If you are a faithful steward at a Baptist church under the umbrella of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, a portion of your tithes and offerings are being used to support the Mississippi College School of Law that sends interested students to the Southern Poverty Law Center on “externships.” So, in essence, you are helping to pay for the training of lawyers on how to shut down all organizations that promote a biblical view of marriage and sexuality since that is exactly what the SPLC itself claims it wants to do.
Mississippi College School of Law (MC Law), a Mississippi Baptist Convention supported school, provides an externship program for academic credit with the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Externship Program is overseen by Assistant Dean Meta Copeland.
MC Law is a part of Mississippi College (MC) that receives an annual allotment ($2.5 million in 2017) from the Mississippi Baptist Convention through the Cooperative Program. Member churches of the Convention contribute a portion of their member’s tithes and offerings to the Convention. Financial Services at the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board then oversee the distribution of these funds.
SPLC began in 1971 as an organization fighting for civil rights and against racial injustices. Decades later the organization expanded the range of issues it designated as a civil right to include lesbianism, homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism (LGBT).
For the SPLC, it is not enough for a Christian or Christian based group to publicly denounce, teach against, and fight against moral injustices like slavery and racism. Unless Christians or Christian based ministries abandon their deeply held religious beliefs on human sexuality and marriage, then the SPLC labels such individuals and ministries as intolerant and hateful.
The media states the goal of the SPLC is to not only fight and publically shame Christians and Christian based ministries for believing, teaching, and defending the biblical worldview. A former SPLC spokesman said, “Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate groups, I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, completely destroy them.” So, if a ministry believes that human sexual identity is fixed at birth and that sexual intimacy should only be within marriage between a biological male and female, then the goal of the SPLC is to destroy that ministry. SPLC seeks to do this by designating groups who hold this biblical worldview on human sexuality to be on par with the neo-Nazis, KKK, and racist skinheads. This is the organization and ideology MS Baptists are supporting at MC Law.
SPLC also condemned and fought against a religious liberty bill (HB1523) introduced in the Mississippi State Legislature in 2016 which was later signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant. The law protects MS citizens who hold deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and woman and believe that human sexuality is established at birth. The law also protects private adoption agencies from being forced by the state to place children in homes with a same-sex couple.
SPLC is committed to fighting against a biblical worldview on human sexuality as expressed in the recent “Nashville Statement on Marriage.” This statement affirming a biblical view of marriage and human sexuality was signed by a plurality of conservative evangelicals including Al Mohler (Southern Baptist Seminary), Chuck Kelly (New Orleans Baptist Seminary), Frank Page (Southern Baptist Convention), and Richard Land (Southern Evangelical Seminary).
The statement included a strong exhortation for the Church today:
This secular spirit of our age presents a great challenge to the Christian church. Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age? Or will she hold fast to the word of life, draw courage from Jesus, and unashamedly proclaim his way as the way of life? Will she maintain her clear, counter-cultural witness to a world that seems bent on ruin?
I pray we awaken and remain steadfast.
Awareness of the association between MC Law and SPLC was made public August 2016. Upon being informed the school had an association with the SPLC, I performed a search on MC Law’s website. I verified the association as evidenced in the graphic below (note the highlight added at bottom of image). After the association between MC Law and SPLC was made public, the reference to SPLC was soon thereafter ‘scrubbed’ from their website, but a recent conversation with MC Law verified the school’s continued externship program with SPLC.
I contacted MC Law on the morning of August 30, 2017 to verify the status of SPLC being among the groups approved for externship with MC Law. During a cordial conversation with Assistant Dean Meta Copeland who oversees the externship program I asked if MC Law still offered externships with the Southern Poverty Law Center. Ms. Copeland quickly responded saying, “We are.” At the beginning of the conversation I informed her I was with the American Family Association and also a member of a MS Baptist church. I told her I was concerned about the school providing an externship program with the controversial SPLC.
I also asked her if there were any laws requiring MC Law to provide an externship program with SPLC or if the relationship with SPLC was voluntary on behalf of MC Law. Ms. Copeland said there were no laws requiring organizations (like SPLC) to have externships, but she said there were laws requiring the law school to provide externship opportunities for students.
Ms. Copeland said “of course we (MC Law) don’t promote any particular externships over other externships.” What’s interesting with her comment is that MC Law did in fact promote an externship program with Southern Poverty Law Center over and above other possible organizations. Notice the image above where the Southern Poverty Law Center is referenced. The only non-government entity listed is the Southern Poverty Law Center. This is clearly promoting the SPLC over organizations not listed.
I reiterated to Ms. Copeland that I was with the American Family Association and was also a member of a Mississippi Baptist church. I expressed my interest in having a conversation about removing the SPLC from MC Law’s externship program. I expressed my concern because the SPLC operates counter to what Mississippi Baptists believe and have convictions about.
Ms. Copeland’s response was rather direct in her defense of maintaining SPLC on the school’s Externship Program list. Ms. Copeland said, “It’s not something that I’m interested in discussing. I run the program and it’s very important to me that my students have the ability, have the constitutional right to express their beliefs however they choose to express their beliefs. We’re obviously a Baptist school. We’re proud of that affiliation, but in no way would I want our Baptist affiliation to conflict with my student’s constitutional rights to practice the type of law that they’d like to practice” (Emphasis added). A fair reading of Ms. Copeland’s response is that MC Law must provide educational opportunities at a private school that are at variance with MS Baptist beliefs on the basis of a student’s constitutional rights. What exactly in the constitution requires MC Law to provide an externship program and especially with SPLC?
I understand Ms. Copeland’s desire for her students to be able to practice the type of law they desire, but the mission and vision of Mississippi College School of Law is to “provide a superior legal education within the context of a Christian institution.” So, given the Christian education context at MC Law, at what point should MS Baptists surrender, if at all, their deeply held religious beliefs in exchange for an externship program with SPLC?
Several questions remain. Is MC Law required by law to provide an externship with SPLC? Ms. Copeland said that the law school was required to provide an externship program for students, but what’s not clear are the guidelines MC Law used to determine that SPLC was allowed to participate in the externship program. Also, does MC Law’s externship program have a policy that has provisions for termination of an organization participating in the program?
MS Baptists through their tithes and offerings and through the approval of MS Baptist Convention leadership are making possible the reality of an SPLC partnership at their Christian based college. There needs to be accountability between member Mississippi Baptist churches, the MS Baptist Convention, the Convention Board, Mississippi College, and MC Law. The result should be the termination of the SPLC from the externship program and measures of accountability put in place to prevent recurrence.