Reflections on the ERLC’s false amicus brief & what we can learn from the latest legal filings.
By now you should have read the amicus brief filed to support Will McRaney by over 60 current and former Baptist leaders. If you haven’t, well, scroll down to the bottom and you can read it all. But there is news and some important analysis that you need to know if you are involved in the Southern Baptist Convention. First, there are more than three state conventions helping Will McRaney in his battle against Kevin Ezell and the North American Mission Board.
In a surprisingly not terrible Baptist Press report, Baptist Press hit on something: there is a growing tide setting in the SBC against SBC Elites. Three state convention executives signed the amicus brief. And neither of those three were the state conventions that have started sending McRaney financial support. That means there is at least one and perhaps several state conventions lending financial support to McRaney in his fight against Kevin Ezell’s thuggish behavior.
This is a tantalizing bit of information that BP revealed. So, we asked McRaney about it.
McRaney said, “Several state convention leaders and former leaders have contributed financially to our legal efforts to correct the anti-Baptist, legally dangerous claims of NAMB and the ERLC in federal court, including the Supreme Court of the United States. As to the particular state conventions and leaders who are contributing to my legal expenses, I do not have permission to share that information at this point. With the power and propensity amassed at NAMB under Ezell to both bless and bully, it is not prudent to give Ezell the information necessary to act punitively toward those state conventions, their mission and/or their leaders.”
What does this mean?
It means that Kevin Ezell’s aggressive, insulting, and perverse language has made plenty of enemies in the Southern Baptist Convention. He came into NAMB with the idea that “state conventions suck,” which he told to a gathered audience once. His style proves it, and he has gone about using SBC tithes and offerings to carry out his own mafia-style vendetta against anyone who dares not submit to his will.
One question that looms: Where are the Southern state conventions in all of this? None signed the brief. Are some of these conventions now supporting McRaney quietly? If so, why do they fear making a strong statement? If not, why are the strongest SBC conventions letting the smaller conventions stand up to Goliath?
One point to note is that the ERLC brief from the last time McRaney’s case was before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is still generating discussion both in the SBC and in legal filings before the appeals court.
A key point to remember is that the ERLC was responsible for the brief. Yes, the brief was written by lawyers. That is what lawyers do. However, the brief was filed for both Thomas More and the ERLC and that means both are responsible for the content. The ERLC saw the brief before it was filed. NAMB saw the brief before it was filed and neither SBC entity said a word. They both knew it contained lies and both were OK with those lies being sent to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Consider that for a moment. There were multiple opportunities to apply the brakes and not submit what everyone admits was an erroneous legal filing. Yet, some defect of character among ERLC elites and NAMB lawyers allowed this brief to be filed.
Only after they were caught did SBC Elites admit the error.
In McRaney’s appeal, this point is made in the brief: “Despite being aware of serious errors in the ERLC Amicus Brief, neither NAMB nor the ERLC brought them to the attention of this Court as it considered NAMB’s petition for rehearing. Instead, only months later, after rehearing was denied (over the dissents of eight judges who issued opinions based on a record containing false statements), did the ERLC publicly apologize, and send a belated letter to the Court confessing the errors.” (You can read the entire brief embedded below.)
The ERLC’s false brief even made it into the recently filed brilliant amicus brief filed on behalf of Current and former Baptist leaders. This recent brief is brilliantly written by Michelle Stratton and you should check it out if you haven’t read it yet. (Scroll down for the entire brief.) This new amicus only in a roundabout way brings attention to the ERLC’s previous filing—mentioning the retraction letter the ERLC submitted to the appeals court.
According to the newly filed amicus, “In a previous amici curiae letter to this Court, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission—NAMB’s sister entity— acknowledged these fundamentals of Baptist polity. After McRaney I and dissents from denial of rehearing based on mistaken understandings of Baptist polity, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission wrote the Court: ‘All Southern Baptist churches are autonomous, self-determining, and subject only to the Lordship of Christ—no local, state or national entity may exercise control or authority over any Southern Baptist church. Baptists reject the idea of a religious hierarchy or umbrella superior to the local church, or that any Baptist Convention is in a hierarchy or governing relationship over another Convention.’ … Those statements—though too late for this Court’s judges to rely on when considering rehearing en banc—are correct.”
Confusion seems to be the key for NAMB’s legal arguments. NAMB submitted another brief to the district court that contained likewise erroneous language. The Capstone Report’s work highlighted that error, and it was corrected shortly thereafter.
According to McRaney’s legal filing, “In its brief opposing Dr. McRaney’s request to file an updated complaint, NAMB referred to ‘the Southern Baptist Church.’…Because there is no such thing, and with the firestorm over the ERLC Amicus Brief still in mind, NAMB’s misrepresentation was called out. See, e.g., https://capstonereport.com/2022/11/18/here-we-go-again-namb-lawyers-lie-in-newbrief/40037/ (Nov. 18, 2022). A few days later, NAMB filed a corrected brief removing the reference to ‘the Southern Baptist Church.’”
Given how the ERLC did not retract its false brief until months later when it was first written about by the Capstone Report, Russell Moore’s ERLC lies in amicus brief against Will McRaney, one wonders if NAMB would’ve submitted a corrected brief.
As promised, here are pdf files of some important recent legal filings in the case that you should read. Enjoy!