Liberty alumni receive Buckley Awards for protecting religious freedom
Two Liberty University alumni were recently honored for their advocacy of religious liberty and promotion of freedom-minded principles by America’s Future Foundation (AFF).
Kerri Kupec, a 2011 graduate of Liberty University School of Law, and Ashlea Frazier, a 2010 graduate of the Helms School of Government, were presented with the AFF’s Buckley Award, awarded to a select few outstanding young professionals every year in recognition of their “above-and-beyond service to the liberty movement,” according to AFF’s website. The award is named in honor of William F. Buckley Jr., who became a renowned political voice for the conservative movement before the age of 30. Past award recipients have included significant leaders of grassroots movements and activists for principles of freedom.
Kupec currently serves as legal counsel and communications director with Alliance Defending Freedom in Washington, D.C. She has appeared on major television news networks and has been involved in a number of high-profile Supreme Court cases.
Frazier is the director of programs for Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, where she advises young professionals on career development and establishes relationships on Capitol Hill.
Kupec and Frazier received the awards during the 8th Annual Buckley Awards Ceremony at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14.
Read more about the accomplishments of these outstanding Liberty alumni in the articles below.
- Kerri Kupec (’11): ‘Freedom for all people’
Receiving the Buckley Award and continuing the namesake’s fight for religious freedom is an honor that Kerri Kupec doesn’t take lightly.
“William Buckley was a champion for freedom and liberty, and that’s what our country is known for; it’s our country’s identity,” she said. “If we lose that sense of what freedom is, if we lose the drive to pursue the freedom of all Americans to be able to live, speak, and work peacefully and consistently with their convictions, then we will lose who we are as a people.”
Kupec has worked at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in Washington, D.C., for the past four years. ADF is the world’s largest religious freedom legal advocacy organization and has been involved in a number of high-profile Supreme Court cases. As legal counsel and communications director, Kupec manages public advocacy operations related to the Supreme Court and leads ADF’s media communications. She has appeared on the major television news networks and has been quoted in many national print and online news publications.
“We devote ourselves to making sure that all people have the freedom to truly live out their faith and their passions in all areas of their lives,” Kupec said. “The issues that I am involved in are not specific to certain people’s freedom or certain people’s pursuit of liberty. The freedom of an individual to be able to peacefully live out their faith and conscience in their everyday life is freedom for everybody. If we allow the government to have unfettered power to eliminate people from the marketplace, from the public square, from American life, simply for holding a viewpoint — whether it’s based on faith or based on conscience and (whether it) may or may not be popular — that severely undermines our identity as a nation that has always pursued freedom — freedom for all people.”
She calls it a “dream job.”
“I get to litigate in the court of public opinion. I get to take what we do in the courtroom and communicate that in the public square,” she said. “I take what I learned in my classes at Liberty — everything from constitutional law to negotiations and arbitration — and I translate that in a way that, hopefully, people can understand and relate to.” Training as a lawyer is critical to what she does now, she said.
“I don’t think I would be able to do what I do half as effectively if I hadn’t had the training and education that I did at Liberty University School of Law.”
Kupec said that her time at Liberty emboldened her in her faith. After earning her bachelor’s degree in political science from C.U.N.Y. Queens College, where she said she was “the only vocal conservative,” Kupec said that Liberty Law, still in its infancy stage, was the only law school she applied to.
“I had decided that I wanted to go to law school, though I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my law degree, and no law school really fit what I was looking for,” she recalled. Then she got a letter from Liberty Law, explaining its “emphasis on constitutional law and the study of western legal traditions.”
“I’ll never forget it,” she said. “I felt as if someone had written out exactly what I had been dreaming about, as far as law school was concerned, and written it out in the letter and gave it to me on a platter.”
Kupec said she was a part of a “class of pioneers.”
“We loved studying the development of law and politics throughout western civilization, learning from history but being practical about what’s before us and how to apply principles,” she said.
Kupec said she lives and works in such a way that she can tell her children one day, “I showed up for the fight; I did all that I could to preserve freedom for the next generation.”
- Ashlea Frazier (’10): ‘Principles matter’
Ashlea (Varndell) Frazier — a 2017 Buckley Award winner — has spent her career fighting for liberty.
“Principles matter,” Frazier said. “From the beginning of my career, I have always sought to align myself with organizations whose mission and purpose coincide with that of my own. Self-government, religious liberty, freedom of speech, and the principles of liberty lie at the heart of what makes America an exceptional society and, as such, are essential to preserve.”
As director of programs for the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship — a Washington, D.C.-based extension of Hillsdale College — Frazier manages programs that spread and defend the pedagogy and underlying, foundational ideologies of the college. She establishes relationships on Capitol Hill, advises students on career development, and speaks at various events throughout the D.C. metropolitan area.
Prior to Hillsdale, Frazier worked as the program manager for The Heritage Foundation’s Center for American Studies, where she developed educational programs that focused on the principles of liberty and self-governance.
Frazier also served as a professional volunteer with the Official Proceedings team at the Republican National Convention in the 2012 and 2016 election cycles. She was responsible for interfacing with VIP program participants, members of the U.S. Secret Service, and RNC staff to ensure smooth transitions for the conventions.
“I feel humbled and honored to be receiving this award,” Frazier said. “There are many individuals in the movement pursuing the advancement of freedom on a daily basis. The work of each of us in this pursuit is vital, and no one individual can take credit.”
Frazier said it was largely the education and assistance she received at Liberty that enabled her to begin her career in D.C. as an advocate for religious freedom and other First Amendment principles. Frazier earned her Bachelor of Science in Politics and Public Policy in Liberty’s Helms School of Government.
“The encouragement, skills, and dedication of the politics faculty were instrumental in my development and preparing me for my career,” she said. “I certainly benefited from Liberty’s commitment to academics, but the college’s unique emphasis on developing the student as a whole being in need of spiritual grounding, community, and wellness helped me to develop the values and skills required to live a full and flourishing life.”
Frazier said she also valued the time spent outside of the classroom conversing with friends, professors, and mentors.
“One of my fondest memories from my time at Liberty was sitting around the round-table in the lobby of the Helms School of Government in between classes and engaging with fellow classmates, friends, and faculty in daily conversations of life — continuing debates and discussions from previous classes and providing each other with words of encouragement and wisdom.”
Frazier lives in Alexandria, Va., with her husband, Allen Frazier. Throughout her day-to-day job, she is determined not only to uphold the ideologies of liberty, but also the mission of Liberty University.
“To live as a Champion for Christ means to approach every day with humility and to be always in pursuit of the Great Commission, which is God’s ultimate call on our lives,” she said. “For me, it means living in recognition that my everyday actions, words, and decisions bear witness that I am held accountable to a higher power.”