Are Fundamentalist Southern Baptist Leaders Trying to Scuttle the Candidacy of Mike Huckabee Because of Old Battles During the Conservative Resurgence?

I got an email today from someone pointing me to a blog entry by David Montoya where he references a New York Times article about the candidacy of Mike Huckabee for president. According to the article and Mr. Montoya’s personal confirmation (Montoya was involved heavily in the Conservative Resurgence in Arkansas until he turned against the leadership, thus being roundly vilified), a part of the reason that Mike Huckabee is not being supported by Southern Baptist leadership for president is because he was seen as a moderate in the 1989 election for president of the state baptist convention of Arkansas. In that election, he ran against Ronnie Floyd, the pastor of First Baptist Church, Springdale, Arkansas, and member of the Paige Patterson – Paul Pressler coalition that took over the SBC. Here is an excerpt from the NY Times:

The race was “far more political than anything else I’ve ever been involved in,” Mr. Huckabee recalled. The leaders of the conservative takeover tapped the Rev. Ronnie Floyd, a stalwart of their movement, as their candidate.

“They were not sure Mike was committed enough,” Mr. Floyd said.

Mr. Huckabee, who won by a 2-to-1 ratio, carried the flag for the so-called moderates, arguing that the Arkansas Baptists were amply orthodox. Although Mr. Floyd and Mr. Huckabee both now say they shared the same conservative theological convictions, Mr. Huckabee’s emphasis on tolerance and inclusiveness rallied opponents of the turn to the right.

“Huckabee was on the wrong side,” said Paul M. Weyrich, a founding organizer of the conservative movement. “That has caused more people to get off of Huckabee than you can imagine. With me, it’s a deal breaker.” (Mr. Weyrich recently endorsed Mr. Romney, Mr. Huckabee’s leading rival in the Iowa Republican caucuses.)

If this hypothesis is true, it is very interesting indeed. As many of you know, I spent a great deal of time on this blog chronicling the Southern Baptist disagreement over new policies with the International Mission Board that went beyond our confession of faith, The Baptist Faith & Message.  Those policies excluded otherwise qualified Baptists from missionary service if they fell on the wrong side of the position of the extreme fundamentalists in SBC leadership. I believed that it was wrong then and I still do. We passed the Garner Motion at the most recent Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio to try and reign in Baptist entities from going beyond the BF&M. It has been reinterpreted and ignored. The people that proposed and supported the IMB policies and opposed the Garner Motion are the same ones who would be behind opposition to the Huckabee candidacy, if this were true. 

I have been very confused as to why Southern Baptist leaders like Richard Land, the head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of Southern Baptists has not come out in support of Mike Huckabee. Maybe he doesn’t do that in the primaries. I don’t know. Why have other Baptist leaders been so silent on Huckabee’s candidacy? In my last post, I posited that support of other candidates was pragmatic in that Evangelical leaders only wanted to support a winner. That seems most plausible. But, based on the NY Times article, could it be that a lingering effect of the Baptist Battles of the Conservative Resurgence in the 1980’s might affect who resides in the White House?

Any thoughts?

20 Responses to Are Fundamentalist Southern Baptist Leaders Trying to Scuttle the Candidacy of Mike Huckabee Because of Old Battles During the Conservative Resurgence?

  1. I heard this recently as well. The NY Times piece at least offers something of an insiders corroboration. This is the kind of ethic that raises ample questions concerning the stated core purpose of the CR.

  2. You raise some very interesting questions about the Leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention…
    I have heard that the Leadership of the “Conservative Resurgence” that exercise absolute and total control over the Southern Baptist Convention consists of a “Secrete Brotherhood” of just 41 men.
    Any thoughts on this “Secrete Brotherhood” and who these 41 men throughout the SBC might be?

  3. It’s a strange mode of thinking to reject a Baptist for doctrinal irregularity, then turn and embrace a Mormon, whose doctrinal irregularities are celestial in scope.

  4. Talk about biting off our nose to spite our face. We would rather elect a Mormon than what we perceive to be a Moderate Baptist? Unbelievable. Particularly when you consider that Huckabee’s not even a moderate, but simply a bit more tolerant on non-essentials than what some would prefer. This is getting more ridiculous by the day.

  5. Weyrich is actually not a Baptist. The NY Times article doesn’t portray that in an entirely accurate way. He is a conservative who founded the Heritage Foundation and he is giving commentary on why many conservatives have not embraced Huckabee. I am still wondering what exactly is going on here.

