The Alliance Defending Freedom, a prominent conservative nonprofit legal organization, is in the process of purchasing the Virginia-based headquarters of the global evangelical prison ministry Prison Fellowship.
Founded by Chuck Colson, the world’s largest Christian ministry for prisoners, moved into the 11.3-acre Lansdowne, Virginia property in 2005, after having outgrown its previous headquarters in Reston, Virginia.
The decision to sell the property in the Washington, D.C. suburbs was due in large part to the ministry work increasingly becoming virtual or on location at prisons, according to a statement.
ADF President and CEO Michael Farris told The Christian Post in an interview Monday that his organization “signed a letter of intent as of last week” and is “going through closing now” on the property.
“We’ve been renting in the area for a couple of years now, and our growth is so explosive that we were looking at getting a long-term place to grow, where we’re not going from one rental to another,” Farris said.
“This opportunity became available. With the legacy of the building, it is especially wonderful, but just the building itself was perfect for our needs. And so, we’re really excited to pursue it.”
Farris also told CP that his organization and Prison Fellowship had worked on multiple projects together, with the group offering legal advice to Prison Fellowship via ADF Ministry Alliance.
James Ackerman, president and CEO of Prison Fellowship since 2016, told CP that his ministry was in the process of finalizing certain “contingencies and inspections” but expected to close the transaction by the end of June.
According to Ackerman, Prison Fellowship decided to sell the property more than a year ago but held off on doing so due to the poor market caused by the recent economic downturn.
Farris had been interested in the property for some time, noted Ackerman, with the ADF head telling them a couple of months ago that he was “still interested” in acquiring the land.
Ackerman also told CP that the sale was not tied to any financial problems, explaining that Prison Fellowship has had a steady stream of income, even during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our revenue has grown year over year for the last three years. From everything I can see today, we’re going to see revenue grow again this year,” said Ackerman.
“The pandemic has not impacted us financially. We have not had to lay off a single person or furlough any employees. We’ve been super busy, and we carry no debt. We have zero debt on the balance sheet.”
Prison Fellowship plans to remain on the property as renters for at least the next couple of years, moving its personnel from the third floor of the building to the second.
Over the last five years, Prison Fellowship became an increasingly virtual organization with more employees operating closer to its in-prison work. According to Ackerman, over two-thirds of the organization’s staff worked from home before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“The Board of Prison Fellowship and the senior management team are thrilled Alliance Defending Freedom will operate on the same property and buildings our founder, the late Charles Colson, dedicated to the Lord,” Ackerman said in a statement.
Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, is dedicated to defending religious freedom and free speech in court. The organization, founded in 1993, has won nearly a dozen Supreme Court cases since 2011.
The Lansdowne campus will be an expansion of ADF’s existing offices.
In a statement, Farris described Prison Fellowship’s late founder Chuck Colson as a “ strong advocate for freedom of conscience and religion.”
“As a drafter of the Manhattan Declaration, he defended the very principles that we defend today,” Farris explained. “With the purchase of this new property, we carry on his legacy and begin a new and exciting chapter in ADF’s 28 years of ministry as the world’s largest legal advocacy organization committed to protecting religious freedom, sanctity of life, freedom of speech, and parental rights.”