Tag Archives: Alliance Defending Freedom

Fighting the good fight

Alan Sears and Alliance Defending Freedom are changing America’s legal landscape . . .

cover-nov14Alan Sears found his calling in 1993 when a group of Evangelical Christians asked him to help found a legal organization to defend religious liberty in America. The fact that Sears, a member of Legatus’ Phoenix Chapter, was Catholic didn’t matter to them. They were willing to cross denominational lines to defend one of the fundamental pillars of America’s founding.

For the past 20 years, Alliance Defending Freedom — or ADF — has defended religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, marriage, and parental rights all the way to the Supreme Court. In the process, it has become the most influential network of Christian lawyers in the country.

Faith journey

Alan Sears first learned his faith from his Baptist parents.

“I had wonderful, faithful Christian parents,” he said. “They led me to have a love for my faith and respect for God.”

As he grew older, Sears became involved with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, the SBC had an identity crisis regarding social and biblical issues. Sears held two SBC executive positions during that time. Eventually, the more conservative faction won out.

“While I was involved in this fight, I began to read the Church Fathers,” he explained. “Then I came across the writings of Pope John Paul II.”

Alan Sears

Alan Sears

Around that time, Sears met and married his wife Paula, a devout Roman Catholic. At one point, Sears’ father-in-law asked him why he wasn’t Catholic. Sears remembers saying that he would never convert because of the Catholic Church’s “unbiblical positions.”

Time and study would prove his position wrong. Before long Sears was enrolled at the Kino Institute, a Catholic catechetical school in Phoenix where he studied one-on-one with a priest.

“First, there would be one hour of teaching and studying of Fr. Hardon’s catechism,” Sears explained, “then one hour of argument. At some point, I realized that there was nothing left to fight about.”

Sears entered the Catholic Church in the summer of 1988.

Building a coalition

Besides his personal journey into the Church, Sears was working hard on his legal career. He served the Reagan administration in several positions. Notably, he was staff executive director of the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography during the Reagan administration.

“We were on our way to wiping out hard-core pornography in the nation, but then the administration changed,” said Sears, referring to the beginning of Bill Clinton’s first term as president.

After his work in government, Sears worked for 10 years in Arizona’s largest law firm. By the time ADF’s founders came looking for him, he had experience in all areas of law, including private practice, public policy and media work.

Alan Sears with Tom Monaghan.

Alan Sears with Tom Monaghan.

“The whole idea for ADF was not about dominance of one group,” he explained. “It was 35 Evangelical groups who came together. The founders understood that we are in a time when we must stand together to fight for things that matter most.”

Today, ADF has over 170 full-time employees and over 2,500 allied lawyers working in every U.S. state and 40 foreign countries.

Every summer, ADF runs its Blackstone Legal Fellowship Program — a nine-week program that takes about 150 of the country’s best law students who go deeper into natural law, government, philosophy and key legal doctrines. That includes six weeks of “field work.”

“I think ADF is doing outstanding work,” said Bernard Dobranski, founding dean of Ave Maria School of Law. “They get students from the best law schools across the country, and the students are paid well. ADF gives them instruction that is often neglected in law school.”

Dobranski credits Sears for helping build a new generation of well-equipped Christian attorneys who can defend religious and personal liberty in and out of the courtroom.

Wesley Hodges, who graduated from Baylor in May, participated in ADF’s Collegiate Academy in mid-July. The program provides upperclassmen an opportunity to learn from renowned Christian experts in legal and policy fields.

“The program transformed the way I act and see myself as a Christian in the public square,” he explained. “It allowed me to break through the worldly notion of barriers between a person’s private beliefs and public actions — and be trained to craft excellent moral arguments in the public square as a Christian.”

Conscience rights

Wesley Hodges

Wesley Hodges

Sears said he believes that ADF’s biggest accomplishment has been to “show up” in court on a large scale. From the post-World War II era until the 1980s, he said, people of faith became silent in public policy.

“We didn’t show up,” he said. “The body of Christ forfeited. We weren’t looking at the big picture.”

One of the things that ADF’s founders realized early on was that little cases no one was paying attention to became big cases. Today, ADF takes small cases very seriously. For example, Barronelle Stutzman, a florist from Washington state, had a customer ask her to provide flowers for his same-sex wedding.

“He had been her customer for nine years,” said Kristen Waggoner, ADF’s senior vice president of legal services. “She respectfully declined because of her Christian beliefs. She got sued by the state, which was unprecedented, by the ACLU, and by the homosexual customer.”

