Christian Leadership Alliance President and CEO Tami Heim recently interviewed Ryan Tucker, Senior Counsel and Director of the Center for Christian Ministries at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
In this role, Ryan Tucker oversees all litigation efforts to maintain and defend the constitutionally protected freedom of churches, Christian ministries and religious schools to exercise their rights under the First Amendment.
Tucker began his work at ADF in 2017, defending the conscience rights of Christian business owners against policies that would force them to compromise their beliefs under threat of heavy fines and punishment. In 2019, he transitioned to his current role and has counseled many organizations in the process. For example, in Downtown Hope Center v. Municipality of Anchorage, he defended the rights of a faith-based ministry to operate consistently with its beliefs. Prior to joining ADF, Tucker engaged in private practice for over 16 years with a litigation boutique law firm in San Antonio, Texas, eight of those as a partner. His portfolio included all aspects of civil litigation, both state and federal, with a particular focus on commercial and complex business disputes.
Tucker earned his Juris Doctor at Baylor Law School, where he was a senior editor of the Baylor Law Review. He obtained his bachelor of business administration in management at Texas A&M University, where he graduated cum laude. A member of the state bar in Texas and Arizona, Tucker is admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court and multiple federal district and appellate courts.
In your view, what is the current status of religious freedom in the United States? What trends are you seeing?
Religious freedom is increasingly under threat. Thankfully, the First Amendment continues to provide protection for everyone. But we can’t take that for granted.
Religious freedom is increasingly under threat.
In recent years, we’ve seen Christians treated unfairly under the law, churches treated worse than casinos during COVID-19 regulations, and government officials looking for creative ways to prevent Christians from participating in public life.
For example, one of our recent cases involved a school in Maryland called Bethel Christian Academy. Government officials kicked Bethel out of a program providing funding for low-income families – simply because they didn’t like the school’s religious beliefs about marriage and human sexuality. Fortunately, we won that case, but these incidents are on the rise.
Can you share some of the ways ADF is seeking to protect religious freedom today?
Alliance Defending Freedom is the largest Christian legal nonprofit in the world. We’re litigating for freedom’s future. Our core areas are religious freedom, free speech, marriage and family, the sanctity of human life, and parental rights. We advocate for these issues in local courts, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of Lorie Smith, one of our clients who is a graphic designer from Colorado. Lorie is a small business owner operating 303 Creative. A Colorado law is violating her First Amendment rights by censoring her religious beliefs and requiring her to create and design content that violates her beliefs about marriage. We’re proud to stand with Lorie as she seeks to solidify her rights, as well as the right of other creative professionals.
While it’s a joy to advocate on behalf of people like Lorie, ADF also serves churches and other ministries. We have a program called the Ministry Alliance that provides high-quality, affordable religious freedom legal help to ministries across the country.
How can the Christian nonprofit organizations comprising the Alliance best protect their freedom to serve?
Faith-based ministries should create and review their core governing documents like their bylaws, facility use guidelines, employment documents, and other policies they have to make sure they are taking into account religious freedom considerations.
To best protect your church or ministry and, thereby, steward religious freedom, it’s helpful to remember the “3 C’s: 1.) Communicate what your ministry believes to your community, 2.) Prepare written core documents identifying your beliefs and religious practices, and 3.) Consistently apply those documents.
ADF’s Ministry Alliance is eager to help in these matters so that churches and ministries can get back to their primary mission of serving people and spreading the gospel.
How can we as Christians winsomely communicate the benefits religious freedom provides to all citizens, regardless of their beliefs?
God’s kingdom, society at large, and individuals all benefit when there is robust religious freedom and free speech – two fundamental rights the United States Constitution and state constitutions protect. These freedoms serve as a bulwark against government tyranny and are foundational to a durable democracy.
Countries that have more religious freedom have less poverty, war and violence.
These rights also promote human flourishing. Countries that have more religious freedom have less poverty, war and violence. They enjoy more economic freedom, safeguard a free press, and compassionately protect the vulnerable in their midst. These countries also ensure that people can freely share the gospel and the beauty of God’s created order with others.
And, governments that prioritize religious freedom protect the authentic diversity and dignity of citizens. By affirming an individual’s capacity and responsibility to follow his or her conscience our own government has, imperfectly at times, demonstrated a restraint that’s benefitted Christians, believers of other faiths, and the secular – all at the same time.
What inspires you personally in this work, and keeps you motivated as a leader?
Seeing individuals responding to God’s call is really what inspires me. During my time at Alliance Defending Freedom, I have been fortunate enough to witness firsthand numerous clients courageous enough to take a stand. Take for example Garry Leist, a Nevada pastor who during the pandemic decided that he and his congregation could not sit by idle while casinos and secular businesses re-opened with less restrictions. As a result of that church’s faithfulness, couples nearing divorce and others struggling came to his church for visits and eventually gave their life to Christ.
And then seeing co-workers not only use the gifts God has given them for his glory but also truly living out John 15:5 reminds me of the importance of relying on him in all things.
What encouragement would you share with ministry leaders in terms of their impact and their freedom to serve?
Ministry leaders are the hands and feet of Christ, loving and serving all whom he has put in their path. A few years ago, we were contacted by the Downtown Hope Center in Alaska, a homeless shelter that serves women who have suffered physical and sexual abuse. They were being threatened with closure due to their beliefs about biblical sexuality. But fortunately, we were able to assist this wonderful ministry, and today, despite an increasingly hostile culture, that ministry is thriving. They truly are having an eternal impact on the individuals they serve.
At ADF, we’re working hard to help ensure freedom’s future, and that means laboring, with God’s help, to empower ministries to follow their calling. We serve these ministries so that they can better serve others and spread Christ’s transformational gospel in our country and to the ends of the earth.
To learn more, please visit adflegal.org.