A pastor who had served as a trustee of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) International Mission Board, led by “Radical” author and former Alabama pastor David Platt, has resigned out of his concerns over the board’s participation in an amicus brief supporting the construction of a New Jersey mosque.
Dean Haun, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Morristown, Tennessee, told the Baptist and Reflector this week that he wasn’t aware that the Board had joined in the brief until he started receiving email and phone calls from other pastors who were troubled about the matter.
The Mission Board, the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty were among 20 groups that had joined the legal filing, including the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the Sikh Coalition, the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques and many others.
The matter centered around the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, which had sought to build a mosque in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, but was denied following community opposition. It sued in March of last year, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty assembled a coalition of faith groups supportive of the Society’s rights for an amicus brief to be filed with the court.
“It’s good when we can join hands with … folks we are sometimes on the other side of,” Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, told Baptist News in May.
The International Mission Board further states on its website that it joined the legal brief because it supports religious liberty for all people, and believes that if Christians only support freedom for themselves, it could be detrimental to the furtherance of the gospel.
“IMB supports freedom of religion for all people both in the United States and around the world. IMB signing the amicus brief regarding the New Jersey mosque is an agreement that all people deserve religious liberty, but it does not in any way support the mosque financially or with human resources,” its FAQ section outlines.
“If one follows global news (e.g., Russia’s restrictive laws signed earlier this year, on-going battles in places like Egypt, Malaysia, or India on the right to convert to Christianity, etc.), it’s apparent that religious liberty is an ongoing global issue. IMB’s call on the government of these other countries to support the religious freedom of their citizens will ring hollow if, in the USA, we only support freedom of religion for Christians,” the Board states.
But Haun says that he disagrees with the reasoning of the Board as to why it joined the legal brief in support of the Islamic Society’s efforts.
“If we defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship, are we not helping them speed down the highway to Hell?” he told reporters. “I want no part in supporting a false religion even if it is in the name of religious freedom. Our Baptist institutions’ names will be on this brief setting legal precedents and supporting the right of mosques to be built all over our nation for years to come.”
Haun outlined that he does not wish to hurt the Board, but simply does not wish to be a part of the matter. He said that he believes God’s command not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-15) supersedes the desire for religious freedom.
“While I love the IMB and have been grateful to serve for the past six years, I personally cannot be a party to our action,” Haun stated. “By all means, let’s stand for religious liberty in America. But first and foremost let us stand on our firm convictions that our alliance with God is paramount, that He will accomplish His ends without the necessity of evil alliances.”