Farris assumes the post as the second ADF CEO, following Alan Sears, who served 23 years as the founding CEO. Sears will continue to serve ADF in his new role, founder of Alliance Defending Freedom.
Farris was founding president of both the Home School Legal Defense Association (1983) and Patrick Henry College (2000) and continues to serve as chairman of the board of HSLDA and chancellor emeritus of PHC. He is a constitutional appellate litigator who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, eight federal circuit courts, and the appellate courts of 13 states.
“The most important questions about the future of our freedom are being deliberated today in the legal arena,” said Farris. “All of our freedoms arose from the battle to ensure religious liberty, and they hang in the balance at this crucial time in our history. ADF has become the world’s premier legal advocacy organization while being true to its name by promoting a spirit of alliance in our movement. To continue ‘running toward the fight’ for freedom—as I have for my entire career—is a challenge I have accepted with complete clarity about the threats we face but also with great hope and an eye on the many opportunities before us.”
“I am overjoyed to be passing the torch to Mike, a person of integrity who I have known and admired for many years,” said Sears. “He is a bold and dynamic leader who has persevered and succeeded countless times when the political, legal, and cultural headwinds would have overcome most others. He has proven over decades to be skilled in recognizing pressing needs, identifying solutions, and effectively implementing those ideas by building enduring organizational foundations that have served the good of countless others. I look forward to working with Mike during what I pray will be a period of dynamic growth for freedom.”
“We wondered when we began the process if it was possible to find a replacement for Alan, who has led ADF so gracefully and so well for nearly a quarter century,” said ADF Board Chair Terry Schlossberg, who led the ADF CEO search committee. “Mike is uniquely prepared and qualified for this challenge: an innovative problem-solver and visionary with a record of successful organization-building. His long and successful history of acting in the face of opposition to bring justice on issues close to the heart of ADF solidified him as the right choice, so we are excited to begin this new chapter with Mike at the helm.”
“It would be hard to overstate my appreciation and respect for Alan Sears,” said Farris. “We all owe a great debt of gratitude for the sacrifices Alan and his family have made to build this organization into the force in law and culture that it is today. I look forward to joining the talented ADF team and our many friends and allies as we continue this mission of building freedom’s future together.”
Farris in a video to HSLDA members said that this is a bittersweet moment.
Farris will not be as involved with HSLDA, and his role as chairman of the board will become just a board, not a staff, position.
In an email sent by HSLDA he wrote:
I get more credit for HSLDA’s work than I deserve because I started it and have an out-front kind of personality. But I’ve merely played a part. The reality is, there are many people who are integral to the work of HSLDA, and ultimately God gets the credit for all of our victories for homeschool freedom.
And if it’s God’s will for me to move to Alliance Defending Freedom—as I’m confident that it is—then it’s also God’s will for HSLDA that I move. One of the great things about this fact is that it proves to the whole world that HSLDA is not about Mike Farris.
HSLDA will continue to defend homeschooling families and protect homeschool freedom—and be entirely successful. This is about a team of people who believe in a movement that God is leading and blessing.
I have 33 years of absolute confidence in Mike Smith and the leadership and stability that he has brought to this organization, as well as the rest of the team at HSLDA. Our four vice presidents have all been here for well over a decade and up to 27 years, and the stability and the solid judgment of HSLDA’s leadership give me solid confidence for the future.
My biggest wish for homeschool freedom and educational freedom, in the long run, is that we don’t go backwards. There are some states where freedom must be improved. And in every state it is vital to make sure that freedom is implemented correctly, because there will always be individuals who are ignorant of the laws or use their position of power to ignore the laws and discriminate against homeschooling families. And there will always be those who desire to roll back the freedoms we’ve fought so hard to attain.
Having said that, however, we have a foundation of freedom right now that is essentially in good shape in this country, and we have to make sure that that is maintained.
I’ve been with HSLDA for 33 years, and in that time, God (along with the kind board of HSLDA) has allowed me to be involved in a few other issues that I am concerned about. In this new chapter with ADF, God is giving me the opportunity to approach the broadest range of issues in the zone of where I’m qualified, especially in the international zone.
Along with my American law degree, I have an LLM in international law from the University of London, and I aim to put that to good use by managing the important work of ADF internationally. I feel like God has orchestrated my life to get me to the point where I am right now.
The mission of ADF is to defend and promote religious freedom, protect innocent human life and the sanctity of marriage, and protect the family. Those are issues that I’ve been interested in and involved with for many, many years, and I view the new position at ADF as an expansion of the work I’ve been doing at HSLDA. I won’t be doing anything different, but I will be broadening the scope at which I can continue to work.
ADF and HSLDA have been partners in almost all of the homeschool cases that HSLDA has worked on in Europe. ADF has a robust legal team based in Vienna and has lawyers in Strasbourg, Geneva, and Brussels, to name a few locations.
The opportunity to help protect religious freedom in particular, but human life, marriage, and the family in general—these are issues that are central to all of our lives, and I am confident that God’s called me to this wider sphere for right now.
If we look around us objectively right now, the days look pretty dark. But they looked really, really dark in the first days of the homeschooling movement. I’ve been privileged to walk through those dark days and come out on the other side and see the light of day shining brightly and consistently. And that’s what I want to see in the other areas of life that ADF is going to be involved in.
Thank you for your continued support of homeschool freedom, and I pray that God blesses you and your family as we work toward the greater glory of His kingdom.