Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a legal and advocacy organization promoting religious liberty, announced today that Michael Farris will serve as its new CEO. Farris founded the Home School Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College, where he served as president and then chancellor. He also is the father of 10 and the grandfather of 19. Farris takes over for CEO Alan Sears, who will remain with ADF in a different role. I spoke with Farris about his new job and the future of ADF.
Why this change of leadership at ADF now? [Alan Sears] had a growing burden for certain aspects of leadership that he was able to do at ADF: building alliances, growing the ministry, meeting people who would become ministry friends and support the growth of the organization. The more he was called into that sector, the more he realized he couldn’t really run the organization on a day-to-day basis, … so he asked the board to allow him to transition to this new role. They began a search for someone who would become the person who ran the organization day-to-day and yet would be willing to work and partner with Alan in a very effective ministry.
How does your background inform your new job at ADF? I have been working in a really specific area of religious freedom, the homeschool world, for 33 years, although I’ve played broader roles along the way. I was the co-chairman of the group of lawyers that drafted RFRA, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. … Every aspect of ADF’s ministry contains something that I’ve had some experience in. … In so many ways, my last 30 years have been preparing me for this job at ADF because in every aspect of it, I feel like I’m coming home.
What is ADF’s mission going forward? The central premise of ADF is to protect the freedom for the gospel. There are two aspects to that: the freedom to preach the gospel and the freedom to live the gospel The people who are being harassed, prosecuted, persecuted for living the gospel and wanting to do it in their lives as they make cakes, as they have flower shops, as they preach—so many areas of life … is what I would call living the gospel. The protection of human life is living the gospel. The defense of families and marriage is living the gospel. It’s how the gospel is transmitted from parents to their children. There are so many aspects of what ADF does that at least in a broad sense can be characterized as living the gospel. It’s in defense of the gospel—the right to preach it, the right to live it.
Are you worried about hostile movements in American culture against religious liberty? It’s the reason I took the job. I wouldn’t have done this but for the fact that I am very concerned about the state of our nation and the repudiation of some very fundamental American principles.
When I helped get the Religious Freedom Restoration Act through Congress in the early 1990s, the groups I was working with included the [American Civil Liberties Union], People for the American Way, and groups from every possible denomination that don’t agree on anything else. We don’t agree on life, we don’t agree on prayer in school, we don’t agree on anything else, hardly. But we agreed on the free exercise of religion. If that vote were held today, it would be a very difficult partisan split. The consensus that America had just 20 years ago on the free exercise of religion is essentially gone. There is an effort to truncate the freedom of religion just to being able to preach on Sunday. If they were successful in that limitation down to that level, I don’t think it will stop there. Nonetheless, we can’t let it get down to that point. The free exercise of religion was never intended to be only the freedom to worship. It was the right to live your faith 24 hours a day, seven days a week, not just in the church, not just in other houses of worship, but on Main Street, on Wall Street, in the public square, and in your neighborhood.
What do you count as most important in your personal life? That my wife loves me and that my children are walking with God on a day-to-day basis. My relationship with the Lord is the pinnacle, but from a human perspective. … There’s no doubt that my family is what’s most important to me.
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Publication date: January 16, 2017