Southern Baptists seek clarity after ERLC president’s remarks on transgender shooter’s anti-white manifesto raises more questions

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Nov. 7, 2023

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Brent Leatherwood held a press conference yesterday after several pages of the Covenant School shooter’s manifesto were leaked on social media. The shooter’s writings, which authorities have now confirmed as authentic, demonstrate that transgender shooter Audrey Hale planned the horrific attack in advance and intended to kill as many white children as possible during her rampage. Her writing indicates vitriol toward Christians, white people, and children whose families could afford private school. 

Before Hale was killed by police, she took the lives of three children and three adults in the school – a senseless tragedy the nation grieved earlier this year. 

During the Nov. 6 press conference, Leatherwood focused not on the content of the writings, which he says he has not read, but primarily on relaying that parents are furious with the shooter’s writings being released, calling the so-far unknown person who released the writings a “viper.”

“You have now allowed this woman who terrorized our family with bullets to be able to now terrorize with words from the grave,” Leatherwood said. “How could you? What kind of a person does this?”

At the nearly 20-minute press conference, Leatherwood invited questions. This event and his comments, however, raise more questions than answers.

Rather than offer a statement, The Conservative Baptist Network shares here several of the questions being presented by Southern Baptists:

  1. On whose behalf was Leatherwood speaking? The ERLC and Southern Baptists? Parents? Himself? 
  2. Why is he hosting a press conference? 
  3. If the goal was to keep the writings private and not re-traumatize the victims, why have a press conference and draw more attention to the subject?
  4. Why is this not an official press conference held in conjunction with the police department or the school?
  5. If they have not read the manifesto, why are parents so opposed to it being shared?
  6. Why is he ostensibly more concerned with the release of the information than the content?
  7. In 2019, then-president of the ERLC Russell Moore discussed a “white nationalism manifesto” left by a shooter in El Paso and said there is a responsibility to consider such documents and to ask what ideologies fuel violent attacks in “rage-filled violent people.” How is this 2023 situation different?
  8. Is any of this under the purview of what Leatherwood is tasked to do for the ERLC?
  9. Leatherwood seems confident the manifesto photos were released by a member of law enforcement, but police say they are investigating. What makes Leatherwood believe this? 
  10. What is the intention of working so hard to suppress the manifesto from being made public?
  11. Why was ownership of these writings turned over to the families of victims?  Is this common for evidence from a horrific crime to be given to private individuals?
  12. After the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs shooting in 2017, Moore said the Bible does not outline a gun control policy and that those who don’t support gun control are not advocating violence but “just don’t think these measures work in anything other than a cathartic sense.” Why is the ERLC now promoting gun control legislation?
  13. Are Southern Baptists aware of Leatherwood and the ERLC advocating for red-flag gun control laws and for preventing a transgender shooter’s manifesto from becoming public?

These are just a few questions Southern Baptists have begun to ask this week, but clearly, clarity is needed. 

As Southern Baptists and as people who value the sanctity of human life, we continue in a commitment to pray for an end to senseless tragedies such as the Covenant School shooting knowing that every evil act originates in the heart and that the only hope for heart change lies in the transformational power of Jesus Christ.