The Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is a Christian legal group dedicated to providing “a strong, coordinated legal defense against growing attacks on religious freedom.” ADF is staffed by more than 40 attorneys who work nationwide to roll back advances in LGBT rights and women’s health and rights. The New York Times says the organization is “the largest legal force of the religious right.” The Southern Poverty Law Center calls ADF “virulently anti-gay.”

The group, originally named the Alliance Defense Fund, was founded in 1994 by more than thirty prominent members of the religious right, including Focus on the Family’s James Dobson and the American Family Association’s Donald Wildman. According to ADF president Alan Sears, the leaders formed the organization to counter the work of the American Civil Liberties Union. From its inception, the group has focused most of its work on anti-gay advocacy. The SPLC highlights a 1994 fundraising solicitation the group sent warning that “Hiring homosexuals in Christian schools, churches, and even as Sunday School teachers may soon become the law of the land.” The organization quickly began training Christian attorneys through the establishment of a legal academy and fellowship.

In service of its mission as “advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith,” ADF has submitted court briefs supporting bans on sodomy in Lawrence vs. Texas (2003) and on same-sex marriage in Hollingsworth vs. Perry (2013), and challenged several local and state laws and ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Their website states: “Redefining marriage is ultimately part of a larger effort to redesign society in order to give social approval of homosexual behavior, and to empower social acceptance of a forgery of gender and sexual practice at odds with natural law and the faith of millions.”

The group has been led from its founding by Sears, a former official in the Reagan administration and executive director of the Meese Commission. In 2003, Sears and coauthor Craig Osten published “The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today.” According to the New York Times, the book, “describes gay people as ‘trapped’ and gay-rights advocates as bent on creating a nation of ‘broken families and broken lives.’” “Will we avert our glance while Rome burns and our children are lost because we are afraid…afraid to offend, afraid to be labeled intolerant, afraid to take action in fear of repercussions?” they ask. “Or will we take a stand for Christ and for our children and grandchildren?” Sears followed that up with a 2005 book attacking the American Civil Liberties Union. In ACLU vs. America, Sears calls the ACLU “America’s leading religious censor.”

Throughout its existence, ADF has participated in a series of court cases asserting the rights of Christians to exercise their faith. They state, “Thanks be to God, Alliance Defending Freedom and its allies have won 8 out of every 10 cases litigated to conclusion, including 38 precedent setting victories at the U.S. Supreme Court…” Significant in the organization’s history are its victories in Dale v. Boy Scouts of America, where the Court ruled that the Boy Scouts could exclude gay scout leaders, and Van Orden v. Perry, a case allowing the display of the Ten Commandments at the Texas Capitol. In 2003, ADF challenged a law in Allentown, PA which banned housing discrimination against transsexual and homosexual residents, arguing that the law would lead to “sexual anarchy.” The challenge would have set precedent for the elimination of anti-discrimination laws throughout Pennsylvania, but was lost in the state’s appellate court.

At a 2014 religious-right conference, an ADF attorney repeated the debunked claim that the murder of Matthew Shepard had nothing to do with his sexuality. The lead detective in the Shepard case called that argument “fictional.” That same year, the group received media coverage after it helped write legislation in Arizona permitting businesses to discriminate against gay customers. The bill, passed by both chambers of Arizona’s legislature, was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer. Additionally, ADF has defended a law in Belize criminalizing homosexuality with up to ten years in prison.

ADF’s beliefs extend to issues surrounding women’s health – such as access to birth control and legal abortion. The organization adamantly opposed the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, referring to it as the “Abortion Pill Mandate.” ADF continues, “Crafted with the help of Planned Parenthood, ObamaCare could well be the most serious attack on your religious liberty in America’s 236-year history.”

The group is also behind Pulpit Freedom Sunday, which the Columbus Dispatch describes as an effort “encouraging pastors to challenge the Internal Revenue Service’s prohibition on preaching for or against political candidates.” It also founded the Day of Truth (now called the Day of Dialogue and organized by Focus on the Family) to counter the Day of Silence, a day meant to bring attention to anti-gay bullying.

ADF has a significant fundraising operation which many lawyers say is responsible for its success. In 2013, the most recent year for which financial information is available, the group took in nearly $40 million in revenue and spent more than $38 million on its operations, including more than $9.7 million on litigation and more than $6 million on “allied support and training.” The group’s largest contributor is the National Christian Foundation, a donor advised fund that distributes money on behalf of its contributors. Since 2002, ADF has received more than $41 million from the foundation.

