Alan Sears, Phoenix Chapter
For 23 years as the president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom, Alan Sears said the Christian legal firm he founded in 1993 operated in the spirit of John 15:5. Founded as the Alliance Defense Fund, Sears says the ministry has worked to make “stars of others” and lift up the scores of ADF-trained attorneys across the country who defend religious freedom in the courts. After a period of discernment and prayer, Sears decided in January that the time was right to step down. He will continue to serve ADF simply as its founder. Sears, a charter member of Legatus’ Phoenix Chapter, spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.
What made this the right time to step aside as president and CEO?
One of the most important negative things I’ve discovered is that many charities and ministries fail to transition well from the founding CEO to the next generation because they usually wait too long. You should transition when your health is good, when everything seems to be going pretty well and you’re still in your growth mode. Most people wait to transition when something is going wrong.
What will you do in your role as founder?
I want to focus 90% of my time on helping the ministry create new capacity through development, particularly by increasing our alliances.
What led you to found what was then known as the Alliance Defense Fund?
It was somewhat like the process that led me to this stage. There was a group of 35 different national ministry leaders who came together to talk about the crisis for religious freedom, particularly what was going on in the courts. There was a mega bipartisan recognition that the courts were stripping away religious freedom. There had been a number of Christian legal efforts to deal with that concern, but none of them was big enough or sustained enough to really make the kind of difference that needed to be made. So we created what was called the Alliance Defense Fund, because we were going to train lawyers and fund them with the expenses to do the work.
All these years later, what is the state of religious freedom in the U.S.?
We’ve been given a reprieve. We were on a path to the Catholic Church being outlawed. With the U.S. Department of Education and these mandates on gender where they’re ordering schools to open their locker rooms and showers to people of the opposite biological sex, it wasn’t going to be too long before every Catholic college and every Catholic university that has students with federally funded student loans was going to be told that they had to follow this as well.
There are still many local and state governments that are after us. More than 100 cities across the U.S. have passed laws about sexual orientation and gender identity that deliberately and directly clash with our faith, that suppress religious liberty for employers and others. No one should forget that we still have a very strong opposition.
What role has Legatus played in your own spiritual journey?
For my wife Paula and me, Legatus has been our place of peace and shelter. It is one of the few places that offers a time of peace with no one soliciting you and you not needing to solicit anybody else. It’s a place of spiritual building and a place of relationship healing. There have been periods where I would say Legatus is one of the most important parts of our life, to have a place where you have people who not only believe in the teachings of our Church, but who seek to live their lives in accord with them.