“Matt Bowman, one of our Blackstone students, was clerking for a guy in Philadelphia named Sam Alito when the phone call came, ‘we want to put you on the Supreme Court.’ ” – Alliance Defense Fund/Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer Jordan Lorence, speaking at an ADF special briefing before The Gathering, 2006 (see Twocare.org report The Gathering: The Religious Right’s Cash Cow)
Amidst the avalanche of media coverage following the U.S. Supreme Court’s momentous Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, which ruled that closely held private corporations have religious freedom rights, many of the most interesting – and disturbing – aspects surrounding the case have escaped notice.
One concerns close linkages between Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito Jr., who wrote the majority opinion in the 5-4 court ruling, and the two organizations whose legal teams propelled to the Supreme Court the twin Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Conestoga Woods v. Sebelius cases that were eventually merged together to become Burwell.
Founder of the Becket Fund For Religious Liberty, which took the lead in arguing the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case, is lawyer Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson – who, as chance would have it, worked in the Reagan Justice Department under Alito, then-Assistant Attorney General.
Meanwhile, the Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) — whose pro-bono lawyers argued the Conestoga v. Sebelius case and which played an extensive supporting role nurturing and coordinating the multiple court cases (including Hobby Lobby and Conestoga) launched by the evangelical right to challenge reproductive health care provisions of the Affordable Care Act — has an interesting connection to Justice Alito as well.
When President George W. Bush nominated Samuel Alito, Jr. to the Supreme Court in October 2005, jubilant Alliance Defense Fund lawyer Jordan Lorence, in an interview with the New York Times, compared Bush’s prior, spectacularly failed nomination of Harriet E. Miers to Bush’s subsequent nomination of Alito:
“The difference from after the Miers nomination was like being at a morgue verses [sic] being at a combination of a wedding reception, Super Bowl party and bar mitzvah” (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/31/politics/politicsspecial1/31cnd-court.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0).
One reason for Lorence’s elation may have been that lawyer Matt Bowman – who previously had gone through the Alliance Defense Fund’s elite Blackstone Legal Fellowship program and is now serving as a Senior Legal Counsel at the ADF (renamed Alliance Defending Freedom) – was then working as a clerk for Alito while Alito was serving on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
In other words, Supreme Court Justice Alito had personal ties to leaders in the two legal organizations most centrally involved in litigating Hobby Lobby and Conestoga on the behalf of plaintiffs fighting the Obama Administration HHS rules governing reproductive health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
While Becket Fund attorneys ultimately played the splashiest role in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, the Alliance Defending Freedom played what may have been an even more important coordinating and support role, under an effort co-led by Alito’s former clerk Matt Bowman.
In an investigative report released March 23, 2014, the online publication RH Reality Check revealed their finding on emails obtained through public records requests that revealed the depth of the ADF’s, and Bowman’s, involvement. The emails, according to RH Reality Check,
“[R]eveal that the role of air traffic control in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga litigation was played by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based nonprofit with just over $40 million in assets, according to its most recent auditor’s report.
‘My name is Anna Hayes, and I’m a legal assistant at Alliance Defending Freedom working with Matt Bowman and Greg Baylor on the HHS Mandate cases,’ read one email dated August 16, 2013. The ‘mandate’ refers to the health law’s requirement that insurance policies cover a range of primary preventive care, including contraception, without a copay. The inclusion of contraception in policies—irrespective of who pays the premiums is at the center of the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Supreme Court cases. ‘Greg asked me to contact you letting you know that he will be coordinating the amicus efforts for the Conestoga Wood case.’
Hayes sent her email to senior government staff in three states—Ohio, Alabama, and Michigan—and kick-started a chain of correspondence that culminated in Ohio and Michigan taking the lead in submitting briefs, along with 18 other states, in opposition to the contraception mandate.” (see: http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/03/24/free-market-groups-invisible-hand-hobby-lobby-case/)
Matt Bowman had earned his J.D. from the Ave Maria Law School (see: http://www.alliancealert.org/2010/03/01/about-matt-bowman/) which is notable especially given that the curriculum of that school was created with input from U.S. Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas (who concurred with Justice Alito in the Hobby Lobby case). Ave Maria would certainly have familiarized Bowman with the concept of “natural law”, that some characterize as an “ultra conservative” legal theory.
But the ADF’s Blackstone Program which Bowman attended seems to cut even farther right, towards theonomy – the notion that legal punishments should derive from pre-Talmudic Mosaic law.
