What is the Alliance Defense Fund, and why does Bill O'Reilly advocate donating to it?

On the October 11 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, Bill O'Reilly spoke with a caller who asked "[h]ow do people like me ... fight people like" the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). O'Reilly replied: “Well, you fight them by giving money to the Alliance Defense Fund [ADF] out in Phoenix, Arizona. Alliance Defense Fund is set up to be the anecdote [sic] to the ACLU. They come in and fight them in court. So while the left wing donates to the ACLU, traditional Americans [can donate to the ADF] -- and you don't have to be conservative. You see, a lot of liberals don't like this ACLU."

Despite O'Reilly's characterization of the ADF as a group that non-conservatives might want to support, the organization was founded by influential leaders of the Christian Right to pursue a conservative political agenda.

The organization

ADF is classified as a 501(c)(3) public charity. According to the ADF website, the group is “a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.” ADF defines this “Truth” according to a conservative Christian template, characterizing itself as “a servant organization that provides the resources that will keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel through the legal defense and advocacy of religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and traditional family values.”

The founders

ADF lists as its founders several prominent leaders of the Christian Right:

Current leadership

ADF is currently led by president, CEO, and general counsel Alan E. Sears, who held numerous positions in the Reagan administration including director of the attorney general's commission on pornography and assistant U.S. attorney in the Department of Justice. Sears is also a columnist for conservative websites Townhall.com and WorldNetDaily.com. He has co-authored two books with Craig J. Osten, the ADF's vice president of presidential communications and research: The ACLU vs. America: Exposing the Agenda to Redefine Moral Values (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005) and The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today (Broadman & Holman, 2003). In The Homosexual Agenda, Sears and Osten write:

Unfortunately, if many homosexual activists have their way, Christ's message of redemptive love will be silenced and those who share it through the preaching of the uncensored words of Scripture will be punished. ...The effort of homosexual activists to convince Americans to tolerate (i.e., “affirm”) homosexual behavior tramples religious freedom and leaves a trail of broken bodies in the dust.

ADF's board of directors includes several notable members of the Christian Right, including:

  • Tom Minnery (chairman), vice president of government and public policy for Focus on the Family. According to a May 2 article in the Colorado Springs Gazette, Minnery once stated that "[h]omosexuality is a mental disorder and can be cured. ... It's a psychological issue, rooted mostly in early childhood. ... But thousands have come out of it."
  • Clark Hollingsworth (vice chairman), executive vice president and chief operating officer for Family Life Ministries. Hollingsworth has in the past been affiliated with Coral Ridge Ministries, and according to the website of the National Alliance Against Christian Discrimination (NAACD), Hollingsworth issued the following statement in support of NAACD:

We agree with you that there is a serious need for the Christian equivalent of an anti-defamation league [sic]. ... Christians are the only ones that it is acceptable to criticize and ridicule in our country today. The movie industry, the television industry, the newspaper media, the anti-virtue forces in our nation, and the homosexual activists are all actively engaged in Christian bashing. May God bless your and your efforts.

  • Tom Rogeberg, executive vice president and chief communications officer of Coral Ridge Ministries.
  • Rick Tesch, director of corporate and community affairs for Campus Crusade for Christ.


ADF focuses on three main issues:

  • "Guarding the Sanctity of Human Life": ADF is opposed to all forms of abortion and euthanasia.
  • "Protecting Family Values": ADF states that “God has defined marriage as one man married to one woman.” ADF opposes same-sex marriage, adoption by same-sex couples, allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military, and "[e]xpos[ing] children to explicit sex education materials contrary to parental approval.
  • "Defending Religious Freedom": ADF opposes efforts by “the ACLU and other radical activist groups ... to eliminate public expression of our nation's faith and heritage.” Among other goals, ADF seeks to "[preserve] historic and Christian acknowledgement in public places" and legalize prayer in public schools and at public school functions.

Those considering supporting ADF may be interested in their previous activities, which include:

  • Representing Stephen Williams, a Cupertino, California, schoolteacher who filed suit against the Cupertino Union School District claiming that his teaching was being restricted because he was a Christian. The ADF misleadingly claimed in a November 2004 press release, headlined “Declaration of Independence Banned from Classroom,” that Williams was prohibited from issuing supplemental handouts to his students, including excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, “because the historical documents contain some references to God and religion” -- spin repeated by Fox News. In fact, parents had complained to the school that Williams's teaching “crossed the line into evangelizing,” and the handouts Williams had prepared were excerpts of only religious references, not the full documents from which the excerpts came. The ADF withdrew the lawsuit in August with both sides agreeing to dismiss all claims and cover their own legal expenses; no school policies were altered. Williams resigned from the school district a few days later.
  • The "Christmas Project." Claiming that "[m]isconceptions and controversy about the so-called 'separation of church and state' has led many public officials to 'remove Christ from Christmas,' " the ADF has pursued legal action and other activities over perceived attempts by “government officials to censor Christmas carols, eliminate all references to Christmas, or silence those who celebrate Christ's birth.” The project “includes the mobilization of a nationwide force of more than 700 allied attorneys available to combat any attempts to censor the celebration of Christmas in schools and on public property.” The ADF also "contacted more than 6,700 school districts across the nation" in late 2004 with the goal of “explaining the law with regard to the celebration of Christmas in the public schools.” Fox News has hyped legal actions filed by the ADF and other conservative legal groups in order to portray a widespread “attack on Christmas” by “secular progressives.”

ADF is currently representing the Christian ministry Love in Action International, Inc., which counsels gays and lesbians on “leaving” homosexuality, in a lawsuit filed against the state of Tennessee. Love In Action sued the state, alleging religious discrimination after the state Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities decided that Love in Action needed a state license to offer some of the services it was providing.

From the October 11 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: You like the country. You respect the country. You think it's a good place to live, and it's done well by you, correct?

CALLER: It has.

O'REILLY: Well, then I perfectly understand, because the ACLU does not like the country and wants a dramatically new country. They push the same buttons with me, [caller]. Go ahead.

CALLER: So how do people like me -- how do we fight people like them?

O'REILLY: Well, you fight them by giving money to the Alliance Defense Fund out in Phoenix, Arizona. Alliance Defense Fund is set up to be the anecdote [sic] to the ACLU. They come in and fight them in court. So while the left wing donates to the ACLU, traditional Americans -- and you don't have to be conservative. You see, a lot of liberals don't like this ACLU.

O'Reilly has had a longtime antipathy toward the ACLU, previously describing the group as "a terrorist group" and America's "most dangerous organization ... second next to Al Qaeda" and claiming that "[n]o organization enables terrorism as much as the ACLU."