Open Letter Re: Reporting on NAMB and ERLC
With your being the chief over Baptist Press, I was disappointed in your writing and BP publishing articles that continue to contain false information that you did not fact check in keeping with published journalistic standards. In the latest related BP articles about NAMB and ERLC in my case you did not offer me the opportunity to make a statement regarding what ERLC spokespersons were saying and what SBC Trustee Chairman Danny deArmas falsely communicated. As well, you published on NAMB appealing to the Supreme Court after two losses in the 5th Circuit, but omitted the fact that the NAMB Trustees never required Ezell to meet with me to seek resolution or have his story and statements cross examined. Danny deArmas’s claim in BP that I refused to respond or to meet is false. deArmas was either given false information or he intentionally lied to BP staff, BP readers and Southern Baptist partners. The fact is Ezell is the one who has not met with me since I submitted my complaints in Feb. 2016. He has not participated in either of the 2 face-to-face engagements with select NAMB Trustee officers, one which was required by the courts.
NAMB and Ezell have falsely claimed in legal court filings that NAMB has “absolute rights” and “absolute privileges” over State partners (defenses 10, 12, 13, 16). NAMB has also filed as a defense that they received a legal “release” as “Supporting Organization” (defenses #4-7) when I gave a release to the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware in my separation agreement with BCMD. I specifically told my attorney in the summer of 2015 that I did not want to give NAMB a release. Before signing the separation papers he told me I was not giving NAMB a release. Here is his affidavit stating the facts. Simply taking 5-7 minutes to review federal requirements reveal that NAMB meets NONE of the legal criteria of a Supporting Organization, which in fact would create a hierarchy and controls over ALL SBC partners. While BP, ERLC, and NAMB affirm the autonomy of the local church, BP and others say nothing about State Conventions and Associations also being autonomous. You are publishing partial and deceptive information to SBC givers and partners. That is very troubling.
Danny deArmas told SBC Leaders via a letter that “The lawsuit filed against NAMB poses a very real risk to the autonomy and freedom we all enjoy. As soon as we allow the government to dictate what we do and how we do it, we all lose our ability to freely share the Gospel and execute our ministry strategy without interference from the government.” What a shameful deception. The facts show and SBC national and state leaders (TN) acknowledge that the SBC is at risk (NW Conv.) should the courts be deceived by NAMB and ERLC into believing that NAMB has rights over ANY SBC partner. Will you be correcting the record on this false claim of danger? Violations of tort laws with libel and tortious interference are not first amendment issues at all. In fact, if NAMB’s false claims were to prevail, the courts would establish that NAMB has rights over all SBC partners (42 State Conventions, 1,100 Associations and 47,500 churches) and that is a violation of the First Amendment.
I agree with First Liberty in that “the Constitution protects religious organizations independence and their right to choose their own leaders and ministers.” However, it is well known that I did not work for NAMB or the SBC. I was not “their minister” and they did not ordain, hire or supervise me. I, like all SBC partners, have the right to not have torts (illegal acts) by NAMB to be committed against me. Like former Michigan Executive Director Bobby Gilstrap, I had the right to work for the BCMD and afterwards without illegal interference by Ezell. Ezell and NAMB are seeking to hide behind false claims, saying that the SBC functions as a single church and thereby operates as a denominational hierarchy. NAMB and the ERLC have both submitted false statements and these claims to federal justices and courts. Only after public pressure, the ERLC and Moore filed corrective papers with the 5th Circuit acknowledging they had filed false statements previously while representing the SBC.
We continue to read “NAMB denies” or “ERLC says”. When will you and BP get statements from Ezell and Moore on the record while you publish what they say on other matters and legal cases? If they are innocent, they would have no fear of the truth.
Thank you for considering my concerns. SBC partners deserve to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Partial truths that deceive are not acceptable, nor should SBC partners pay BP to write it.
Will McRaney, PhD