  6. I certainly recommend reading the article by David Montoya that Alan linked to. It had me raising my eyebrows in several spots.

  7. If that’s the case, and the leaders of the conservative resurgence are trying to scuttle Huckabee’s candidacy because he didn’t show proper loyalty to them personally, then the critics of the resurgence will have a field day with this, because it proves something they have declared isn’t the case. But the fact that they seem more interested in supporting Giuliani, a pro-choice Catholic, or Romney, a Mormon whose theology is far more aberrant than any Baptist moderate ever dreamed of being, just because they are perceived to be candidates who “can win,” completely zaps any credibility the religious right may have had.
    If it’s about “winning,” what makes these guys think that either Giuliani or Romney can win? Have they not seen those dismal, head to head polls that show both of them in a steady decline against most of the Democratic field? Huckabee has at least as good a chance, and perhaps a better one, than any other Republican does. So the theory that Robertson and Land are “going with the possible Republican winner” doesn’t wash with me.

  8. I buy the argument that old-timers like Paul Pressler may hold a grudge against Mike Huckabee (see Pressler’s recent endorsement for Freddy T).
    Add Paige Patterson to that list of grudge-holders if you’d like. Who knows.
    But since 1989, Mike Huckabee has toed the SBC Party Line. For example, he came out in support of the SBC’s 1998 Position on the Family by signing an ad posted in USA Today
    Are you advocating that more SBC leaders come out and embrace Mike Huckabee? Despite the obvious church-state concerns, I thought many of you desired a SBC that was less political not one tied to the GOP’s hip?
    Richard Land does not endorse candidates. The ERLC (like the BJC before her) is a non-profit and obviously non-profits are regulated by the IRS. Granted, Richard could endorse Huck as a “private citizen” but Richard Land is the ERLC. It’s hard to separate the two. Endorsing a candidate opens himself up to a potential IRS investigation. Plus, it is the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission – the name itself implies ethical and church-state issues if an endorsement was offered.
    The better question is – why hasn’t Richard Land flirted with Mike Huckabee? And he’s answered that question – it’s all about electability (something that we Democrats are known to better understand, glad Land got the memo). Land is opposed to Rudy G. He’s viewed Huckabee as unelectable from Day 1 so he’s chosen to flirt with Mitt and Freddy T. Obviously his man-crush on Freddy was a bad mistake. But, after his appearance in College Station last week, Land seems to be flirting only with Mitt. Glad to see Richard settling down and being monogamous.
    Land is a powerful guy in DC. He has the ear of many powerful people including Dubya. If a Democrat is elected President, who do you think the White House will go to for a Baptist perspective on a church-state issues? Brent Walker or Richard Land? Ask Land what the Clinton years were like for the ERLC. Phone calls rarely were returned.
    So in Land’s case – electability means everything for him and his organization. A Republican loser in ’08 = ERLC losing virtually all of their influence. No more photo ops in the West Wing. Maybe then he can get busy promoting your World Hunger Offering, etc…

  9. First of all, Big Daddy, you’d do well to drop your assumptions about me and where I stand on every issue just because of the group that you lump me in with. Yes, I am very conservative in the realm of being pro life and against gay marriage (just to name the two litmus test issues), but I have been very disappointed with the Republican Party on many fronts over the past 8 years. I do not believe that they consistently promote the Biblical position on issues at all, so I don’t really see the need to coddle a relationship with them just to have access to power. I care a lot more about truth than I do about Republicans holding the White House. I think that many of us are looking for another way and are wondering if Huckabee might represent that.
    As far as Richard Land goes, I’d rather be right, prophetic, and Biblical, than have photo-ops in the White House. It would do well for the leader of the ERLC to have the same perspective, because all of those returned phone calls haven’t made much difference. Maybe Richard Land needs to stop making decisions so that he can best position the ERLC to have power in Washington, and he needs to start working toward ethical reform in this country.

  10. I think that the lack of support from Land, et al. of Huckabee to date has been simply owing to the fact that he was truly a second-to-third tier candidate until very recently. Indeed, I remain unconvinced that he isn’t still a second tier candidate, as banking on Iowa to project one into the driver’s seat isn’t the best of strategies (see: Dean, Howard and Gephart, Dick, amongst others).
    Further, I think that Huckabee’s status will not be fully understood, even pre-caucus, until the latest round of examination is complete. That is to say that he is only now receiving the fine-tooth comb treatment. I personally think he will struggle in the general election, even if he pulls out the nomination (see here:
    Back to the exact topic of your post: I think that there are two key reasons why Huckabee was not embraced from the get-go from the Evangelical Establishment: the first is the aforementioned electability issue and the second is the fact that I think that security/fear of terrorism has griped substantial segments of the GOP, including the Religious Right so that they have made peace (they think) in their own minds with Rudy’s failings on social issues because he appears to be the toughest on terrorism.

