The Pen

A View from the Pew: SBC Church Member Gives Concerns about Russell Moore

A concerned church member of the flagship 2nd Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, has emailed Pulpit & Pen her own concerns regarding Russell Moore, penning this letter to publish in various news outlets and praying others would also see cause for concern. We are happy to publish it at her request and by her permission:
Who would’ve ever guessed that the Baptists would move “inside the Beltway”?  The Southern Baptist Convention, which represents over 50,000 Baptist and Missionary churches throughout the US and territories, and offices in Washington, DC and Nashville, has joined the attacks against Donald Trump.  Russell Moore, the 8th President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, “the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination”[1], has been making his rounds attacking Trump.  According to Moore’s website, he’s been on CNN’s Wolf and Anderson Cooper and Fox News.  In addition, he had an opinion piece in the Washington Post ,“Why Christians Must Speak Out Against Donald Trump’s Muslim Remarks”, and has been quoted in Yahoo Politics, “Trump’s Muslim Ban Proposal Draws Extraordinary Rebukes”, by Jon Ward.   The New York Times also quoted him for his Trump opinions. 
At what point does this become a violation of the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status?
According to Project Fair Play, ”churches and other non-profit organizations that hold 501(c)(3) status must abide by Internal Revenue Service regulations barring any involvement in partisan politics.  Churches and pastors may not endorse candidates for public office or advise congregants to vote for or against certain candidates.” They further state that laws are quite strict and the IRS has “zero tolerance” on enforcing this matter. [2] According to Jon Ward’s Yahoo Politics article, Russell Moore is considered “a prominent evangelical leader”.  Moore is using the platform afforded him as the face of The Southern Baptist Convention (and their tax-exempt status) to bully Baptists and other Christians across the nation to vote against Trump.  Moore tweeted, “anyone who cares an iota about religious liberty will denounce the reckless demagogic @realDonaldTrump plan for Muslims.”  Okay, was he able to gingerly sidestep around saying don’t vote for Trump to save the tax-exempt status?  Possibly, but there’s more.
Laying off missionaries while funding Moore’s six-figure salary is the height of hypocrisy.  At the end of August and into September 2015, it was widely reported that the Southern Baptist Convention was laying off/cutting between 600 and 800 employees of it’s overseas missions agency due to shortfalls in revenue.  The mission vision of the Southern Baptist Convention states, “As a convention of churches, our missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.”[3] As even Adelle M. Banks of the Huffington Post reported August 27, 2015 regarding these layoffs that this must be devastating  for, “… a denomination that was founded as a missionary sending organization and that prides itself on making Christian converts across the globe”[4].  The irony of this is that as the Southern Baptist Convention was laying off missionaries, “Russell Moore’s six figure salary is paid by the tithes and offerings put in the plates at the Southern Baptist churches across America”[5] (not accounting for his staff expenses).  Where are the priorities of the Southern Baptist Convention?  As they lay off missionaries essential to their very existence, they send Russell Moore and his  “six figure salary” all around the media bashing a presidential candidate.  What is Moore’s agenda as he’s marching the SBC inside the Beltway to become one more establishment lobbyist?
[1]Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention website
[2] Project Fair Play website
[3] Southern Baptist Convention website
[4]  Huffington Post “ Why is the Southern Baptist Convention cutting hundreds of jobs?”  by Adelle M. Banks 8/27/15
[5] Pulpit and Pen by Seth Dunn 2/13/15
[Written by Kathy Vonderhaar]