Disgraced Baptist Leader Sues Over Landslide Defeat

A former president of the National Baptist Convention USA has sued the 8.3 million-member denomination over an election he overwhelmingly lost.

One month after failing to convince a judge to grant his motion for a temporary restraining order on the Sept. 10 election, the Rev. Henry Lyons filed a lawsuit Friday in Washington alleging election fraud and improper vote-counting during the 129th Annual NBC convention.

The convention, held in Memphis, Tenn., had resulted in the election of the Rev. Julius R. Scruggs as the new president of the nation's largest and oldest black denomination and also marked a second transition since the time Lyons left the helm of the church body.

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Lyons, who lost to Scruggs last month 4,108 to 924, had served as NBC's president for more than a decade ago before he resigned in March of 1999 – the month he was handed a 5 1/2-year prison sentence for racketeering and grand theft. Lyons had been accused of spending church money on expensive jewelry, a Mercedes-Benz and a $700,000 home bought with a woman who is not his wife.

Though the highly publicized scandal dealt a devastating blow to the denomination, Lyons claimed that God had saved him when he hit rock bottom, and that
his quest for re-election was "spiritual and far beyond personal ambition."

While his bid for the presidency drew some support, his latest court efforts, however, have baffled members of the convention, which reportedly comprises over 41,000 churches.

On Sept. 9, Judge Jeanette Clark had denied Lyons' motion for a temporary restraining order on last month's election, saying that Lyons sat and waited until the last minute to file a lawsuit rather than going to the denomination and complaining about the contested new procedures when he first came to know of them in September 2006.

The judge "basically said that Rev. Lyons did not follow the convention's procedures and did not suffer irreparable harm," the Rev. Wendell Griffen, parliamentarian for the Baptist church body and a member of the board of directors, told the St. Petersburg Times.

In his latest court filing, Lyons contends "many violations of established procedures occurred in the voting process destroying the integrity of the ... election."

According to The Tennessean, Lyons wants the court to declare the election "null and void."

He also claims that he won most of the vote and is requesting the court reverse the final result totals, "making Henry J. Lyons the winner."

Currently, Lyons is serving as pastor of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla.

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