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Supreme Court

ADF at the Supreme Court

14 wins since 2011 and counting!

 

Alliance Defending Freedom is the nation’s largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, marriage and family, parental rights, and the sanctity of life. And we don’t just stand for freedom—we win. Within only a few short weeks of our launch in 1994, ADF was funding a case at the U.S. Supreme Court and supported our first victory. Since then, we have played various roles in 72 Supreme Court victories, and since 2011, we have directly represented parties in 14 victories at the Supreme Court. These victories have been on behalf of pastors, churches, religious organizations, college students, family-owned businesses, pro-life pregnancy centers, town councils, and many others. Learn more about our current or pending Supreme Court cases as well as our past victories below.

Supreme Court Cases Pending Decisions
Lorie Smith of 303 Creative
U.S. Supreme Court

Lorie Smith and 303 Creative

Alliance Defending Freedom is representing graphic artist Lorie Smith in a landmark free-speech case that will be heard before the Supreme Court on December 5, 2022.

Lorie left the corporate design world to start her own design studio, 303 Creative, so she could design custom graphics and websites that promote causes close to her heart. She was excited to create custom websites that celebrate marriage between a man and a woman, but Colorado made clear she’s not welcome in that space. Colorado is censoring her speech and requiring her to create custom websites celebrating views of marriage that violate her faith. Lorie works with people from all walks of life, including those who identify as LGBT. Like most artists, she simply can’t promote every message requested.

Free speech is for everyone. No one should be forced to say something they don’t believe. Every American should be free to say what they believe without fear of government punishment.

Supreme Court Cases Pending Cert Grant

Kerr v. Planned Parenthood

Kerr v. Planned Parenthood

In July 2018, in accordance with a state law prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions, South Carolina’s governor issued an executive order directing the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to label abortion clinics unqualified to provide family-planning services through Medicaid. This order rendered abortion providers like Planned Parenthood unable to receive Medicaid funding in South Carolina.

In response, Planned Parenthood and one of its clients sued in federal court. Pro-life states like South Carolina, consistent with the will of their citizens and state law, should be able to direct taxpayer Medicaid funds to medical providers offering real health-care services, not to abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.

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ADF Supreme Court Wins

June 24, 2022

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

In a victory for women and children, the Supreme Court overturned its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that wrongly found a constitutional right to abortion. With Roe gone, states are now empowered to protect and support the lives of women and their babies. ADF was honored to work alongside Mississippi in drafting and defending the Gestational Age Act before the Supreme Court, and along with the rest of the pro-life movement, will continue to work with state legislatures to ensure that life as a human right is protected across the country.

Case Documents  Explainer   Press Release
 

July 1, 2021

Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta

Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta

In 2012, California demanded that the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a nonprofit law firm, turn over the names and addresses of its top donors to the state Attorney General’s Office. Such a demand was dangerous, unnecessary, and uncalled for. Nonprofits like TMLC haven’t done anything wrong, and the California Attorney General’s Office has a reputation for leaking confidential records online, which would expose TMLC’s donors to intimidation, death threats, and hate mail from its ideological opponents.

Thankfully, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that California’s donor disclosure regulation violates the First Amendment rights of charities and their supporters. Every American should be free to peacefully support causes they believe in without fear of harassment or intimidation. This is a win for all Americans who want to support causes that align with their values.

Case Documents  Explainer   Press Release
 

March 8, 2021

Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski

Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski

In 2016, Georgia Gwinnett College officials stopped Chike Uzuegbunam not once, but twice, from sharing his Christian faith with fellow students in public, outdoor areas on his college campus. Despite complying with the college’s demands to get advance permission to speak on one of two tiny “speech zones,” Chike was threatened with discipline for sharing his faith.

When ADF challenged these unconstitutional practices in court, the college eventually changed its speech policies and claimed that it should avoid any penalty for violating Chike’s rights. The Supreme Court, however, ruled 8-1 that citizens are entitled to at least nominal damages if the government violates their constitutional rights. The government is supposed to protect freedom, not take it away.

Case Documents  Explainer   Press Release
 

July 8, 2020

March for Life Education and Defense Fund v. California

March for Life Education and Defense Fund v. California

In 2012, the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandated that employers provide their employees with abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception—regardless of their religious or moral convictions. If they refused, they faced heavy financial penalties under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). The Supreme Court first dealt major blows to the mandate in 2014 and 2016—in Hobby Lobby Stores v. Burwell and Zubik v. Burwell.

In 2017, the Trump administration issued new HHS rules—consistent with these previous Supreme Court rulings—that were meant to ensure that religious and pro-life organizations can pursue their missions consistently with their beliefs. But Pennsylvania, California, and other states filed lawsuits to block the new rules. So organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor and our client, March for Life Education and Defense Fund, intervened in these lawsuits to defend the new HHS rules.

