The latest filings in McRaney v. NAMB

By Will Hall 
Baptist Message executive editor

AMORY, Miss. (LBM) – A trio of experts have provided written testimony in McRaney v. NAMB, a lawsuit which claims the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention wrongfully influenced the termination of Will McRaney as executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.

The three documents were filed in response to NAMB’s request that the federal court hearing the case “enter partial summary judgement in its favor,” and together addressed NAMB’s claim to be a “supporting organization” of the BCMD (a specific IRS designation) and NAMB’s assertion of First Amendment rights in the matter (based on a claimed hierarchical relationship between NAMB and the BCMD).

— Charles R. Lindsay, a Mississippi CPA with 39 years of experience, including leadership with state and national CPA professional organizations, rejected NAMB’s claim to be a “supporting organization” for the state convention, citing, in part, NAMB’s failure to meet IRS requirements for such status, although he conceded that “minimum, relevant information” from NAMB was needed “to make a definite determination.”

— D.C. Sharp, Ph.D., managing director of Econ One Research, an economic consulting firm with offices in California, Colorado, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C., as well as in two cities in India, who has provided expert consultation in 300 legal cases and has an extensive academic leadership record, said McRaney’s damages, so far, “ranges from approximately $1.4M to $1.8M.” He said that NAMB’s claim to be a “supporting organization … makes no sense to me as an economist given that, throughout the relevant period, BCMD provided more financial support to NAMB than NAMB provided to BCMD.”

— Barry Hankins, professor of history and immediate past chair of Baylor University’s Department of History, as well as editor of the Journal of Church and State published today by Oxford University Press, said “NAMB’s First Amendment defense in this case, if accepted by courts, would actually undermine religious liberty rather than safeguard it.” He argued that NAMB’s claim would only make sense “if Dr. McRaney worked for NAMB, but he never did.” Hankins also disputed any suggestion that the SBC is “over other Baptist entities,” saying, “one of the principal reasons Baptists came into existence was because of the theological belief that religious authority resides only in local congregations.” Treating Baptists in any other context by the court “would be an affront to religious liberty,” he concluded.

So far, NAMB has lost two rulings by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals (a three-judge panel, and the whole court) and its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

McRaney v. NAMB is now in the discovery phase (obtaining information from the opposing party, including depositions) before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi.