Kristen Waggoner Named Legal Counsel
Alliance Defending Freedom’s General Counsel, Kristen K. Waggoner, has served local Assemblies of God churches, districts, and universities for many years. While continuing as general counsel at ADF, Waggoner will assume a new role: legal counsel to the Assemblies of God. Richard R. Hammar has served in this post for 43 years. Hammar will officially retire in March 2022. Waggoner began assisting the AG in December 2021.
“My husband, Ben, and I have enjoyed many ties with the Assemblies of God over the years,” says Waggoner. “This Fellowship has helped shaped our view of God, His Church, and how we have raised our family. I am honored to continue to use my legal skills to serve the entire AG community in this new way.”
Waggoner, 49, indeed has a lengthy connection to the Fellowship. Waggoner’s parents, Clint and LaVonne Behrends, raised Kristen at Columbia Heights Assembly in Longview, Washington, and spent more than 20 years there. Clint, who served as Kristen’s principal at Columbia Heights Christian Academy, urged her to discover and pursue God’s purpose for her life.
At an AG summer camp, 13-year-old Kristen sensed a calling to defend religious freedom and religious organizations as an attorney. Kristen and Ben married while attending Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. Kristen and Ben both received their Juris Doctor from Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach. Kristen graduated with honors and clerked for Washington Supreme Court Justice Richard B. Sanders before joining a Seattle law firm, where she became partner. Ben has primarily focused his legal practice in the areas of real estate and insurance.
Waggoner remained at the firm for 16 years, during which time she represented hundreds of religious organizations, including Northwest University and the AG’s Northwest Ministry Network, gaining experience in a variety of areas including employment, education, nonprofit, and constitutional law. Waggoner attended AG churches most of her life, including nearly 17 years at Cedar Park Church in Bothell, Washington, where Clint served as school superintendent and associate pastor until retiring in 2019.
FIRST AMENDMENT LITIGATION
Waggoner oversees much of ADF’s work. Alliance Defending Freedom is the world’s largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life and marriage. ADF has offices around the world and over 400 employees. In the past decade, ADF has won 13 victories at the U.S. Supreme Court. Waggoner has taken a lead role in some of the country’s most challenging religious liberty issues and will continue to do so.
Several years ago, ADF launched the Church and Ministry Alliance program, which offers certain legal services to religious organizations as they navigate a more complex legal environment. Local AG churches and districts have benefited from the program, which now has about 3,500 religious organizations as members.
“The right to live out our faith publicly and privately faces significant threats here and abroad,” Waggoner says. “One of America’s greatest contributions to the world has been its commitment to religious freedom and free speech. Not only do these freedoms contribute to us sharing the good news, but they are closely linked to other fundamental freedoms.
We must continue to protect the right of the Church as an institution and the right of those within the Church to express their faith and to live it out in their everyday lives.”
Of ADF’s dozen Supreme Court victories under Waggoner’s watch, she argued two herself. Waggoner argued successfully before the Court in the high-profile case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission decided in 2018. In a 7-2 ruling, justices ruled in favor of Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop finding that Colorado wrongly expressed hostility toward his religious beliefs about marriage. The precedent has been cited over 1,000 times in legal publications, opinions, and briefs.
She also recently argued and won Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski by an 8-1 vote before the nation’s highest court. That decision, handed down in March 2021, involved student Chike Uzuegbunam’s right to share his faith on the campus of Georgia Gwinnett College, a public college in Lawrenceville.
Waggoner maintains that American Christians face unprecedented opposition to the gospel, but she is optimistic.
“My hope is that the AG will continue to make disciples who will live out a vibrant faith with great courage and be truth-tellers, those who understand truth and winsomely and compassionately share it in a world where the basic notion of truth is called in question by powerful forces,” Waggoner says. “God goes with us, but He expects us to go.”
Hammar, widely considered an expert in church tax issues, is an advocate for his successor.
“When I thought about who I would want to succeed me as legal counsel, there were very few I felt could do the job,” says Hammar, 71. “But Kristen was one of them — she’s going to do great.”
General Superintendent Doug Clay also is confident.
“In our ever-changing litigious society, it was important to me to get this transition right, to both build upon the foundation of our past left by Rich Hammar and to posture the General Council for our legal future,” Clay says.
Waggoner, who taught from Hammar’s texts for many years while an adjunct professor at Northwest University, says she has enjoyed learning from Hammar over the years.
“Rich has dedicated his vocational life to the Assemblies of God and the broader Body of Christ,” Waggoner says. “His legal writings have helped thousands of churches and religious organizations. He’s modeled what it means to follow God’s call wherever it leads.”