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The POWER List: Michael Whitehead

Whitehead Law Firm, Lee’s Summit 

Michael K. WhiteheadMichael Whitehead is known for his religious liberty cases that made their way to the highest court in the land. 

When he represented Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia after it was told it couldn’t resurface its daycare playground with recycled tire scraps from a state grant program, Whitehead helped to prepare the case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The court’s 7-2 majority for Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer ruled that its daycare couldn’t be turned away because it had a religious bent. The 2017 decision became a significant religious liberty case. 

That ruling relied on 36-year-old case precedent that Whitehead also had a hand in. He helped argue Widmar v. Vincent, in which the court held that the University of Missouri-Kansas City couldn’t bar a student religious group from using a campus building for meetings in 1981. 

Whitehead works alongside his son, fellow attorney Jonathan Whitehead. He has been general counsel for religious institutions and nonprofit organizations such as the Missouri Baptist Convention. He earned his law degree in 1975 from the University of Missouri. 

The POWER List: Appellate Law 2022