Serving God by suing others: Inside the Christian conservative legal movement

SALT LAKE CITY — Roger Gannam cites the Bible to define his company’s mission. That wouldn’t be notable if he worked at a church or food kitchen, somewhere known for sharing the gospel with the world. But Gannam works at a law firm, suing others and representing those who have been sued.

His employer, Liberty Counsel, advocates for conservative Christian interests in cases related to the sanctity of life, family values and religious liberty, presenting the court system as a way to live out Jesus’ “Great Commission.”

“As Christians, we look at extending God’s kingdom and bringing his kingdom to bear on earth as part of our commission to make disciples throughout the earth,” said Gannam, assistant vice president of legal affairs for the Orlando, Florida, firm.

“We look at our legal work as an extension of that ministry,” he added. “We seek to help Christians avail themselves of their First Amendment rights to live out a Christian life the way they want to live it.”

Liberty Counsel is part of the Christian legal movement, a collection of advocacy groups working in the legal, public policy and public relations arenas to advance and protect conservative Christian moral values. Together, these firms have turned the courts into key battlefields in the culture wars.

The power of this movement will be on display this fall, when Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is argued before the Supreme Court. The potentially far-reaching case asks what should win out when the conscience rights of small-business owners who object to same-sex marriage clash with civil rights protections for the LGBT community.

Alliance Defending Freedom, the most prominent organization in the Christian legal movement, represents Masterpiece Cakeshop, but other Christian firms will be involved in the case as well, offering input on arguments or filing briefs in support of the Christian baker. These groups compete for donations and clients, but they recognize that they’re chasing after the same goals.

“We’re not competitors in the sense of trying to out-do one another. There’s plenty of work to go around,” Gannam said. “I think we are co-laborers. We are partners.”

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