The New York Times reported last week that Michael P. Farris, chief executive officer of the Christian nationalist legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), played a “critical” behind-the-scenes role in the right wing’s attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Farris circulated a draft of a last-ditch lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton against the states of Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin that attempted to nullify their results in favor of Democrat Joe Biden and keep President Donald Trump in power, even though Trump lost all three of those states and the election.
Times reporters Eric Lipton and Mark Walker reported that Paxton filed the lawsuit Dec. 7, “after making some changes but keeping large chunks of the draft circulated by Mr. Farris.” After the lawsuit was filed, 17 Republican attorneys general filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting it. A few days later, the high court rejected the lawsuit.
The Times reported that Farris’ involvement “highlighted how religious conservatives supported Mr. Trump’s unsuccessful attempts to retain power by blocking certification of Mr. Biden’s victory.”
Farris, a longtime Religious Right operative, gained prominence in the 1980s by running the Home School Legal Defense Association and founding Patrick Henry College, a Virginia institution that serves mainly children who have been homeschooled by fundamentalist Christians.
In an email to The Times, Farris insisted that his effort to overturn the results of the election wasn’t part of his work with ADF.
“While it’s true that I care about this issue on a personal level, it is not something that ADF works on in any capacity,” he wrote. “As President and CEO, my charge is to focus on ADF’s mission, which is to protect Americans’ God-given freedoms. I have nothing to say about the details of the way forward on the issue of election integrity other than the hope that all Americans take the issue seriously.”
But Farris’ denial simply doesn’t wash. As The Times reported, conservatives who were trying to prevent Biden from taking office used Farris’ ADF affiliation when lobbying attorneys general to join the legal effort.
It’s also worth pointing out that after their efforts failed to keep Trump in office even though he lost the election, Farris joined other Christian nationalist leaders in backing voter suppression laws. Farris appeared alongside Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, at an online forum during which Perkins parroted discredited lies about the 2020 election results.
“We’ve got 106 election-related bills that are in 28 states right now,” Perkins said. “So, here’s the good news: There is action taking place to go back and correct what was uncovered in this last election.”
Farris added, “Let me just say, ‘Amen.’”
Because of the ultra-conservative stamp on many federal courts right now, including the Supreme Court, the ADF, which is stridently anti-LGBTQ, anti-legal abortion and pro-special rights for conservative Christians, has the wind at its back and has been winning several cases.
That is bad enough. Now we know that the man who runs this group doesn’t support the basic idea behind our democracy: that everyone deserves not just the right to vote but to have that vote counted. Farris’ attempt to keep Trump in office after he lost to Biden by more than 7 million popular votes and 74 votes in the Electoral College is proof that the ADF has embraced the philosophy, increasing common among Christian nationalists these days, that the ends justify the means.
Despite what Farris and his allies may believe, that is not a teaching of the man who founded the religion they claim to cherish.