Stutzman’s cases are being litigated in state and federal courts.

Cathy DeCarlo was a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. At the beginning of her tenure, she told the administration she would not participate in abortions. DeCarlo was assured that her conscience rights would be respected. One day, a patient was wheeled in for a 22-week abortion. DeCarlo was told that if she refused to participate in the abortion, her career would be over.

“Our legal efforts led to a rewrite of the case,” Sears said.

In light of all the cases ADF handles, Sears says the No. 1 fight in America today is for the right of conscience. Although Catholics experienced religious persecution at various times in U.S. history, today’s battle is unprecedented.

Kristen Waggoner

Kristen Waggoner

“We really haven’t seen, in a modern sense, the deliberate and direct attack on the practice of the faith as we have now,” said Sears.

One of the most obvious attacks has been the Health and Human Services mandate, an Obama administration directive that most employers pay for contraception, abortifacients and sterilizations — regardless of the employer’s religious convictions.

“Never before has there been a time when you’ve had to choose between your conscience and your business,” said Sears. “We represented a Montana pharmacist who didn’t want to administer contraceptives. He was threatened with the loss of his license despite the fact there were other pharmacies in the area that provided contraceptives. We’ve won all these cases, but we shouldn’t have to fight these cases to begin with.”

Changing the culture

ADF and its allied attorneys are hopeful for the future. They’ve played various roles in 45 cases that have gone before the U.S. Supreme Court, and they’ve won 75% of them.

“We are about building alliances and changing the culture,” said Waggoner. “I don’t know of any other organization that does this with the spirit of unity we have. To be able to do what we do with our training and strategy component — this is Alan Sears’ greatest accomplishment.”

One common observation from those who work with Sears is his humility.

“I have been in private practice for 17 years,” Waggoner explained. “And with very accomplished people, you inevitably see very big egos. What really drew me to work with Alan Sears was his genuine humility and his love for God and people. He is always telling us that we have to make ‘stars’ of people, that we must build other people up.”

Not only is ADF building people up, but they are changing the culture of the legal profession from within. Perhaps one of the biggest changes ADF has wrought is for the lawyers themselves, Dobranski said. It’s not taboo anymore to talk about faith and defend it in court.

“People have been influenced and are more willing to make arguments on behalf of religious freedom,” he said.

And for people of faith, that is a welcome change.

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

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Supreme Court affirms liberty

Kevin Theriot: The Supreme Court made the right call in the Hobby Lobby case . . .

Kevin Theriot

Kevin Theriot

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a remarkable decision on June 30 in favor of religious liberty against the Obama administration’s abortion-pill mandate.

The Court’s ruling is especially noteworthy because the radical left (which lost) often casts itself as the protector of civil rights. In fact, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the federal law the Court used to protect the religious convictions of these family businesses (Conestoga Wood Specialties and Hobby Lobby), was championed by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and was signed in 1993 with much pomp and circumstance by then-President Bill Clinton. But the liberal establishment has shown its true colors by sharply criticizing the Court’s affirmation that religious liberty is more important than the government’s interest in coercing employers to violate their deepest religious convictions regarding abortion and reproduction.

The Court’s ruling broadly protects people of faith (and their businesses) from those who would seek to repeal our constitutionally protected freedoms, as the U.S. Senate itself recently tried and failed to do. Five Supreme Court justices unequivocally held that government officials don’t get to decide whether a law violates someone’s conscience. That’s a determination only the religious individual or entity can make.

This is significant because the Obama administration has argued from the beginning that forcing family-owned businesses to provide religiously objectionable drugs, devices, and procedures only minimally affects their religious liberty. The Supreme Court rejected that argument out of hand, and rightly so. After all, neither government officials nor judges, for that matter, have the ability to determine how important a religious conviction is or when it’s violated. The ruling for Conestoga Wood Specialties and Hobby Lobby settles this issue. From now on, if people of faith demonstrate that their religious convictions are sincere, and the government is placing substantial pressure on them to violate these convictions, they can invoke the protection of federal law.

After it is clear that a government edict is burdening religious freedom, government officials must then prove that they have a compelling reason to justify this restriction on religion. This is what is known as the “compelling interest test,” the strictest test for protecting civil rights. It means the government must have an extremely good reason — on the level of protecting national security or the ability to collect taxes — to justify the law.

