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Supreme Court of the United States

The Year in Review

By James Arnold posted on:
December 27, 2017

This past year has been monumental for Alliance Defending Freedom. Here are just some of the incredible highlights.

Alliance Defending Freedom Names New CEO

In January, ADF introduced Michael P. Farris as its new President, CEO, and General Counsel. Farris was founding president of both the Home School Legal Defense Association (1983) and Patrick Henry College (2000). He is a constitutional appellate litigator who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, eight federal circuit courts, and the appellate courts of 13 states.

At the time, here’s what Farris had to say about his new role at ADF:

The most important questions about the future of our freedom are being deliberated today in the legal arena. All of our freedoms arose from the battle to ensure religious liberty, and they hang in the balance at this crucial time in our history. ADF has become the world’s premier legal advocacy organization while being true to its name by promoting a spirit of alliance in our movement. To continue “running toward the fight” for freedom—as I have for my entire career—is a challenge I have accepted with complete clarity about the threats we face but also with great hope and an eye on the many opportunities before us.

Shortly after Farris began at ADF, President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. Farris provided a bit of background information on Judge Gorsuch here. On April 7, Gorsuch was confirmed as a justice.

Victory in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer

In April, ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman argued on behalf of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia before the U.S. Supreme Court. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s what that case was all about:

ADF attorneys represent a Missouri church that runs a preschool, which the state excluded from a program that provides reimbursement grants to purchase rubberized surface material (made of recycled tires) for children’s playgrounds. Although the state highly ranked the center as qualified for the program, it denied the center’s application solely because a church runs the preschool.

Immediately following the oral arguments, Cortman was very positive about the argument.

Spoiler alert: He was right. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the government cannot exclude churches and other faith-based organizations from a secular government program simply because of their religious identity.

On the same day of the ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court also granted review in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. More on that later.

Victories for Conscience

In May, a Kentucky appeals court issued a ruling that affirms Blaine Adamson’s freedom to decline orders that would require him to promote a message in conflict with his religious beliefs. The case has since been appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which will hear the case in the coming year.

In August, a court in Wisconsin told Amy Lawson, a photographer and blogger, that a Madison ordinance threatening her artistic freedom would not actually apply to her. The ordinance would have forced her to use her creative talents to speak messages with which she disagreed. Fortunately, the court ruled that she is free to live and work consistently with her faith.

College Campuses and Free Speech

Throughout the year, the ADF Center for Academic Freedom has been fighting for the rights of college students across the nation.

You can read about all of those cases over at their new website.

For just one stand-out example, let’s take a look at Fresno State Students for Life v. Thatcher:

The Students for Life chapter at California State University, Fresno, received permission to chalk pro-life messages around campus in May 2017. But a professor and several students from his class erased the messages. The professor claimed that they had no right to speak outside the speech zone (which does not exist on the campus) and that he had the right to erase their messages. He also proclaimed that “college campuses are not free speech areas.” The incident was capture on video.

How’d that one turn out? Well, just check out this headline: “Fresno State prof to pay $17K, undergo free speech training after censoring students’ pro-life expression.

Good news, all around.

Jack Phillips and the U.S. Supreme Court

You’re likely familiar with Jack Phillips. But just in case, here’s a brief history:

It all began five years ago when Jack politely declined to design a custom cake for a same-sex wedding. He offered to sell the couple anything else in his store, or to design a cake for a different occasion. Jack serves all people, but he cannot use his artistic talents to celebrate every event, particularly not those that conflict with his religious beliefs. The couple responded by picketing his cakeshop and then suing him.

After the U.S. Supreme Court decided to review his case, Jack Phillips spoke with the ladies on The View about his case. Since then, amicus briefs were filed and debates were held. And, of course, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on December 5.

The arguments themselves were, to quote ADF President Michael P. Farris, a “vigorous clash.”

We will have to wait until sometime next year for the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case.

U.S. Supreme Court Grants Review in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra

The final piece of news for the year is this: The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an ADF case out of California. Here’s the background:

California’s Reproductive FACT Act, AB 775, forces pro-life pregnancy care centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry. The law requires licensed medical centers that offer free, pro-life help to pregnant women to post a disclosure saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception services. The disclosure must also include a phone number for a county office that refers women to Planned Parenthood and other abortionists. The law also forces unlicensed pregnancy centers to add large disclosures about their non-medical status in all advertisements (drowning out their own message), even if they provide no medical services. Other courts have invalidated or mostly invalidated similar laws in Austin, Texas; Montgomery County, Maryland; Baltimore; and New York City.

The case will be argued in the spring, likely in the earlier part of the year.


We’ll see you next year.


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James Arnold

James Arnold

News and Research Manager

James Arnold manages and edits the Alliance Alert, a daily repository of news in all forms—written, spoken, or in video format.

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