While the Blackstone Legal Fellowship also teaches natural law as part of its legal and “worldview” curriculum, its recommended reading list for its Blackstone Fellows includes a number of books by leading Christian Reconstructionists authors – Greg Bahnsen, Gary DeMar, and Andrew P. Sandlin. Bahnsen is often identified as one of the three most important Christian Reconstructionist authors along with Rousas J. Rushdoony and Gary North. (see here, for an explanation of Christian Reconstructionism: http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v08n1/chrisre1.html)
The Blackstone reading list also includes Herbert Schlossberg’s pithy work “Idols For Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture” that R. J. Rushdoony praised as one of the most important books of the 20th Century, as well as “What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?” by the late D. James Kennedy, known for his enthusiastic promotion of Christian supremacy (also known as Dominionism) and promotion of Christian Reconstructionist leaders such as Gary Cass.
(note: since this article was published, ADF has pulled down, from its Blackstone Fellows Program Recommended Reading List, the mentioned books written by Christian Reconstructionist authors. But the cached version of the now-sanitized page can be found here: https://web.archive.org/web/20140703192241/http://www.blackstonelegalfellowship.org/Resources/ResourceOverview )
Another featured title is “The Homosexual Agenda (2nd Ed.)”, co-authored by ADF Founder and President Alan Sears, and Craig Osten. In 2014 Fred Sainz, a Vice President of the LGBT rights group Human Rights Campaign described the Alliance Defending Freedom as “easily the most active antigay legal group.”
Rushdoony, DeMar, North, Kennedy, and Schlossberg were all original signatories to the 1980s evangelical political front called the Coalition on Revival (see: http://www.reformation.net/), whose members pledged a blood oath to gives their lives if necessary to impose biblical law on all spheres of society.
The influence of Christian Reconstructionism in the Alliance Defense Fund has been noted by a number of sources:
In his 2007 book “Reaping The Whirlwind: Liberal Democracy and the Religious Axis” (Georgetown University Press, 2007), University of Alabama/Huntsville Chair of Political Science John R. Pottenger writes,
“Christian reconstructionism influences the views and activities of numerous educational and religious outreach organizations active throughout American civil society, including the Alliance Defense Fund, American Family Association, American Vision, Chalcedon Foundation, Council for National Policy, Family Research Council, Institute for Christian Economics, Rutherford Institute, Wallbuilders, and Coral Ridge Ministries.”
Also in 2007, as reported by the liberal nonprofit Americans United For Separation of Church and State (AU), the Alliance Defense Fund was a co-sponsor, along with the American Vision ministry of Christian Reconstructionist George Grant, of a four-day “Worldview Super Conference” with the title “Preparing This Generation to Capture the Future” that was held in a North Carolina compound in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The ADF co-sponsored conference featured leading Christian Reconstructionist luminaries such as Gary DeMar, Gary Cass, Doug Phillips, and Gary North – known to some by his lusty advocacy for stoning as a method of capital punishment, due to the fact that rocks are ubiquitous and free.
As Jeremy Learning, writing on the conference for AU, described,
” ‘The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State,’ [Gary] DeMar said, ‘really have a battle on their hands with organizations like the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF).’
DeMar praised ADF, a $25 million operation based in Scottsdale, Ariz., for training young lawyers to fight for a ‘biblical worldview.’ Two ADF representatives appeared before the Worldview audience and promoted the group’s work to bring the legal system under Christian control.
Ken Fletcher, an ADF development director, insisted that America was ‘started on a biblical worldview,’ but has been wrenched from its religious moorings by secularists and “activist courts.”
‘Our Christian liberties are under attack in our nation,’ Fletcher maintained. ‘I guess back in the ’60s it really got under attack, where the secular agenda really started replacing the Christian worldview that we had in our nation.’ “
Also on hand was Blackstone Fellowship head and Alliance Defense Fund Senior Vice President Jeffery Ventrella. According to Learning,
“[Ventrella] trumpeted the work of his organization as one of the ways the nation can be returned to a biblical foundation. Ventrella bemoaned the secularization of society, claimed Christian children from coast to coast face harassment from public school teachers and officials and that the legal system must be used to fight back.
…he warned that any ‘spies’ amongst the Worldview gathering had better not misquote him.
