Constitutional Converts?: ADF Lauds Separation Of Church And State In Church Tax Case

The Alliance Defense Fund has suddenly become an ardent supporter of church-state separation – now that the constitutional principle suits the Religious Right group’s needs.

The ADF has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Catholic and Baptist churches in Mission, Kansas, arguing that the city’s houses of worship should not have to pay a “transportation utility fee” tax to help rebuild the community’s crumbling roads. According to ADF’s lawyers, the tax is a violation of the separation of church and state.

Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the ADF, told the Religion News Service, “It makes no sense to tax churches and to limit their ability to provide their services, and it does damage to the constitutional separation between church and state.”

Yes, you read that right. The ADF has admitted that the separation of church and state is in fact a part of the U.S. Constitution.

For years, the group has opposed Americans United and claimed church-state separation is a lie.

Back in 2004, ADF President Alan Sears told supporters in an e-mail, “One by one, more and more bricks that make up the artificial ‘wall of separation’ between church and state are being removed, and Christians are once again being allowed to exercise their constitutional right to equal access to public facilities and funding.”

Ironically, ADF attorney David Cortman once criticized “organizations like AU” for “twist[ing] the words and meaning of the Constitution to fit their own ideological agenda.” Cortman denied that church-state separation is found in the Constitution.

I think it’s now abundantly clear who has a finger in the wind when it comes to interpreting the Constitution.

As my colleague Rob Boston wrote in an expose about the group in 2004:

“Since its founding, the ADF has played a role in nearly every church-state case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court and many lower federal courts. Since 1994, the ADF has directly or partially funded cases dealing with government aid to religion, religion in public schools, abortion, gay rights and religiously based censorship. Throughout, the organization's goal has been the same: merge religion and government.”

And now they want to argue for the separation of church state?

Don’t get me wrong: AU, of course, remains strong supporters of the constitutional principle. But the ADF’s sudden conversion strikes us just a bit hypocritical.

It’s not shocking, though. That’s just how this group operates. The ADF claims to be supporters of religious liberty, but it works to bring about the exact opposite. The organization was formed by a band of television preachers and radio broadcasters to advance the Religious Right’s perspective in the courts.

We all know this means that if it could, the ADF, along with its Religious Right allies, would create a fundamentalist Christian theocracy in America.

That’s exactly what the group has tried to do since its founding in 1994 by doing all it can to knock down the church-state wall. If ADF attorneys had succeeded, what argument would they be able to make now?

Perhaps the ADF can finally appreciate what we do here at Americans United. If the group was truly for religious liberty for all, it most definitely would.