The executive director of Tennessee Republican Party has taken a new job with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, Tenn., reported Jan. 25 the hiring of Brent Leatherwood as the agency’s new strategic partnerships director.
The hiring coincides with launch of the ERLC’s first national online advertising campaign to build support for a move to remove Planned Parenthood from the congressional budget.
“For years, many of us have called on government leaders to see to it that no taxpayer funds, of any kind, go to Planned Parenthood,” Russell Moore, ERLC president said in a press release announcing the campaign query, “Are you okay with your tax dollars paying for abortions?”
“The last two years alone have amply demonstrated that the organization is engaged in some of the most ghoulish forms of for-profit human trafficking in our culture,” Moore said. “No cent of public funding should support that. The President and Congress should act quickly to end Planned Parenthood’s subsidies, so that taxpayer money can support institutions that promote and care for life, instead of exploiting it.”
Leatherwood, who attends a church plant of Brentwood Baptist Church, lost a bid last year to become party chairman in a race marked by internal division over the candidacy of Donald Trump.
Instead of endorsing the nominee, party leaders encouraged people to “vote their conscience,” words that drew boos and chants when Sen. Ted Cruz said the same thing at the Republican National Convention in July.
Moore sparked a similar controversy with some members of the old guard of the denomination’s conservative leaders when he suggested voting for a third-party or write-in candidate instead of choosing a “lesser of evils” between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
During the campaign Moore repeatedly criticized Trump and his evangelical supporters. After exit polls showed 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, some openly questioned Moore’s leadership of the agency entrusted with public policy and religious liberty concerns on behalf of the nation’s second-largest faith group behind Roman Catholics.
Moore described Leatherwood as a “perfect fit” for the job of coalition building and mobilization efforts to expand the ERLC’s reach in the public square. He described Leatherwood on Twitter as “one of the brightest policy/organizing forces in the USA.”
Before becoming executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party in 2012, Leatherwood worked as senior adviser to U.S. Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), who left Congress after losing a bid for Senate. Leatherwood led two congressional campaigns in Tennessee and worked on multiple U.S. Senate and U.S. House races.
“While the political arena is important, I’ve realized to truly make a difference, I need to be engaged in the ongoing cultural dialogue that’s happening upstream,” Leatherwood announced his new job on Twitter.
He said the ERLC “has given me the opportunity to do that in a meaningful, convictional way” and described his new team of co-workers as “a strong, principled voice in the public square,” a tone “set perfectly” by Russell Moore.
“The ERLC is an important voice in the American debate and an agent of healing for our broken world,” said Black, recently named interim chair of the House Budget Committee. “That’s why I am so excited that a young conservative Tennessean like Brent Leatherwood is joining this important mission and I look forward to working with ERLC in the years ahead.”