In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the HHS rules that protected the conscience rights of religious and pro-life organizations in two similar cases: Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Trump v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The next day, the Supreme Court vacated the 9th Circuit’s decision against March for Life and ordered it to reconsider its ruling. The case is currently stayed while the Biden administration works to roll back protection for religious and moral objectors. No one should be forced to pay for or participate in abortions—least of all pro-life groups like March for Life.

Case Documents  Explainer   Press Release
 

November 25, 2019

Thompson v. Hebdon

Thompson v. Hebdon

Alaska’s laws limited voter donations to a maximum of $500 per year to any political candidate or any group other than a political party. When adjusted for inflation, the $500 limit falls below a similar Vermont donation limit the Supreme Court struck down in 2006 in Randall v. Sorrell. This cap on donations made it nearly impossible for Alaskan candidates to communicate with voters in the nation’s largest geographical districts.

The freedom of voters to participate in the political process is seriously impeded by laws that don’t allow them to meaningfully support the candidates and causes they believe in. That’s why the Supreme Court, in a per curium opinion, vacated the 9th Circuit’s decision that had upheld Alaska’s draconian campaign contribution laws. The high court also ordered the 9th Circuit to reexamine whether Alaska’s laws are consistent with the Supreme Court’s First Amendment precedents.

Case Documents   Explainer   Press Release
 

June 26, 2018

National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra

National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra

California’s so-called Reproductive FACT Act compelled pro-life pregnancy care centers to post a conspicuous sign in their waiting rooms saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion, as well as providing a number to call for abortion referrals. The law also forced non-medical pregnancy centers to add large disclosures about their non-medical status in all advertisements, wrongly implying that they were unqualified to provide charitable services. The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), a religious nonprofit comprising hundreds of member pregnancy centers from across the nation (including California), challenged this law. ADF represented them all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that NIFLA was likely to win its claim that the government cannot compel pro-life groups and individuals to express a message that conflicts with their beliefs. This led to a permanent injunction that prevented California from enforcing the unconstitutional law. No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on deeply divisive subjects such as abortion.

Case Documents  Explainer   Press Release
 

June 4, 2018

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

Jack Phillips is a cake artist and the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, where he designs custom cakes that celebrate some of life’s most important events. In 2012, two men requested that Jack create a custom wedding cake celebrating their same-sex wedding. Like many artists, Jack serves all people, but he cannot express messages or celebrate events that violate his core beliefs. So, Jack politely declined the request, saying that while he could not design cakes celebrating same-sex weddings, he would design custom cakes that express other messages or sell the men anything else in his shop.

Soon after, Jack was targeted and punished by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for declining to create this cake due to his religious beliefs. ADF represented Jack at the Supreme Court, arguing that the government cannot compel artists to celebrate events or express ideas that they disagree with.

The Court ruled 7-2 in Jack’s favor, finding that Colorado was wrong to punish Jack for peacefully living out his beliefs in the marketplace. In its decision, the Court cited the Commission’s double standard toward Jack and overt hostility toward his religious beliefs. Government hostility toward people of faith has no place in our society, and no one should be forced to create or speak messages that violate their beliefs. Free speech is for everyone—including those the government disagrees with.

Case Documents  Explainer   Press Release
 

June 26, 2017

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer

Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Missouri, operates a nonprofit preschool and daycare center called the Learning Center. The Learning Center has a playground that is used by the children during normal operating hours and by kids from the surrounding neighborhoods after school or on weekends.

To increase the safety of the playground, Trinity Lutheran sought to replace their pea gravel surface with a safer pour-in-place rubber surface. That’s when the church sought to participate in a program through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources that gives grants to nonprofit organizations to reuse scrap tires for playgrounds. Even though the church ranked fifth out of 44 applicants, the state of Missouri denied this generally available benefit to the Learning Center at Trinity Lutheran simply because it was run by a church. But organizations shouldn’t be denied a benefit available to everyone else just because it is religious.

Thankfully, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Trinity Lutheran’s favor, saying that the state of Missouri could not exclude religious organizations and individuals from generally available public benefits simply because of their beliefs. Neutrality toward religion does not require that the government treat people and organizations of faith worse than everyone else. It must treat them at least equally and allow them to have the same opportunities that it makes available to others.

Case Documents  Explainer   Press Release
 

May 16, 2016

Southern Nazarene University v. Burwell

Southern Nazarene University v. Burwell

Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Oklahoma Baptist University, and Mid-America Christian University are Christ-centered institutions of higher education in Oklahoma that hold deeply religious beliefs on the sanctity of human life. But the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services required these schools to suffer extreme penalties if they did not include all FDA-approved contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs and devices, in their employee and student health plans. ADF filed a lawsuit challenging the mandate on behalf of these universities.

