Liberty University President Jerry Falwell announced the resignation of Liberty University School of Law Dean Mathew Staver on Monday during the university’s All-Faculty Meeting, honoring him for his more than eight years of service.John W. Whitehead, Rutherford’s founder and president, told ThinkProgress that Tom Minnery, an ADF board member and high-ranking executive at Dobson’s Focus on the Family, visited him around the time of the Alliance’s formation to invite his group to join. “I told him I thought it was a vehicle to raise money,” Whitehead recalled, “I believe if you’re gonna be in this area, if you’re defending poor people, you shouldn’t be making money off it. Jesus was an itinerant preacher who was homeless. The guy that kept the money [Judas] turned out to be a government informant.”
Whitehead said that, because his group declined to join, it was blackballed by the ADF leadership — like an Amish shunning. “We got shunned right away. We were told straight-up we wouldn’t be mentioned in any of [Focus on the Family's] publications.” Between 2000 and 2013, Rutherford’s fundraising dropped nearly 50 percent; ADF’s more than doubled. An ADF spokesman declined to comment on Whitehead’s recollections; Minnery did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about the matter.
The Rutherford Institute, which expressed early concern about ADF, was not the only conservative legal organization whose finances took a hit as the Alliance’s exploded. Groups like the Thomas More Law Center, the Traditional Values Coalition’s Education and Legal Institute, Concerned Women for America, and the Foundation for Moral Law all saw their annual fundraising decline or stagnate after the year 2000.
Murray said the Alliance gobbled up smaller Christian law firms and hired lawyers away from competitor organizations. As ADF expanded its financial reach, it also started to get the bulk of the prominent litigants. “You’re only as good as your last case,” he explained, “That’s what you fund-raise on: ‘Here I am battling this evil judge who’s abusing power… I’m the last wall between you and judicial oligarchy.’” In the “mad dash” to get the cases that would “get the rank-and-file all revved up,” Murray said ADF increasingly garnered the most high-profile ones — and “if you didn’t have cases, you really didn’t have the ability to fund-raise.”
Falwell said it was by Staver’s leading that the law school was established in 2004, calling it a “big undertaking and bold commitment” for the university to make after struggling financially for many years.
“Mat was the one who pushed hard and convinced us it was the right thing to do,” Falwell said.
He congratulated Staver for steering the law school through its first ABA accreditation approval process (no other university has obtained ABA provisional status in a shorter period of time) and for helping the university select a founding dean before Staver himself took on the position in 2006.
“We officially thank you for all you’ve done to make Liberty University School of Law successful,” Falwell told Staver.
President announces resignation of Liberty Law Dean Mat Staver | Liberty University