Inside the Christian legal powerhouse that keeps winning at the Supreme Court

By Jessica Contrera

Two days before the announcement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s retirement, a woman who stood to gain from it was on the steps of the Supreme Court once again. Kristen Waggoner’s blond bob was perfectly styled with humidity-fighting paste she’d slicked onto it that morning at the Trump hotel. Her 5-foot frame was heightened by a pair of nude pumps, despite a months-old ankle fracture in need of surgery. On her wrist was a silver bracelet she’d worn nonstop since Dec. 5, 2017, the day she marched up these iconic steps, stood before the justices and argued that a Christian baker could legally refuse to create a cake for a gay couple’s wedding.

Her job was to be the legal mind and public face of Alliance Defending Freedom., an Arizona-based Christian conservative legal nonprofit better known as ADF. Though far from a household name, the results of ADF’s work are well known. Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission was just one of ADF’s cases at the Supreme Court this term. The organization has had nine successful cases before the court in the past seven years, including Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which allowed corporations to opt out of covering contraceptives based on religious beliefs. And it was ADF that created model legislation for “bathroom bills,” which bar students from using restrooms that don’t correlate to their sex at birth.

Opponents say ADF is seeking to enshrine discrimination into law. But to its supporters, ADF is fighting for the right of Christians to openly express their faith — and winning.

Or as ADF’s CEO, Michael Farris, put it: “We would say the combination of hard work and God’s blessing appears to be paying off.”

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