The Supreme Court consolidated this case with six others (including Geneva College v. Burwell—see below) and issued a per curium opinion directing the courts to allow the parties to "arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners' religious exercise." Two years later, in May 2018, a district court enjoined the federal government from enforcing the mandate against the universities, permanently ending this attack on religious freedom.

Case Documents   Explainer   Press Release
 

May 16, 2016

Geneva College v. Burwell

Geneva College v. Burwell

Geneva College is a Christ-centered liberal arts college located in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. The government sought to force the college to compromise its deeply held religious beliefs on the sanctity of human life when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate that required Geneva College to include all FDA-approved contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs and devices, in its employee and student health plans, or else face severe penalties. ADF stepped in to challenge this unconstitutional mandate.

The Supreme Court consolidated this case with six others (including Southern Nazarene University v. Burwell—see above) and issued a per curium opinion directing the courts to allow the parties to "arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners' religious exercise." The Court also forbade the government from imposing fines on the challengers for failing to comply with the mandate. In July 2018, a district court enjoined the federal government from enforcing the mandate against Geneva College, permanently protecting the college's religious freedom.

Case Documents   Explainer   Press Release
 

June 18, 2015

Reed v. Town of Gilbert

Reed v. Town of Gilbert

Pastor Clyde Reed of Good News Community Church relied on small signs pointing people to his services, since his small congregation often had to meet at different locations such as public schools. But according to the town of Gilbert, Arizona, the church signs could only be six square feet, displayed for no more than 14 hours, and limited to four per property. By comparison, a political sign could be up to 32 square feet and displayed for months at a time, and an ideological sign could be displayed indefinitely with no limit to how many could be posted. Such disparate treatment is unfair and unconstitutional. That’s why ADF stepped in and represented Pastor Reed all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Court ruled in favor of Pastor Reed by an overwhelming 9-0 vote. The decision made it abundantly clear that Gilbert had violated the Free Speech rights of the church by discriminating against their speech. Churches throughout the country should be able to communicate to the public on the same terms as other organizations, political parties, or businesses.

Case Documents   Explainer   Press Release
 

June 30, 2014

Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell

Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell

The Hahns are a practicing Mennonite Christian family who have sought to run their company, Conestoga Wood Specialties, which manufactures custom wood products, in a manner that reflects their sincerely held religious beliefs, including their belief in the sanctity of human life.

The Hahn family’s ability to do so was challenged when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate requiring businesses to pay for insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and devices or else be fined up to $100 per day, per employee. Alliance Defending Freedom represented the Hahns at the Supreme Court. Their case was heard, along with that of the Green family of Hobby Lobby, in the spring of 2014.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate, stating that families like the Hahns and the Greens do not have to surrender their religious freedom or violate their conscience in order to remain in business. No American family should be forced to choose between violating their faith and government punishment.

Case Documents   Explainer   Press Release
 

May 5, 2014

Town of Greece v. Galloway

Town of Greece v. Galloway

In 2008, Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued the town of Greece, New York, on behalf of two local residents because they were offended at the prayers being offered at public meetings. They claimed the town violated the Constitution because many of the citizens who volunteered chose to say Christian prayers and demanded that the town censor those prayers to eliminate their distinctly Christian nature.

But the practice of town councils acknowledging America’s religious heritage and invoking divine guidance and blessings upon their work is a time-honored tradition and has always been constitutional. Even the Obama administration sided with the town of Greece.

Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Americans are free to pray according to their own beliefs at public meetings. By its holding, the Court affirmed that Americans throughout the country are free to pray faithfully, without fear of censorship at public meetings.

Case Documents   Explainer   Press Release
 

April 4, 2011

Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn

Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn

In 1997, the Arizona legislature enacted a statute that allows Arizona taxpayers to donate private funds to a “school tuition organization” (STO) of their choice. The taxpayer may then claim a credit on their state income tax obligation for the amount donated, up to certain limits.

Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization (ACSTO), represented by ADF, is one such STO that provides scholarships through private donations for families who want to send their children to private schools but can’t afford the higher tuition. Opponents of this program, represented by the ACLU, challenged it, alleging a violation of the Establishment Clause simply because religious schools can participate in this program alongside secular schools.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to dismiss the ACLU’s lawsuit, stating that taxpayers who didn’t like the program had no legal injury to challenge how private organizations used funds donated by private individuals. The decision created a national precedent that protects school-choice programs from unfounded legal attacks and thereby supports parental rights to choose the best school for their children, including private schools that share their religious beliefs.

Case Documents   Explainer   Press Release