Michael K. Whitehead
Principal / Attorney
Michael K. Whitehead is a Kansas City trial attorney with over 35 years experience. In 1981, he was co-counsel in a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Widmar v. Vincent 454 US 263, establishing the right of public university students to “equal access” for religious worship meetings in a campus student union.
He has served as general counsel for several religious institutions and non-profit organizations, including the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Washington, D.C., and the Missouri Baptist Convention. He also has served as trial counsel, consulting counsel, or amicus curiae counsel in trial and appellate courts around the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
Mike served as a Captain in the U.S. Army JAG Corps from 1975-78, and then returned to Kansas City to begin a partnership with James M. Smart, Jr.
After winning the Widmar case, Mike and Jim also worked with the Christian Legal Society to urge passage of the federal Equal Access Act, which applies the Widmar rule to public high schools.
From 1991-95, Mike served as general counsel for the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy and religious liberty agency in Washington, DC. The SBC is the nation's largest protestant denomination, with over 16 million members in over 40,000 local churches. He met with the White House, testified before Congress, and filed “friend of the court” briefs with the US Supreme Court on issues of family, faith and freedom on behalf of Southern Baptists. He has appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, World Magazine and the Oprah Winfrey Show.
From 1995-2001, Mike served at Midwestern Baptist Seminary, where he taught courses as assistant professor of church-state law. For nearly two years, he served as interim president of the seminary, after serving as business vice president for several years. He returned to private law practice in the fall of 2001.
Since 2001, Mr. Whitehead's practice has included serving individuals, churches, denominations, religious institutions, and other charities and non-profit organizations. Mike has served as general legal counsel for the Missouri Baptist Convention, supervising a legal team handling complex litigation seeking the recovery of five breakaway ministry corporations, valued at nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. (See Representative Cases here.)
(See Curriculum Vitae here)
Born in 1950, in Independence, Missouri.
Juris Doctor degree, 1975, Missouri University Law School.
B.A. degree, 1972, Political Science / Public law, Missouri University, Columbia. Phi Beta Kappa
High School: Truman High School, Independence, MO, 1968.
U.S. Supreme Court.
Supreme Court of Missouri.
State and Federal Courts in Missouri.
Federal District Court in Kansas
Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Missouri Bar Association
Professional and Community Activities:
Missouri Baptist Convention parliamentarian, Resolutions Committee
Southern Baptist Convention, Chair, Resolutions Committee; Chair, Committee on Order of Business.
Public Policy Advocacy:
Coalition for Free Exercise of Religion, 1990 to 1993, involved in drafting and lobbying for passage of Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb.
Testified before Congressional Committee regarding proposed EEOC guidelines on religious harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, June 1994.
Met with President Bill Clinton and White House staff regarding Religious Freedom Restoration Act and its application to bankruptcy proceedings, 1994-1995.
Religious Heritage of America, Business and Professional Award, 1995.
Phi Beta Kappa, 1972, University of Missouri.
Distinguished Service Award, Christian Life Commission, Missouri Baptist Convention, 2000.
Honor Guard, Alliance Defending Freedom, 2004.
Captain, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas, 1976-78, handling administrative law matters as well as prosecuting courts martial, as Chief Trial Counsel.
Jackson County Election Board, 2006-date, appointed by Gov. Matt Blunt and reappointed by Gov. Jay Nixon.