2015 was a huge year for Alliance Defending Freedom. A quick look at ten of the year’s highlights shows that while the battle to defend life, marriage, and religious freedom is far from over, God has indeed blessed ADF's efforts in America—and around the world.
1) In the court case Reed v. Gilbert, the United States Supreme Court upheld religious freedom in a stunning 9-0 decision. ADF's client, Pastor Clyde Reed, faced fines and potential jail time for violating a Gilbert, AZ town statute. His crime? Posting temporary signs, considerably smaller than similar political or ideological signs in the area, to announce the service times at their church. The Supreme Court declared that the Town of Gilbert violated Pastor Reed's constitutional rights, and Justice Elena Kagan said that the law was so unconstitutional that it didn't even pass the "laugh test."
2) ADF maintains an incredible 19-4 win record in cases involving the Obamacare HHS Mandate, which requires employers, regardless of their convictions, to provide abortion-inducing drugs through their health plans. Of the four cases we've lost, two will be reviewed before the Supreme Court in March. We pray that the Court will view these cases in a similar light as Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell, where the Justices decided in favor of freedom of conscience.
3) Influential court wins didn't just happen in America; a coalition of ADF Allied Attorneys in Canada defeated an attempt to punish a Christian university for its code of conduct, which included a commitment to abstain from sexual activity outside of biblical (one man, one woman) marriage. The Bar Association of British Columbia told Trinity Western University that because of the code of conduct requirement, graduates of TWU's law school wouldn't be permitted to join the bar, which would cripple their careers. A British Columbia trial court ruled that this was unjust, and TWU grads would be admitted to the bar. The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Two similar cases are moving forward: one in Nova Scotia and the other in Ontario. We look forward to seeing God's will accomplished in those cases in 2016.
4) ADF launched the Center for Conscience Initiatives, dedicated to fighting for Americans' rights of conscience. The Supreme Court's tragically misguided decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which fabricated a right to same-sex marriage, raised grave concerns about the future of religious freedom and the right to express one's belief that marriage can only exist between one man and one woman for life. ADF is currently defending several clients whose freedom of conscience is under attack by attempts to coerce them into expressing or supporting opinions they disagree with, from Blaine Adamson's decision not to print a message on a t-shirt promoting a gay pride festival to Barronelle Stutzman's conviction that she could not use her creative talents to design floral arrangements celebrating a same-sex marriage ceremony. The Center for Conscience Initiatives is dedicated to finding innovate ways to defend this basic freedom.
5) ADF launched the Marriage is Our Future Initiative, a multi-media, multi-phase initiative dedicated to revitalizing the conversation about marriage among younger generations. We have been honored to partner with five courageous individuals who filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court last summer, expressing their concerns with calling same-sex relationships "marriage." These individuals were raised by parents who identify as members of the LGBT community, and they share a conviction that children do best when they are raised by their mother and their father together. The first phase of the initiative is completed and is available on our website, and the second and third phases are well under way!
6) We offered three new professional development tracks this year for graduates of our student training programs. Within the Areté Academy for university students, we offered the Entrepreneur Track for the first time, allowing young entrepreneurs and businesspeople to explore how God desires them to use their creativity to bless His world. The Track was a great success, and we plan to offer it again. The first international Areté Academy session took place in Mexico this year, to an overwhelmingly positive reaction. Areté Academy sessions will expand to Europe and Chile next year. Finally, the inaugural Young Lawyers Academy brought together first and second year lawyers for fellowship and training on how to glorify God and defend life, marriage, and religious liberty in their professions. Each attendee expressed deep appreciation for the training they received.
7) God also blessed ADF International with an amazing year. We partnered with allies to launch two new initiatives: in India, the Religious Liberty Centers project, and in Mexico, the Center for Judicial Ethics. In India, persecution of Christians continues to stifle the Gospel. The Religious Liberty Centers are in strategic locations throughout India and allow our allies in the country to combat attacks on religious liberty much more quickly than before, opening up the country to the Gospel. In Mexico, the Center for Judicial Ethics allows our allies to partner with influential members of the judiciary who support life, marriage, and religious liberty and to offer them resources and strategic partnership efficiently.
8) ADF International opened two new offices this year, one in Brussels, the capital of the European Union, and one in Geneva, where we have intensified our work with the United Nations and its Human Rights Council. We are also looking forward to the 2016 grand opening of an office in Strasbourg, home of the European Court of Human Rights—where we were blessed to play a leading role in three key victories for religious freedom in 2015.
9) Also in ADF International news, our teams at the United Nations and the Organization for American States had unprecedented success in advocating for life, marriage and family, and religious liberty. In both international governing bodies, our team members and allies succeeded in blocking language supporting abortion and euthanasia from international-binding documents. Our presence has indeed been a game-changer in these organizations. We have been able to inspire our allies to make their voices heard in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, and, this year, we were blessed with inspiring success.
10) No overview of 2015 would be complete without mentioning the movement to defund Planned Parenthood. After the release of authenticated videos from the Center of Medical Progress exposing Planned Parenthood's alleged involvement in illegal trafficking of baby parts and testimony by ADF Senior Counsel Casey Mattox and our client, former Planned Parenthood director Sue Thayer, both the House and the Senate voted to defund the scandal-ridden organization. President Obama vetoed the bill, but the fact that he had to was extraordinary. This was the first time the Congress has ever placed a bill on the President’s desk to defund the abortion giant, and hopefully a precursor to a different outcome when there is a new occupant of the oval office. Seven states also took action to cut tax subsidies to Planned Parenthood. ADF was honored to partner with allies in advocating for these taxpayer dollars that currently go to Planned Parenthood to be reallocated to better-qualified, responsible women's healthcare organizations. ADF is committed to the fight for life under every life is protected and welcomed under the law.
The blessings of 2015 were many, but the biggest of them all was the ongoing encouragement and support of our faithful Ministry Friends. Without you, none of this would have been possible. We at ADF thank you for your support and cannot wait to see what God does in 2016 and beyond.