View Financial Record
Grants In
Grants Out
Total Expenses
12014$38,238,952$43,596,651$42,482,364$3,901,800$42,742,612View 990
22013$34,692,538$39,891,396$38,943,749$4,191,440$38,182,925View 990
32012$32,968,221$38,269,840$36,379,373$4,408,868$41,163,648View 990
42011$35,802,940$35,145,644$34,546,116$2,462,191$33,848,974View 990
52010$34,519,320$34,702,917$32,748,370$2,141,385$32,142,551View 990
62009$31,980,556$30,127,514$28,038,171$1,830,171$30,161,895View 990
72008$31,666,790$31,664,593$30,499,322$1,620,325$29,843,204View 990
82007$29,865,403$31,674,124$30,616,566$1,838,992$27,256,943View 990
92006$25,448,222$26,095,319$25,335,092$2,003,223$22,720,023View 990
102005$22,072,926$21,986,553$21,611,710$2,502,898$20,465,187View 990
112004$20,581,560$17,921,146$17,756,136$3,184,321$16,434,746View 990
122003$19,095,160$15,744,101$15,518,141$2,704,012$14,673,718View 990

349 transactions on record as a donor.

Ordered By: Year (Newer to Older)

Showing record as donor
1Alliance Defending FreedomAlliance Defending Freedom Foundation$1,205,0552014+
2Alliance Defending FreedomAmerican Liberties Institute$101,1082014+
3Alliance Defending FreedomBrena Bell & Clarkson PC$38,8832014+
4Alliance Defending FreedomChaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty$20,0002014+
5Alliance Defending FreedomClymer & Musser PC$10,5052014+
6Alliance Defending FreedomDalton & Tomich PLC$25,0002014+
7Alliance Defending FreedomEllis & Irwin LLP$9,3202014+
8Alliance Defending FreedomFidelis Center for Law and Policy$50,0002014+
9Alliance Defending FreedomFirst Freedoms Foundation$7,5822014+
10Alliance Defending FreedomFreedom of Conscience Defense Fund$145,8582014+
11Alliance Defending FreedomGoodman Allen & Filetti PLLC$60,0002014+
12Alliance Defending FreedomHome School Foundation$15,0002014+
13Alliance Defending FreedomIndependence Law Center$36,4862014+
14Alliance Defending FreedomJames Hochberg AAL$35,1792014+
15Alliance Defending FreedomJason Craddock$41,5872014+
16Alliance Defending FreedomJubilee Campaign USA$14,3192014+
17Alliance Defending FreedomKevin G. Clarkson$12,0002014+
18Alliance Defending FreedomLaw Office of John B Wells$21,8022014+
19Alliance Defending FreedomLaw Office of Scott D Bergthold$33,4672014+
20Alliance Defending FreedomLaw offices of herbert Grey$16,2602014+
21Alliance Defending FreedomLiberty University School of Law$10,0002014+
22Alliance Defending FreedomMauck & Baker LLC$13,6422014+
23Alliance Defending FreedomMichael DePrimo$30,0002014+
24Alliance Defending FreedomMilitary Veterans Advocacy$7,8092014+
25Alliance Defending FreedomMohrman & Kaardal PA$5,0002014+
26Alliance Defending FreedomMorality in Media$11,0002014+
27Alliance Defending FreedomMylar Law PC$9,0002014+
28Alliance Defending FreedomNathan W Kellum$150,0002014+
29Alliance Defending FreedomNational Legal Foundation$30,3652014+
30Alliance Defending FreedomPeople Against A Casino Town$7,9142014+
31Alliance Defending FreedomShreffer Law PLLC$16,9952014+
32Alliance Defending FreedomTelios Law PLLC$25,0002014+
33Alliance Defending FreedomTesla Inc$7,5002014+
34Alliance Defending FreedomBecket Fund for Religious Liberty$30,0002014+
35Alliance Defending FreedomClaremont Institute$5,0002014+
36Alliance Defending FreedomNational Center for Law & Policy$5,9552014+
37Alliance Defending FreedomWitherspoon Institute$50,0002014+
38Alliance Defending FreedomWadleigh Starr & Peters PLLC$66,3542014+
39Alliance Defending FreedomWashington Legal Services$12,8392014+
40Alliance Defending FreedomWhitehead Law Firm LLC$26,0542014+
41Alliance Defending FreedomWorld Outreach Conference Center$10,0002014+
42Alliance Defending FreedomActright Legal Foundation$15,0002013+
43Alliance Defending FreedomAlliance Defense Fund Foundation$1,404,7082013+
44Alliance Defending FreedomAmerican Freedom Law Center$17,5002013+
45Alliance Defending FreedomAmerican Liberties Institute$131,1652013+
46Alliance Defending FreedomBioethics Defense Fund - AZ$12,5002013+
47Alliance Defending FreedomCecilia Wood$10,0002013+
48Alliance Defending FreedomClymer & Mussner PC$10,5432013+
49Alliance Defending FreedomDalton & Tomich PLC$15,0002013+
50Alliance Defending FreedomDay law Group$6,7402013+
Contributions from private foundations and other nonprofit entities are based on a review of publicly available Forms 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service. For more information about our methodology, visit our about page.