It’s amazing how far God has brought Alliance Defending Freedom during our first 25 years. As a legal advocacy alliance with over 3,200 attorneys in the U.S. and all over the world, ADF and ADF International has protected and advanced key freedoms of speech and religious liberty worldwide.
God has granted major victories time and again to ADF and our allies. ADF scored two major victories this year at the U.S. Supreme Court that will impact generations to come. In fact, ADF was ranked as the top firm for First Amendment victories at the Supreme Court between 2013 and 2017.
Let’s take a look back on 2018.
1. Jack Phillips Gets Justice
On Monday, June 4, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, ruling 7-2 that the state had treated Jack Phillips with impermissible hostility because of his religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Jack serves all customers; he simply declines to create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in violation with his deeply held beliefs. Jack has turned down requests for custom artwork celebrating Halloween or disparaging another person—including those who identify as LGBT.
Back in 2012, two men asked Jack to create a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding. Jack offered to sell them any of the items available in the shop or to design a cake for a different occasion, but he politely told them he could not in good conscience create a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding. Over the course of the next six years, Jack lost 40 percent of his business, received death threats, and endured the Commission publicly equating his beliefs with those of slaveholders and Nazis.
As Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his opinion:
The neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised here. The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his objection.
The Court reaffirmed what it said in Obergefell—which declared a constitutional right to same-sex marriage—that people of good will can reasonably disagree on the meaning of marriage. Writing at USA Today, Jack Phillips said:
As I waited for [the Court’s] decision, I wondered whether I’d see a break in the clouds — a ruling that the state was wrong to punish me for living according to my beliefs — or another looming storm. Would the court make clear that I don’t have to hide my faith? Or would it banish my beliefs and allow the government to bully me?
Now that the decision has arrived, I can see the sun once again. The Supreme Court affirmed that the government must respect my religious beliefs about marriage. It welcomed me back from the outskirts where the state had pushed me. At least for the moment, it has brought an end to my storm.
ADF Senior Vice President of U.S. legal division Kristen Waggoner, who argued on Jack’s behalf at the U.S. Supreme Court, wrote at Fox News:
[I]f the commission’s order stood, Jack’s freedom to create based on his convictions would have been stripped away, his business decimated, and his beliefs banished from public life. The Supreme Court saw no justice in that. Those who believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman shouldn’t be ostracized, banished from society simply because of what they believe.
And while there’s plenty of reason to rejoice at what God has done through Masterpiece—including, perhaps most importantly, Jack’s nephew turning to Christ in faith—2018 also brought us a chance to celebrate a unanimous victory in a similar case at the U.K. Supreme Court in Ashers Baking Company.
2. Free Speech Gets Life
ADF celebrated another major free speech victory in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra in 2018.
Decided by a 5-4 margin, the case challenged the so-called “Reproductive FACT Act”—a 2015 California law that forced pro-life pregnancy centers to point the way to taxpayer-funded abortions. The law targeted pro-life centers, forcing them to violate their very reason for existence—to provide an alternative to abortion for a woman facing an unexpected pregnancy.
ADF President, CEO and General Counsel Michael Farris argued that the California law—which was backed by NARAL Pro-Choice America and benefited abortion giants like Planned Parenthood—blatantly violated the free speech of these pro-life centers.
The Supreme Court agreed, and a federal district court subsequently ordered the state of California to permanently end enforcement of the law, solidifying the victory for pro-life centers. The Court’s ruling has also resulted in the striking down of a similar law in Hawaii.
Farris wrote at The Los Angeles Times:
The [Supreme Court] rejected California’s argument that it was simply regulating “professional speech.” Some courts of appeals have made such a distinction, but the court disagreed with the idea that speech would be “unprotected merely because it is uttered by ‘professionals.’” Indeed, the court added, “the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail.”
Also rejected was California’s contention that its law was about ensuring informed consent for patients. Unlike Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, Thomas wrote, the California law blanketed “all interactions between a covered facility and its clients, regardless of whether a medical procedure is ever sought, offered, or performed.”
In other words, California went too far. Its law unconstitutionally targeted these pregnancy centers because of their views opposing abortion. No one should be forced to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on such deeply divisive subjects. The court was right to put a stop to the law.
3. Hail to the Chief
Kelvin Cochran dedicated over 30 years of his life to fighting fires and protecting the communities in which he's lived and worked. In 2015, Chief Cochran was fired from his post as Atlanta Fire Chief after he wrote a men’s devotional book in his spare time that briefly mentions biblical teachings on marriage and sex.
In October 2018, the city of Atlanta agreed to pay its former fire chief, Kelvin Cochran, $1.2 million in the wake of a federal court ruling that the city had violated his constitutional rights.
4. Permission to Speak Freely
In March 2018, Miami University of Ohio agreed to change its unconstitutional policies that authorized officials at its Hamilton campus to require students to post signs “warning” others about their group’s pro-life display.
As part of a settlement ending a federal lawsuit that ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom filed on behalf of the campus chapter of Students for Life, the university has agreed to revise its policies to respect the free speech rights of all students, regardless of their viewpoint. The win was one of ADF’s nearly 400 for student free speech rights over the years, with the clients involved representing a wide variety of viewpoints on religion and politics.
5. In the Zone
The city of Monroe, North Carolina, enacted an unconstitutional zoning code that barred churches from three out of four sub-districts, but allowed libraries, museums, and other nonprofit groups. This prohibited At the Cross Fellowship Baptist Church from holding worship services in its newly rented and renovated premises.
Responding to a lawsuit from Alliance Defending Freedom, the city voted in August 2018 to amend its code to permit churches to locate in the once-prohibited zones.
In response to increasing challenges churches face, ADF launched its Church Alliance in October 2017, and has already welcomed over 3,000 churches in all 50 states.
The ADF Church Alliance allows pastors and elders nationwide to focus more time and energy on meeting the needs of their churches. Preaching the Gospel replaces addressing zoning challenges and making court appearances. Learn more here.
With so much to be celebrate in 2018, we’re trusting the Lord for continued success in 2019.
Check back next time for cases to watch in 2019.
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