  11. Huckabee and Baptist Politics

    Alan Cross, a Baptist minister, has an interesting post which looks at the possible influence of internal Southern Baptist politics on support for Huckabee: Are Fundamentalist Southern Baptist Leaders Trying to Scuttle the Candidacy of Mike Huckabee B…

  12. Alan,
    I didn’t mean to assume.
    However, you seemed to be advocating that more SBC leaders come out and extend their right arm to Mike Huckabee. From reading your past blog posts, that seemed odd…
    Nonetheless, with those two litmus tests – you’re stuck with the Republican Party (though no serious Democrat candidate supports gay marriage and their positions on abortion {what they can actually do on that front} are a bit more nuanced that being For Life or For Abortion). It’s hard to believe how one can show their disdain for single-issue voting but hold tightly to two litmus tests.
    Why can’t a Mormon best represent your biblical worldview through the policies that He signs into law? Ultimately, we should judge candidates by their character, record, and vision for the future not their theology, aberrant as Mitt’s may be. If an Orthodox Jew was running for President – would folks in the Southern Baptist Blogosphere be having the same conversation that they are currently having about Mitt Romney?
    You’ve made a big assumption about Richard Land. Do you believe that Land is twiddlin’ his thumbs and not working toward ethical reform? I’m Richard Land’s biggest critic but what honest person can argue that the ERLC has not successfully achieved many policy goals? A friend of mine wrote a 200 page thesis on the accomplishments of the ERLC under Land. Conservative accomplishments but accomplishments nonetheless.
    Land is essentially a lobbyist. He has to work within the system. If his calls aren’t returned, the ERLC will have a hard time making any headway towards accomplishing their yearly goals. Nobody is suggesting that Richard Land change the ERLC’s policy position in the name of political pragmatism. I don’t believe he does that.
    As a side note, I believe the ERLC has betrayed the best of Baptist history with its positions on principles such as religious liberty (Istook Amendment anyone?). But I was pleased to see Richard Land team up with Ted Kennedy twice this year on immigration reform and an anti-tobacco initiative. Kudos to him for maintaining the SBC’s anti-tobacco legacy.

  13. BDW,
    You make some good points. However, I see my pro-life position as being part of a personal political platform. Everyone has issues that they believe in, and that is one for me. That issue also happens to be a part of the Republican platform. There are other issues that Republicans seem to hold as gospel that I am not strongly in favor of, such as taxation. Sometimes, we actually need higher taxes for certain things. It takes wisdom to know when to cut and when to raise taxes. People who only see it one way miss the bigger picture. Lots of Republicans who are heavily in favor of “law and order” policies, are fine with policemen making $24,000 a year because there is no money to pay them. A law and order position can be mutually exclusive to a low tax position if you don’t have money to pay police officers.
    While “life” issues are very important to me, I do not fall lockstep with the Republican Party on all issues. If Democrats moderated on the abortion position, they would likely be able to reclaim a good bit of the South and other parts of the country as well. If you believe that abortion is murder, as I do, then where do you go politically? You can’t vote Democratic. And, because there are other issues of importance besides abortion, you cannot give Republicans undue allegiance. The Republicans have been quite crafty about this and they know that as long as abortion is legal, they have a good number of people like me that have no choice but to vote Republican. I have honestly come to believe that they have no intention of ever seeing Roe v. Wade overturned because their base would fragment if that was no longer an issue at election time. Call me cynical, but I believe that is likely.
    As far as wanting all Baptists to vote for Huckabee, that is not the case. I am not totally sure that he is my candidate yet. I just find it curious that Baptist leadership IS NOT supporting him. If it is because he has no chance of winning, I think that our pragmatism is getting the best of us. If the ERLC is that pragmatic, how effective of a lobby can they actually be? It would appear that they can be coerced by power and that would diminish their effectiveness. If Huckabee is not being supported because of old Baptist grudges, that might explain a lot, but it is equally sad.
    No, the real reason to not support Huckabee and support another candidate is because you believe that the other candidate would be a better president. That is a reason that I can live with and it is honorable. If someone makes that argument, I can respect that.

