Anonymous source provided audio and details about Russell Moore’s attack on respected pro-life lawyers at Thomas More Society.
NASHVILLE—Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, insulted a highly regarded Catholic law firm that is a frontline pro-life and religious liberty advocate, and he criticized his legal team, shifting blame in both directions for a court document which wrongly claimed the SBC is hierarchal in its relationship with churches.
Responding to a question about the Baptist doctrine of autonomy, with respect to the claim to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the SBC “governs” churches, Moore pointed blame at the Thomas More Society, a joint signer of the amicus brief in the lawsuit, McRaney v. North American Mission Board.
“My team can tell you that I was not one bit happy when this came in because, for one thing, it was written by the Thomas More Society,” Moore told SBC Executive Board members who were assembled Feb. 22 for the entity’s winter two-day business meeting. “And I don’t like to have anything to do with something named after somebody who tortured my Protestant ancestors in England.”
The Thomas More Society is named after the Catholic patron saint of lawyers, who was executed by Henry VIII for not acknowledging the king as the head of the Church of England and opposing the king’s break from the Roman Catholic Church. Prior to falling out with the king, More aggressively prosecuted Protestants. Some historians connect him to the burnings of those who refused to recant.
“And I don’t like working with that group necessarily, but blessings to them and what they do” Moore added. “It wasn’t our brief.”
Moore also blamed his staff, apparently pointing a finger at Travis Wussow, a lawyer who serves as Moore’s vice president for public policy and general counsel.
Moore said his team let him down, bringing him a rushed document and only giving him a general gist of the contents before he signed off on it. He claimed he normally “will read through the whole thing” and that such matters are a “week-long process,” but that this time “I said, ‘Okay.’”
“But I told my team at the time, ‘This is the last time that I am ever going to say “Okay” to anything that you bring to me as an emergency, unless it’s the building on fire,’” Moore told the crowd.
Moore’s attack on Catholics was an about face from earlier in his remarks when he was sharing about ERLC’s work with other pro-life groups — because the Catholic Church has the largest pro-life network in the United States and Catholics are a dominant presence in almost every pro-life event in all 50 states.
As for the errant amicus brief, Moore told the SBC Executive Committee “We pulled it out. Talked to the judge. I talked to the court. Fine. And submitted something else.”
This is not the first time a leader of the ERLC has made insensitive remarks.
In 2012, Richard Land, then-ERLC president, made controversial statements about Trayvon Martin. An investigation deemed his language was “racially charged,” and subsequently Land was pressured to retire.
Moore was investigated twice in 2017 and once again in 2020 because of political statements he made that attacked President Trump and his voters. The latest task force, which looked at the negative impact Moore has made on Cooperative Program giving, released its report during the same meeting in which Moore made his religiously bigoted comments.
And just in case you want to listen to the audio.