The ADF attorney claimed that his organization exists, in part, to ‘do damage to evil. We must do damage to evil.’ ” (see: http://www.alternet.org/story/55717/)
In 2004, the ADF’s Ventrella told Rob Boston of AU that Ventrella is not a Christian Reconstructionist. Nonetheless, as Boston described – writing for the Americans United magazine Church and State,
“[Christian] Reconstructionists have appeared at the ADF’s Blackstone events and continue to do so. Past Blackstone speakers include George Grant, a leading Reconstructionist theorist known for his extreme views. In his 1993 book Legislating Immorality, the Tennessee-based Grant laments the fact that legal codes calling for the death penalty for gay people have been abolished.
Gary DeMar, a Georgia-based Reconstructionist who endorsed the idea of the death penalty for gays in his 1987 book The Ruler of Nations: Biblical Principles for Government, spoke at a previous ADF seminar and is scheduled to appear at this year’s Blackstone event, which takes place this month.
Jeffery J. Ventrella, the ADF’s senior vice president of strategic training and coordinator of the Blackstone program, has published several articles in The Chalcedon Report, the leading Reconstructionist journal, which was founded by Rushdoony. Ventrella, who describes himself as an ‘ordained Ruling Elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’ in his ADF bio, also teaches classes at Bahnsen Theological Seminary, a correspondence school in Placentia, Calif., named after the late Greg Bahnsen, one of the key architects of the Reconstructionist movement.
In one Chalcedon Report article, Ventrella blasted the increasing acceptance of gays in corporate America.
‘No right thinking Christian can support ‘gay rights’ (as distinct from uniformly applicable civil rights),” he wrote. “But, the tactical question centers on how to respond – in action – to corporate America’s rapidly advancing adoption of sexual orientation-based, non-discrimination policies, domestic partnership benefits, and ‘safe zones.’ ‘
Ventrella called for moving beyond boycotting gay-friendly companies.
‘In reality, a better strategic approach may well be to infiltrate publicly held companies (by stock purchases) and then tactically exercise voting rights and other ownership privileges, et al, in an effort to bring pressure to bear upon corporate policy and practice,’ he wrote.
In another piece, Ventrella discussed the possibility of advocating vouchers as a means of tearing down the public school system.
Ventrella has also written for the Southern California Center for Christian Studies, an outfit affiliated with the Bahnsen seminary. One of his articles discusses ‘theonomic postmillennialism.’ (‘Theonomy’ – which is defined as God’s law – is another term for Reconstructionism.) It highlighted the need to ‘engage the culture strategically’ and use an incremental approach to bring about change. “
In a 2010 speech at the fundamentalist ministry TruthXchange, Ventrella warned,
“Whether Christians realize it or not, we are part of a human history that is destined for confrontation and conflict with pagan spirituality and that spirituality is driven, in our times, by a militant homosexual agenda.” (see: http://vimeo.com/26365697)
Blackstone Legal Fellowship head Jeffery Ventrella’s involvement in events featuring prominent Christian Reconstructionists has continued into 2014, when he was one of three listed speakers at the Idaho Westside Bible Church along with two current Coalition on Revival Steering Committee members, John Eidsmoe and South African evangelist Peter Hammond. (see: http://wellspringschurch.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/RMBWC2014-flier3.pdf)
The Rev. Peter Hammond is co-author of the 2001 book “The Pink Agenda: Sexual Revolution in South Africa and the Ruin of the Family”. As Hammond’s ministry website explains (see: http://www.frontlinefellowship.net/inc/sdetail/119/341), “The Pink Agenda exposes the truth about homosexual behavior and its links to crime, violence, suicide, substance abuse, paedophilia and disease. It explodes the myths that homosexuals are ‘born that way’ and ‘cannot change’.”
Hammond is also author of the book “Biblical Principles for Africa”, which presents a Christian Reconstructionist template for society, and his ministry gives “Biblical worldview” seminars throughout Africa, patterned after the Biblical Worldview trainings held by the James Dobson-endorsed Summit Ministries.
Hammond has written, concerning the late Martin Luther King, Jr.,
“King was not a legitimate reverend, he was not a bona fide PhD, and his name was not really ‘Martin Luther King, Jr.’ What is left? Just a sexual degenerate with a Marxist agenda… Even in the 1960s, ‘the controlled’ media and politicians were determined to push their racial mixing program on America. King was their man and nothing was allowed to get in their way.”
Rev. Hammond has also depicted the late Nelson Mandela as, first and foremost, a terrorist.