SCLC Florida Chapter breaks with national headquarters

07/20/09 Mitch E, Perry
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A state chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) has broken away from the national organization and started its own civil rights group.

The Florida chapter of the longtime civil rights group announced that it has joined the newly-formed National Christian Leadership Conference. Sevell Brown, the chapter's former president, says he will serve as head of the new group.

The move highlights an ongoing rift between the chapter and the SCLC, which was co-founded by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Last month, Brown contacted Attorney General Eric Holder, asking that he investigate alleged criminal mishandling of funds by SCLC leadership.

Sevelle Brown is based in St. Petersburg. Attorney Jonathan Alpert speak for him about the split.

Last month Brown alleged that several of the SCLC's current and former leaders were responsible for the disappearance of more than $1.4 million dollars.

Brown says that a sister group of the SCLC called the Southern Christian Leadership Foundation, designated money to the SCLC that did not appear on the group’s tax returns in 2006 or 2007.

A spokesman for the SCLC told the Associated Press last month that the funds were not listed on the returns because the money did not go directly to the group, but was used to help pay construction of the group’s new headquarters.

Attorney Jonathan Alpert says those allegations are just partly why Sevelle Brown and others say the SCLC has lost their way.

There are reports that the SCLC has threatened to fire the president of its Los Angeles chapter because he supports same sex marriage. The Reverend Erin P. Lee has become outspoken advocate of same-sex marriage during the recent campaign against Proposition 8, an amendment to the state Constitution that banned such unions. The measure passed.

All of the local Chapters of the Florida SCLC voted unanimously to leave the group and form a new organization, to be called the National Christian Leadership Conference. Its interim Director will be Dr. Bobby Doctor, formerly an interim director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He was not available for comment this afternoon.

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