strategies of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), as detailed in his October 2 piece published in the New Yorker. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — is providing excerpts of the interview below, preceded by key points and takeaways that highlight ADF’s history of targeted extremism.
Despite the fact that the organization, which grossed over $100 million in revenue last year, is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, many radical judges and lawmakers continue to welcome its influence and guidance. This guidance includes template legislation that politicians in state houses across the country have used to enact anti-LGBTQ+ laws and the peddling of false or misleading information to develop case law restricting the rights of LGBTQ+ people through the courts.
Key Takeaways from the Interview and Kirkpatrick’s Story
While ADF has claimed religious freedom and the “victimization” of religious conservatives as its motivations, recordings indicate that their drive is Christian Nationalism oppressing all forces: Giving a recorded lecture to law students, a senior leader at ADF stated “Jesus Christ is Lord. That is the first and final assertion Christians make about all of reality, including politics.” He went on to state that “Every earthly sovereignty is subordinate to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ, and therefore, we must cultivate a faithful presence in the courts, in the judiciary and in the academy.”
ADF has successfully weaponized SCOTUS nearly 20 times: Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned Roe v. Wade, is only one of 15 Supreme Court cases that ADF has won; they were also involved in SCOTUS decisions that allowed a baker to refuse to make a cake for a same-sex wedding and a web-designer to refuse service for another same-sex wedding. They were also involved in a decision that allowed employer-sponsored health insurance to exclude birth control coverage, and a decision that permitted pandemic-related public health rules to be blocked.
ADF has locked arms with the most central forces in our country’s judiciary: Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who ruled in ADF’s favor in the Mifepristone case, previously worked for an organization with direct financial ties to ADF; Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who has ruled in favor of numerous anti-equality cases, has taught multiple lectures supported by ADF; alumni of ADF’s training program for law students have also clerked for both Justice Barrett and Justice Samuel Alito.
Members of Congress are aiding in ADF’s influence on the Hill: Congressman Steve Scalise, who once reportedly compared himself to a former KKK leader, labeling himself as “David Duke without the baggage,” and fellow Congressman Jim Jordan both hosted an ADF reception for newly elected lawmakers earlier this year; the wife of Republican Senator Josh Hawley is also legal counsel at ADF and Senator Hawley has lectured at ADF’s Blackstone program for law students.
ADF has tripled its revenue in recent years and houses former high-profile government officials among its staff: ADF has acquired more than a hundred million dollars a year and now has seventy or so in-house lawyers, including the former solicitors general of Michigan and Nebraska and the former United States Attorney for Missouri.
ADF has authored at least 130 bills: During an internal meeting, the head of ADF’s legislative efforts said that the organization had “authored” at least 130 bills in 34 states last year; more than 30 were passed into law.
ADF has stated that the birth-control pill was a “mistake:” Allan Sears, CEO of ADF has stated on the record that “We are on a winning trajectory. It may be that the day will come when people say the birth-control pill was a mistake.”
ADF is behind many bills targeting transgender youth, particularly legislation banning trans youth from sports and bans on health care for transgender youth: According to Kirkpatrick, ADF was one of the first forces to bring about cases attacking a transgender youth participating on a school sports team aligning with their gender; Kirkpatrick stated that “(it) has helped to set off a national wave of legislation in, I think, more than 22 states to try to regulate that. And they continue to fight those battles in courts.” ADF has testified in favor of these bans in North Dakota and Kansas, which both later passed into law.
Key Excerpts From the Interview:
TERRY GROSS NPR: “The ADF's current goals include restricting access to the abortion pill, mifepristone, or banning it altogether, as well as limiting the authority of the FDA, which approved the pill, and restricting LGBTQ rights with an emphasis on children and adults who identify as transgender.”
DAVID KIRKPATRICK, THE NEW YORKER: “With ADF, what we're seeing here is this is a 30-year-old group that started out in a position where there really was no - or very little - Christian conservative legal movement, and they looked at a world where there was a constitutional right to abortion, where there were significant barriers between church and state, and they set out to undo both of those things.”
KIRKPATRICK: “One reason why I felt comfortable saying that they are now the most influential part of the Christian conservative movement is they're not just, you know, taking on a client who comes to them needing help, they're actually reaching out to legislatures in states around the country and saying, we'd like to help you draft some legislation.”
JEFFREY VENTRELLA, SENIOR COUNSEL AND SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF ACADEMIC AFFAIRS AND TRAINING AT THE ADF: “Every earthly sovereignty is subordinate to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ, and therefore, we must cultivate a faithful presence in the courts, in the judiciary and in the academy. In other words, as another guy put it once, something like, to ask Christianity to stay out of certain territory is to ask God not to be God, if he, in fact, is the sovereign Lord. We must champion these things.”
KIRKPATRICK: “What's happening here, as we mentioned earlier, is the ADF has become a more and more important part of the conservative movement and the Christian conservative movement. You know, they're not just arguing in court. They're lobbying. They don't call it that, but they're advising legislators in states around the country to pass legislation that is in line with the clauses they favor.”
KIRPATRICK: “Lots of clerks working for federal judges right now have come out of this ADF training program when the judges that they are working for will be hearing ADF cases.”
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