Republican House candidate Scotty Moore worked 15 years for a campus Christian outreach group. That’s no shock for a social conservative, but the ministry boasts ties to progressive megadonor George Soros and was recently embroiled in controversy around a social justice agenda.
Moore’s LinkedIn page shows he worked more than a decade for Cru, an international Christian organization with its U.S. headquarters in Orlando. Starting in 2015, Moore held the title of City Director, Millennials in Orlando, according to his LinkedIn page. He previously held the same title in other cities including Austin, Texas. Moore said he left the organization in August of 2021.
The Soros Fund Charitable Foundation donated $2,700 to Cru in 2010, according to The Center for Public Integrity. An investigation at the time treated the contribution as part of a peculiar trend of Soros’ foundation giving money to religious institutions whose politics often differed from the famously liberal philanthropist.
But a decade after the donation, the organization faced internal controversy about growing interest in social justice issues. Those were enough that Scott Pendleton, a Chief of Staff within the organization at the time, published a 179-word white paper about growing division around a distinctly political shift.
“This division was inadvertently produced around an ideology we have adopted to help create a culturally diverse environment throughout Cru and to be more strategic in reaching ethnic minorities,” Pendleton wrote. “Apart from the different positions that staff members may hold regarding these issues, the disunity burdens us and prompts us to contribute our best perspective in this report.”
The report said Cru had “embraced a “secular system of ideas that divides humanity into victims and oppressors.” That, Pendleton, said had in turn led to staff departures and a loss of financial support.
The report was drafted for Steve Sellers, who had taken over as President of Cru in 2020. Sellers previously served as Executive Vice President.
For his part, Moore waved off criticism of the organization.
“Just because people write articles, sling accusations and paint narratives in broad strokes, does not make them true,” Moore said.
But the internal criticisms percolated out and drew sharp rebukes among evangelical Christians.
Pendleton’s white paper ultimately leaked and sparked wide coverage within Christian press. Some critics decried the revelations as evidence Cru had gone “woke.”
“I have no idea how quickly wokeness took over the leadership of the organization, but clearly, they’ve fully bought into wokeness,” wrote Mike D’Virgilio on his blog. “The reason there can be no gospel is because the entire woke ideology is born of Marxism, specifically the bastardized version now known as cultural Marxism.”
Footage of speakers at a Cru conference shows speeches focused on racial inequity, with one speaker stating “America was built by White people, for White people — no, by slaves for White people.” That drew criticism by Jon Harris, who has criticized the infusion of social justice into religion for years.
“There is a redefinition of the gospel,” Harris said on his YouTube channel in a 2019 clip. “If you went to this you wouldn’t know what the gospel is if you had not known previously.”
It has also created problems for Moore specifically. The conservative Florida’s Voice in particular seized on accusations that critical race theory, a legal viewpoint Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-led Legislature largely excised from Florida education institutions, had been embraced by the ministry’s leadership.
Moore dismissed the accusation. He told the Voice in August the claims about critical race theory’s prevalence within Cru were “wrong and not true.” He holds that the organization remains firmly focused on Christian and evangelical goals.
“Cru is an organization steadfast to its original 1951 beginnings with the mission to ‘win people to Jesus Christ, build them up in their faith based on the Bible and with the help of the local church, and send them out into a world that desperately needs Jesus Christ,’” Moore told Florida Politics.
Of note, Cru since the report was published has also drawn criticism from the Left, who say the ministry now shies away from acknowledging race issues at all. Valerie Hobbs of Religious Language called the internal white paper a “highly inflammatory, racist document.” Sellers did not return requests for comment from Florida Politics.
But the accusations Moore worked at an organization branded as “woke” in a state DeSantis frequently touts as where “woke goes to die” could create problems as Moore seeks the Republican nomination in a critical House race.
The Orlando Republican faces Erika Booth, an Osceola County School Board member backed by the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee, in a Nov. 7 GOP Primary in House District 35. Real estate agent Ken Davenport is also running. Both Booth and Moore have raised upward of $100,000 for the race.
The seat opened after former Rep. Fred Hawkins resigned to become President of South Florida State College. The St. Cloud Republican won the seat in November by 10 percentage points, but a majority of voters in the district supported Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election. That has made the Jan. 16 Special Election to determine Hawkins’ replacement one of the most anticipated in Florida.