More on Akin and Missouri Baptists

August 29, 2012

After my Ethics Daily article last week about the efforts by Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) leaders to elect Missouri Republican Todd Akin to the U.S. Senate, church-state watchdog organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a IRS complaint against the MBC. As that news spread to other outlets (including St. Louis-Post Dispatch, Washington Post, Religion News Service, and many others), I followed-up on Monday with another article about continued politicking by MBC leaders on behalf of Akin's struggling campaign. Since then, MBC leaders finally responded to AU's IRS complaint. But they are not taking it seriously. MBC spokesman Rob Phillips defended the MBC's Don Hinkle for use the MBC's newspaper to support Akin's campaign:

We see Don's column simply as his opinion in our publication, and our publication is known for providing information to Missouri Baptists about God and how He's at work through His people. ... It expresses a biblical worldview on moral and social issues ... so, we think we have a strong defense in that regard. ... We clearly understand the legal ramifications of endorsing candidates, so we do not do that. ... But we do speak very clearly to Missouri Baptists on issues that are of social and moral importance, and certainly those come up from time to time involving candidates and elected officials
As AU explained, an endorsement like Hinkle's cannot be considered "personal" when it appears in a non-profit's publication. Hinkle's endorsement of Akin in the MBC's newspaper counts as an MBC endorsement. Meanwhile, the Akin campaign has announced that the number of Missouri pastors and Christian leaders publicly endorsing the campaign has grown from 103 to 120. Clearly, MBC leaders are not backing down from their politicking for Akin. So this story will likely continue to build between now and November.