The head of the Christian nationalist legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) played a “critical” behind-the-scenes role in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, The New York Times has reported.

Michael P. Farris, chief executive of ADF, 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 the election.

Times reporters Eric Lipton and Mark Walker reported that Paxton had filed the lawsuit on 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.”

Yet The Times reported that conservatives who were trying to prevent Biden from taking office used Farris’ ADF affiliation when lobbying attorneys general to join the legal effort.

After the efforts to put Trump back in office failed, Farris joined other Christian nationalist leaders in backing state voter-suppression laws. (See “Disenfranchised,” May 2021 Church & State.)

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