Importantly, that reason cannot be general but must specifically apply to the individual who is being coerced to violate their religious conscience. For instance, lower courts have held that the government’s general interest in protecting women’s health is not a compelling interest — especially since there are so many exceptions to the administration’s mandate (like grandfathered plans, which may never have to comply if they don’t change). The interest is not very “compelling” if the government itself allows numerous exceptions to its rule.

Another important aspect of the compelling interest test is that the law must be the least restrictive way of accomplishing the government’s objective. The legal term for this is “narrow tailoring,” and it is what the Supreme Court used to rule in favor of Conestoga Wood Specialties and Hobby Lobby. Because the government already has developed less intrusive, alternative ways to provide coverage of abortifacients and sterilization for women, the mandate’s attempt to force the businesses of religious families to provide these items directly was not the narrowest option.

In addition to the Hahn family, the Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties, the Alliance Defending Freedom also represents, in other cases, several brave and devout Catholic families. These include the Newlands, Legatus members and the owners of Hercules Industries in Colorado. ADF secured the very first injunction against the mandate on the Newlands’ behalf. The Grotes in Illinois are also Legates. ADF and its allied attorneys represented them in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. ADF was able to obtain an injunction protecting their freedom as well. Based on the Conestoga- Hobby Lobby decision, the Supreme Court affirmed both injunctions.

These victories pave the way for Catholic owners of family businesses across the country to live by their convictions and not include abortifacients, contraception, sterilization, or counseling regarding these things in their health care plans.

The implications for religious freedom are profound for all Americans. The Supreme Court has shown it will not tolerate government officials trampling on religious freedom in a headlong charge to further an anti-life agenda.

KEVIN THERIOT is senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the Hahn family and Conestoga Wood Specialties in their lawsuit against the Obama administration’s abortion-pill mandate.

What’s at stake on November 6

Alan Sears writes that the values Americans hold sacred are up for grabs this year . . .

Alan Sears

With Election Day right around the corner, Americans must decide not only who will serve in office, but how those “personnel choices” will affect crucial federal and state-level issues foundational to our nation’s heritage and to our continuance in the image envisioned by our Founders.

A quick look at recent headlines easily demonstrates that three of those issues — religious freedom, marriage, and the sanctity of life — are facing some of the most serious challenges we’ve seen in our nation’s history. (Click here for a related story.)

In probably the most prominent example, religious freedom has literally been under assault since ObamaCare’s introduction in 2009. The passage of that bill into law in March 2010 only upped the ante, and has since spawned an abortion pill mandate that literally forces business owners to forego their consciences and their faith in order to provide health insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraceptives for employees.

We witnessed a significant victory against the abortion pill mandate in August when Denver-based Hercules Industries won an injunction against the mandate. The company is led by Denver Chapter Legates William and Andrew Newland.

Alliance Defending Freedom represents Hercules in that case, and we were happy to see them secure relief from the coercion other businesses in America still face. Everyone needs to remember that votes cast at all levels on Nov. 6 will affect decision-makers who will have the power to repeal this mandate altogether.

Marriage, the most fundamental building block to the health and survival of the nation, is also endangered at the federal level and in many states across the country this November.

The Obama administration has not enforced the Defense of Marriage Act since officially announcing their opposition to the law on Feb. 23, 2011. This move emboldened individuals and special interest groups nationwide to push the redefinition of marriage. It opened the door for those seeking to impose a homosexual agenda on the military through repeal of the military’s so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in September 2011. It gave way to our President announcing his support for same-sex “marriage” in May 2012.

Not surprisingly, there are now efforts to secure same-sex “marriage” ceremonies for U.S. forces. The future of these ceremonies and, most importantly, the protection of religious freedom for chaplains who have biblical convictions against performing them, is in the hands of members of the House and Senate — many of whom Americans will have the opportunity to support or oppose in just a few days.

And at the state level, ballot initiatives in Maine, Minnesota, Maryland, and Washington will allow citizens of those states to decide whether they wish to protect and preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman. These ballot initiatives are crucial not only for those states themselves but also because other states are watching. For example, groups in California, Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, and Ohio are already collecting signatures for proposed initiatives that either legalize same-sex “marriage” or repeal an existing ban on it.

Life is also on the ballot this November — both directly and indirectly. As Legatus magazine featured last month, Massachusetts voters will decide whether doctor-prescribed death will become the law of the land as it is in three other states. The “Death with Dignity Act,” which is on the ballot in the Commonwealth, allows doctors to prescribe life-ending medications for patients who then take the drugs home and end their lives when they’re ready.

