Michael Whitehead has nearly 50 years of experience as a Kansas City trial attorney defending churches and ministries from trial courts to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1981, Mike was co-counsel in a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Widmar v. Vincent (454 US 263), establishing the right of Christian students to “equal access” to student union space for Bible study and prayer meetings at a public university. The Court ruled 8-1 in favor of Mike’s clients, the students. He was local counsel with his son, Jonathan, also an attorney, in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Mo. v. Comer, “the playground case.” In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Mike’s client, giving the church equal access to a grant available to other non-profits.
In 2022, the Whiteheads were back at the Supreme Court in Carson v. Makin, and SCOTUS ruled 6-3 in favor of Christian parents in Maine who sought equal access to a tuition aid program which they would use at a local Christian school. He has served as general counsel for the Missouri Baptist Convention and recently won three cases restoring three Missouri Baptist agencies to accountability to the Missouri Baptist Convention.
In addition to his legal career, Mike has worked on the staff of two Southern Baptist entities. In 1991, he became general counsel for the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in its Washington, DC office. There he testified before Congress, met with the White House, and filed amicus curiae briefs in the Supreme Court on Southern Baptist views of family, faith, and religious freedom. In 1995-2001, he was executive vice president and interim president of Midwestern Baptist Seminary in Kansas City, also teaching courses as associate professor of church and law.
Mike grew up in Independence, MO and graduated from Missouri University, both undergrad and law school. After law school, he served three years as a Captain in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, (JAG) before entering private law practice in what is today called The Whitehead Law Firm, LLC. Mike and his wife, Jan, have three children and eleven grandchildren and make their home in Lee’s Summit, MO. Mike has been ordained both as a deacon and as a minister of the gospel by Southern Baptist churches and currently attends Fellowship of Greenwood with Pastor Chris Williams.
Mike was one of the first allied attorneys with ADF and served for 25 years on the Grant Review Committee, before joining the governing board of directors for ADF and the ADF Foundation. Mike and his son Jonathan often volunteer as allied attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom. They have filed amicus curiae briefs in the Supreme Court in several ADF cases, including Masterpiece Cakeshop and 303 Creative.