ERLC, Baptist Press address false claims launched by bloggers

In recent weeks a number of blogs have alleged close ties between the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC); its president, Russell Moore; the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT); and progressive billionaire George Soros — claims that are false, according to an Explainer article published Jan. 9 by Baptist Press.

The EIT, a nonpartisan coalition of evangelical groups who partner together to advocate for a bipartisan solution on immigration, seems to be at the heart of the allegations. The EIT has been credited with persuading multiple governors to allow refugees to resettle in their states. An executive order issued in September requires that beginning in 2020, both states and cities must opt-in to allow refugee resettlement within their borders.

The U.S. State Department lists 38 states and several cities who have opted into resettlement as of Jan. 10.

Bloggers have charged EIT with advancing an “open borders” mass immigration agenda, which the organization and supporters say is false.

According to EIT’s Statement of Principles, the group advocates for a solution that respects the God-given dignity of every person, protects the unity of the immediate family, respects the rule of law, guarantees secure national borders, ensures fairness to taxpayers and establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.

Several evangelical organizations serve as the formal “heads” of the coalition, including World Relief, the Assemblies of God, the National Association of Evangelicals and the ERLC.

Numerous individuals, while not a part of the coalition itself, have also joined EIT’s Statement of Principles as signatories. This includes Southern Baptist leaders: Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Ronnie Floyd, president of the SBC Executive Committee; Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB); J.D. Greear, SBC president; Johnny Hunt, senior vice president of mobilization and evangelism at the North American Mission Board; and several pastors and former presidents of the SBC — Bryant Wright, Jack Graham, Fred Luter and James Merritt.

The list of signatories also includes several Alabama Baptists, including Mac Brunson, pastor of Valleydale Church, Birmingham; Jay Wolf, pastor of FBC Montgomery; Barry F. Cosper, associational mission strategist, Bessemer Baptist Association; Al Jackson, Pastor, Lakeview Baptist Church, Auburn; Terrence Jones, Lead Pastor, Strong Tower at Washington Park, Montgomery; Steve Loggins, Director of Associational Missions, North Jefferson Baptist Association; Grady Smith, Pastor, Gateway Baptist Church, Montgomery.

As for the ERLC’s work with EIT, the ERLC frequently participates with coalition groups on issues important to Southern Baptists, but the ERLC’s work with a coalition does not signify agreement with the other coalition members on every issue.

The ERLC continues to work with other members of EIT to advocate for a solution to immigration reform. The ERLC originally partnered with EIT under the leadership of then-president Richard Land, partly in response to the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2011 resolution, “On Immigration and the Gospel,” which called for a just and compassionate solution to immigration reform. Messengers to the 2018 SBC annual meeting likewise passed a resolution “On Immigration,” and current ERLC president Russell Moore has remained part of the coalition, advocating for immigration reform as stated in both the 2011 and 2018 resolutions.

Accusations that Soros is funding EIT are false. The National Immigration Forum (NIF), an immigration advocacy group based in Washington D.C., is a supporter of EIT and has received grant money from an organization chaired by Soros. However, the grant in question represented just 2 percent of National Immigration Forum’s overall budget.

EIT has never received or utilized any money from either George Soros or a Soros foundation. Nor has the ERLC ever been funded by EIT, NIF or Soros.

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum confirmed this in a statement to Baptist Press: “Quite simply, there has never been a single penny from George Soros that has gone toward the work of the Evangelical Immigration Table.”

Likewise, ERLC has never received funding from Soros.

The fact-checking website published a piece in December 2019 debunking this same Soros charge aimed at another evangelical organization. The article describes the Soros accusation as consisting of “convoluted connections,” claims the charges, “stretch and distort the existing facts,” are “factually insupportable,” and “simply false.” (BP, TAB)