It’s a surreal proposal, reminiscent of the famous lines of “Invictus” by English poet William Ernest Henley: “I am the captain of my fate. I am the master of my soul.” And it begs the question: Do we take our lives into our own hands only for the purpose of throwing them away with a prescription? Suffering patients need understanding and sound medical treatment, not encouragement to kill themselves.

Voters this year, as in all years, must look at the policies surrounding life that each candidate is promoting, weigh the candidate’s position, and choose those who will stand against the culture of death by standing for a culture of life.

Dropping our guard is simply not an option this November. Religious freedom, marriage, and life face serious challenges that simply cannot be put off for consideration in some future election cycle. The time is now. Your vote may help carry the day.

Alan Sears is a former federal prosecutor who held various posts in the departments of Justice and Interior during the Reagan administration. He is president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom. He and his wife Paula are members of Legatus’ Phoenix Chapter.

Defending liberty

Legatus members nationwide step up to protect religious freedom by fighting HHS mandate . . .

Legatus members are at the forefront of a legal battle being waged against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization in their insurance plans.

Of the estimated 27 lawsuits that have been filed by businesses, nonprofit organizations, and institutions since the mandate was announced Aug. 1, 2011, nearly a fourth involve Legatus members as plaintiffs.

In addition to a suit filed by Legatus itself, the list includes the cases of Hercules Industries of Denver (which recently won the first court order against the mandate), Triune Health, EWTN, Priests for Life, and Ave Maria University. All are owned or led by Legates. Detroit’s Weingartz Supply Co., and its president, Legate Daniel Weingartz,  also are plaintiffs in the Legatus suit, which challenges the  constitutionality of the HHS mandate under the First Amendment’s religious liberty and free speech provisions.

First Amendment rights

Matt Bowman

Matt Bowman, legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing 14 plaintiffs in the Hercules case and three other suits contesting the HHS mandate, said Legatus involvement in this issue shows that the organization is doing vital work to help Christian business leaders incorporate their faith into their everyday lives.

“The government in these cases is taking the position that you cannot exercise religion in your everyday life,” said Bowman. He quotes Pope Benedict XVI, who vigorously countered such sentiments in 2008 when he asked, “Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs? Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.”

The first suit against the HHS mandate was filed last November by Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic liberal arts school in North Carolina, before the Jan. 20 publication of final rules on the directive. According to the Catholic News Agency, that case was dismissed in July on technical grounds. The college is expected to  continue its fight against the mandate.

Michael Warsaw

Led by Legate Michael Warsaw, EWTN became the first Catholic organization on Feb. 9 to legally challenge the HHS mandate after publication of the rules. That same month, two other groups with  Legates at the helm, Priests for Life (Legate Janet Morana) and Ave Maria University (Legate Jim Towey), followed with similar suits.

Denver’s Hercules Industries, where Legates William and Andrew Newland are CEO and vice president, respectively, filed suit April 3 and in July was granted an order against the mandate. That ruling, however, only applies to Hercules. In opposing the order, the Obama  administration said that people of faith give up their religious liberty when engaging in business.

Legate Mary Ann Yep, co-founder with her husband, Christopher, of Chicago’s Triune Health Group, disagrees. Triune is challenging  both the HHS mandate and a similar state mandate in Illinois in a suit filed in August. Yep told the Catholic News Agency that she cannot separate her identity as a Catholic woman from her identity as a business owner, and that she aims to live by the same principles whether she is at home, at work or in church.

Crain’s Chicago Business recently named Triune Health the Best Place to Work for Women in the Chicago metro area.

Spiritual warfare

As members engage in the fight for religious freedom on various fronts, Legatus is seeking to bolster their efforts by mobilizing members in a spiritual battle for the future of the country.

On Aug. 1, the date the HHS mandate took effect, Legatus’ executive director John Hunt asked chapters to offer 1,776 Masses and pray 1,776 hours of Eucharistic adoration before the Nov. 6 election.

The effort has garnered a tremendous response from Legates. As of publication, members have committed to 2,186 Masses and 750 hours of Eucharistic adoration. Orange County Chapter member Tim Busch has arranged for 600 Masses and 250 hours of adoration. Anthony Mullen, an At-Large member, has pledged 100 Masses.

Mullen has called the prayer effort “the single most important work we can possibly do to defeat religious intolerance in America. We have a sacred duty together before God to fight with all our being, relying on the greatest power in the universe: God’s sacrifice in the  Mass and his presence in the Eucharist.”

Judy Roberts is a Legatus magazine staff writer.