On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for a set of cases that could have enormous — even deadly — consequences on the ability of pregnant patients to receive life-saving abortion care. It was the Court’s third major abortion hearing in the last two years, and the third that was brought there with the help of “Christian legal non-profit” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

It was ADF lawyers that led the charge to overturn Roe v. Wade. Earlier this year, they argued to limit the availability of mifepristone in FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine. American Atheists filed an amicus brief with the Freedom From Religion Foundation urging the Court not to allow a small group of Christian nationalist doctors to infringe on the rights of many to access safe and effective medication. This week, in Idaho v. United States and Moyle v. United States, ADF took aim at a 1986 federal law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), that requires doctors to provide care to patients suffering medical emergencies. American Atheists acted again, joining forces with the National Women’s Law Center to file another amicus brief.

Idaho has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the nation, allowing the procedure only in cases where the patient’s life — not “merely” their health — is endangered. According to the state’s hospitals, this has resulted in six pregnant women being airlifted across state lines in order to receive the care they needed. As a woman living in a state with similar restrictions on the books, awaiting the Court’s ruling is distressing. Knowing what I know about ADF, it’s downright dreadful.

This map from our State of the Secular States report shows which states have statutory Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (those highlighted in red).

ADF has won 15 Supreme Court cases since 2011. Their success rate in lower courts is somewhere around 80%, and attacking abortion is only one of their priorities.

They defended a town in New York that opened its municipal meetings with a prayer. They got an appellate court to dismiss a case challenging the constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer (which is coming up on Thursday and something we’ll write more about next week). They’re currently in Oklahoma backing the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, the agency that awarded public dollars to the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School and effectively chartered the first state-funded religious school in the country.

When they aren’t waging lawfare against the constitutional rights of millions of Americans, you can find ADF in state legislatures lobbying to advance anti-trans bills and so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs), which they’ve been pushing for ever since the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case that legalized same-sex marriage.

American Atheists has long opposed RFRAs because we recognized early on they would grant special privileges beyond what the First Amendment allows by giving individuals and businesses license to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. Lo and behold, ADF and other religious extremists have done just that — weaponizing RFRAs and the very idea of religious freedom.

Their website proclaims: “As secular forces chip away at our nation’s Judeo-Christian roots, religious freedom is increasingly threatened.” Instead of being a shield for nonreligious Americans and religious minorities, “religious freedom” is the co-opted sword that ADF swings around while they propagate the narrative that Christians are a persecuted minority being stripped of their God-given right to discriminate by the “homosexual agenda.”

ADF has advocated for the (re)criminalization of consensual sexual acts between LGBTQ+ adults and for the state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people. Their anti-LGBTQ+ crusade is so virulent the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) designated them a hate group back in 2016. Even so, Mother Jones reported this week that ADF’s close ties with officials at all levels of government have allowed the group to not only mainstream their presence but also expand their influence in the United States and internationally.

ADF International, for instance, boasts its “officially accredited status to the United Nations enables us to maintain a full-time presence at the world’s foremost international body.” Much closer to home — too close to home — Speaker of the House Mike “Moses” Johnson was formerly an attorney and spokesperson for ADF.

And if that wasn’t enough, ADF has paid Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett to deliver speeches to their secretive Blackstone Legal Fellowship five times since 2011. The program — just one of many ADF initiatives “committed to transforming law and culture” — strives to inspire “a distinctly Christian worldview in every area of law.” In 2014, the Blackstone website elaborated: “ADF seeks to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries, which is catholic, universal orthodoxy and is desperately crucial for cultural renewal.” Talk about going backward.

Hence, my dread.

At the same time, I’ve never been prouder to work for an organization that is in so many ways the antithesis of ADF. We may never have $54 million in case funding like they do, but with your support, our legal team can win more cases like the one we did in West Virginia and continue moving forward as a “secular force” for real religious freedom for all.

If you’d like to see American Atheists continue standing up for your rights and pushing back against religious hate groups like ADF, will you give $25, $45, or $100 today?

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum,

Melina Cohen
Communications Director

American Atheists is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan, nonprofit educational organization that relies on the support of members like you. Contributions are tax-deductible. Our Federal Tax ID Number is 74-2466507 and our Combined Federal Campaign number is 52217.

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