Southern Baptist Convention Leader Under Fire for Criticizing Trump

A Southern Baptist Convention leader who criticized members of the Religious Right for supporting Donald Trump for president now faces a backlash from some conservative evangelicals.

Russell Moore, who leads the convention’s policy-making and lobbying arm known as the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), cautioned conservative Chris­tians that Trump’s words and actions relating to women, families, minorities and other issues were inconsistent with their values.

In an October 2016 editorial in The Washington Post, Moore also had harsh words for the evangelical leaders who stood by Trump after video of him bragging about groping women was released.

“This is a scandal and a disgrace,” Moore said of Trump’s vocal supporters.

Moore remained critical of Trump right up until election day. But Trump, despite his crude behavior and biblical illiteracy, won support from many in the Religious Right. Moore is now being attacked for his criticism.

Baptist leaders and other members of the Religious Right have retaliated, questioning Moore’s leadership and whether they should continue their financial support of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission while he’s at the helm.

“Since Dr. Moore has taken over, there are a lot of things that are being said on various issues that the Southern Baptist people at large don’t agree with,” Bill Harrell, the pastor emeritus at Abilene Baptist Church in Georgia, told NPR.

“I am utterly stunned that Russell Moore is being paid by Southern Baptists to insult them,” former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist pastor who supported Trump after ending his own campaign for the presidency, said in the same NPR report.

The Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the 12,000-strong First Baptist Church of Dallas, insinuated to The Wall Street Journal that his congregation may withhold funds to Moore’s commission, something also being considering by the Louisi­ana Baptist Convention.

Moore addressed the brewing controversy on his website a week before Christmas.

“I witnessed a handful of Christian political operatives excusing immorality and confusing the definition of the gospel. I was pointed in my criticisms, and felt like I ought to have been,” Moore wrote.

“But there were also pastors and friends who told me when they read my comments they thought I was criticizing anyone who voted for Donald Trump. … that was not at all my intention, and I apologize. There’s a massive difference between someone who enthusiastically excused immorality and someone who felt conflicted, weighed the options based on biblical convictions, and voted their conscience.”

On Jan. 6, OneNewsNow, a site run by the American Family Association, ran a hit piece on Moore. Laurie Cardoza-Moore, who runs a right-wing group called Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, attacked Moore for allowing the ERLC to sign on to a legal brief supporting the right of Muslims in New Jersey to open a mosque without meeting onerous conditions that were not applied to other religious groups.

“[T]hey want to support and build Islamic centers that preach and teach jihad,” charged Cardoza-Moore. She also accused Moore of siding with a “marginal group” of  liberal Baptists.