  14. Alan, great post (and the last one too.) Interesting. But I don’t think anything like this will cause Huckabee to lose support. I think that he is doing a great job of securing votes of independents. And a few are coming over from Romney. I just posted on how his surge continues in spite of all the criticism from fellow conservatives:
    Oh and by the way, where is the link to my blog?! 🙂

  15. I seriously doubt that the conservative resurgence leadership in the SBC has the power, or the influence, to “scuttle” Huckabee’s campaign. He’s obviously been able to capture the attention of people who are sincerely committed to the social issues of the Christian right, namely a consistenly pro-life position, and a compassionate economic and foreign policy which also reflects Christian values, and it resonates with them. The conservative resurgence leaders in the SBC do not command much of a constituency, and when it comes to secular political endorsements, apparently not enough of one to make any kind of a difference at all. I doubt that 5% of the members of my church even know the name “Richard Land” and the few who would recognize Paul Pressler’s name ( and we’re in Houston, less than 10 minutes from Pressler’s house) wouldn’t consider his opinion favorable. Huckabee is apparently going to cruise to an easy win in Iowa, and force Romney to spend a double fortune to be competetive in New Hampshire, and he has done it with relatively few resources. The head to head polls with Democrats look pretty dismal for Republicans right now, but against the Democratic field, Huckabee appears at least as “electable” if not more so, than the other Republicans.

  16. Pressler and the brethren will never support Huckabee. He opposed their guy in Arkansas, and they’ve always been clear that they would never recognize the category of a “moderate” Southern Baptist. You’re either a believer or an infidel. Huckabee was the moderate candidate who won, who refused to appoint their precinct captains to positions in the Arkansas Baptist Convention, and that’s that. They’ll never forget, and they darned sure won’t forgive.

  17. As a Baptist myself, I am perplexed twards those who chastise those of us with a more conservative approach to the Bible. I thank God that the conservative wing has won out. They are holding fast and hard to Gods truth as others try to adopt the worlds ideas and still call themselves followers of Gods truth. They are saving them from going the way of the American Baptist churches. I’m not sure of all of Huckabees views but I think it is childish to only vote for him because he is a former Baptist brother. He may be a wonderful man personally but that doesn’t mean he’d make a good President. I started off really excited about him, but now I’m not so sure. I’d rather have a total non Christian in the white house than a man who compromises Gods Word to be either a liberal or a moderate. At least I’d know where the non Christian would stand and maybe he’d wake enough of us up to fight for a change, rather than a moderate or liberal Christian who just keeps on compromising and leading us down the road to be more like Europe. Again, I don’t know Huckabees specific doctrinal beliefs but one thing that really turned me off to him was when he was asked if the Mormon religion is a cult or a religion and he said a religion. I’m sorry, but he either lied or is ignorant, and I don’t think that as a former pastor with a Bible degree and a little bit of seminary, that he wouldn’t know the answer to that question. Of course the Mormons are a cult!!! They totally fit the defenition of one and have always been considered one. Anyone with any type of Bible education would know that. I do know that there are a lot of lies and misrepresentations of Huckabee out there, if you want to get the facts from an unbiased view then listen to Michael Medved on the radio. He’s not a Huckaby supporter but at the same time he doesn’t like peoples character being lied about like Mit Romney is doing to all the other candidates. I know Huckaby is trying to stay away from religious talk, and he is smart to do so. He is running for the President of all of us, and not a pastoral position. It’s the democrats way of dividing and conquering us Republicans, but then again, if he’s going to call himself a conservative then he’d better act like one as a politician or else he will not get peoples votes like myself. I don’t want a compromising moderate, I want a conservative who will lower my taxes and turn us away from this socialistic path we are headed down. I also want someone who seals our boarders and properly deals with our illegal immigrants who only pay one dollar on average into our system yet draw out 3 back in social benefits. I realise that it would be unrealistic to deport 12 million illegals, but at the same time I want the anchor baby law changed and the illegal migration stopped. I don’t want to reward illegals, like my favorite President (Ronald Reagan) did in giving amnesty, and I know Hucaby doesn’t want amnesty either although Mit Romney is falsly portraying him as that.

  18. I always wondered how Mormonism became known as a cult. Thanks for enlightening me. A group of men (religious men) gathered together, decided that it was so, “Mormons are a cult “, printed material to distribute their decision and have preached their theory ever since. I wonder what God thinks about this manly decision?