Alliance Defending Freedom

This content was last updated Feb. 19, 2024, 2:34 p.m. UTC

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund, is a conservative fundamentalist Christian organization considered a hate group  by the Southern Poverty Law Center. ADF is dedicated to promoting anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ values in the United States legal system. They have been connected to numerous prominent figures in the United States, including former vice president Mike Pence, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and former attorney general Jeff Sessions.

They claim to have been involved in over 70 cases brought to the Supreme Court, and have represented clients in numerous anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ+, and specifically anti-trans cases. Their website showcases their beliefs as being actively anti-abortion and anti-same sex marriage. Their earliest piece of anti-trans work comes with a media reference guide they hosted between 2012 and 2014, in which they suggest referring to trans people as “sexually confused.”

ADF is most notable for being one of the earliest supporters of the idea of a “homosexual agenda,” for representing conversion therapy practitioners in numerous lawsuits, and for working internationally to oppose LGBTQ+ rights. ADF has represented cisgender athletes in the infamous Connecticut anti-trans sports case, and has defended the forced sterilization of trans people in Europe.

Homosexual behavior on college campuses is taking a dangerous new turn — the promotion of sexual relations between adults and children, known as pedophilia.

From The Homosexual Agenda, 15 July 2003


Alliance Defending Freedom was founded in 1993 in Scottsdale, Arizona, where it is currently headquartered. Originally named the Alliance Defense Fund, It launched to the public on January 31, 1994, and soon after began backing various cases that were important to Christian conservatives of the time.

Its founders include many notable figures in the evangelical Christian and conservatism movement such as Bill Bright, Larry Burkett, Marlin Maddoux, D. James Kennedy, James Dobson, and Alan Sears.

While the group was originally founded to fund efforts against secular legislation spearheaded by the ACLU back in the 90s, it has since grown and currently supports a hodgepodge of legal actions all connected by promoting the conservative Christian values the group supports.

In describing its aim on tax filings, the following is stated as its purpose: “To keep the doors open for the Gospel by advocating for religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, freedom of speech, and marriage and the family.”


Alliance Defending Freedom is a 501c(3) tax-exempt organization that, in 2021, has brought in over $75 million in revenue, a significant increase from its $62 million revenue in 2020. This trend of revenue being around or above $60 million has been steady in the past few years of its finances.

ADF has spent over $35 million in salary expenditures in 2021. Salaries listed include Alan Sears, at $485,633, Michael Farris, at $476,005, Kristen Waggoner, at $286,520, and Wayne Swindler, at $286,520.

 It also spent over $2 million in lobbying expenditures throughout 2018 and 2019.

Much of ADF’s revenue comes from donations, including multimillion dollar donations from the Servant Foundation, several hundred thousand from the Murdock Charitable Trust and the Charles Koch Institute.

Alliance Defending Freedom has funded numerous other anti-trans organizations, including the Child and Parental Rights Campaign and Women’s Liberation Front.

History of Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Among the earliest examples of anti-LGBTQ+ activism ADF engaged in was the book “The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today” by former ADF CEO Alan Sears and ADF member Craig Osten, published in 2003. This book is among the earliest popularizations of the term ‘homosexual agenda,’ which has been adapted to ‘trans agenda’ in the years since publication.

ADF has supported attempts to ban LGBTQ+ folks from the military and pushed to ban LGBTQ+ folks from the Boy Scouts of America. They opposed the repeal of anti-sodomy laws in the United States for Lawrence V Texas and promoted the conversion therapy group Exodus International in a pamphlet as well. They also helped to draft anti-gay legislation.

ADF offers several training courses on their website, which seek to bring novice professionals in fields such as law and journalism under their umbrella. For example, they offer the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a summer-long internship program designed for those working in law to get a grasp of a Christian perspective on the field. 

Alliance Defending Freedom has pushed for anti-trans legislation in the form of anti-trans bathroom laws across the country, beginning with a 2017 Minnesota bill known as the Student Physical Privacy Act, which limited the ability of trans students to go into bathrooms that align with their gender identity. Other legislation has been modeled after this, which has repeated links to ADF and lawyers who work with them.

In their legislative work, Alliance Defending Freedom has been active in recruiting expert witnesses for court cases. Expert witnesses recruited by the group include Paul Hruz, Patrick Lappert, Stephen Levine, and James Cantor.

ADF has also pushed internationally for anti-LGBTQ+ rights in places like Jamaica and Belize.

Recent legal successes include 303 Creative vs Elenis, which allowed discrimination against LGBTQ+ folks from private businesses. They are currently supporting Brian Tingley in a case seeking to allow Washington counselors to promote conversion therapy.

Outside of anti-LGBTQ+ activism, ADF has also worked to defund Planned Parenthood and has campaigned for abortion to be illegal.

Anti-Trans Sports Advocacy

Among ADF’s most notable examples of anti-trans legislation includes their campaign against allowing trans people to participate in sports along with other members of their gender.

Their most prominent case, Soule v. Connecticut Association of Schools, concerned four cisgender girl runners who competed against two transgender girls. ADF represented the cisgender girls (the ACLU represented the transgender girls). The courts ruled in favor of the transgender girls, however an appeals court recently agreed to rehear the cisgender girls’ challenge.

The ADF helped draft Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act banning transgender people from participating in sports that align with their gender identity. The language found in this bill is similar to that found in other states such as Montana, Mississippi and Louisiana.

On multiple occasions ADF is known to have presented dubious or unchecked claims as the truth. In one case, an apparent fabrication of a request for the services of a web designer in 303 Creative made it all the way to a Supreme Court case. In another, ADF was connected with a false claim in a push to ban trans girls from competing on sports teams with other girls. The daughter of CEO Kristin Waggoner was used as an example of a cisgender girl who had lost to a transgender girl. Grace Waggoner had never played against a trans player, having in truth lost to a cisgender player with short hair who was apparently rumored to have been trans. All information provided by ADF should therefore be carefully checked for falsification and rumors presented as fact.

Further resources:

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