ADF Charging The Right Kind Of Churches To Join Its Legal Aid Alliance

Image from ADF Church Alliance promotional brochure.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Religious Right legal group with a $50 million budget and an increasingly global footprint, has developed a new revenue stream by charging churches to join ADF Church Alliance, a sort of legal HMO, which it launched last year. A paid message sent through Charisma Media’s email list on Tuesday says that more than 2,800 churches have already signed up.

ADF is behind a political and legal strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade hoping to use the passage of ever-more-restrict abortion laws at the state level, and it is a major player in the Religious Right’s effort to define religious liberty in ways that allow companies to refuse service to same-sex couples based on  business owners’ religious beliefs.

According to ADF’s website, it launched the Church Alliance “to support the ever growing legal needs of churches across the United States” and “has steadily developed into a robust service that protects, advises and engages churches for their religious liberty.” A promotional brochure warns, “Today, it is not a question of if churches will be threatened or sued for standing true to God’s Word—the question is solely when and where such cases will arise.”

ADF says benefits of membership include:

  • A religious liberty audit, including legal review of church bylaws and policies that relate to protecting the church’s religious liberty;
  • Direct access to attorneys to answer your questions about protecting the church’s religious liberty;
  • Consultation for legal issues involving the church’s religious liberty (prior to litigation);
  • Legal representation in cases involving the churches’ religious liberty (e.g., employment, land use, tax exemption, church member discipline/ removal, requests to use church facilities, government mandates or unconstitutional regulation, volunteer requirements, equal access to government property or benefits, and clergy confidentiality); and
  • Specialized resources such as webinars and newsletters tailored to protecting the religious liberty of the Church.

The Alliance is only for Christian churches whose statement of faith “does not materially conflict” with key portions of ADF’s statement of faith, which includes not only beliefs about the inerrancy of scripture and the punishment of unbelievers in Hell, but also a repudiation of marriage equality and transgender identity (“Rejecting one’s biological sex rejects the created image of God”).

“We’re all of one singular faith,” assures the May 1 email. “Like you, ADF Church Alliance is guided by biblical principles: We are Christ-centered, servant-oriented and committed to stewardship—dedicated to defending and advocating for the right of people to freely live out their faith.”

Annual membership dues vary based on a congregation’s size, from $250 for a church with 150 or fewer members to $4,000 a year for a megachurch with more than 2,000 members.

ADF may be counting on additional litigation to build on its Supreme Court victory last year in the Trinity Lutheran case, which ADF says “established the legal principle that churches should not be excluded from general public benefits solely because of their religious status.” PFAW Foundation’s Paul Gordon noted at the time that, while the ruling was narrowly tailored to the specific case involving public funding for playground resurfacing, it nevertheless undermined the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and the separation of church and state.