Mission Board President David Platt Apologizes for Distraction, Division Caused by Brief Supporting Mosque

ONTARIO, Calif. — While appearing at an event with Baptist news reporters on Wednesday, Southern Baptist International Mission Board President David Platt told those gathered that he was sorry that an amicus brief supporting the construction of a New Jersey mosque had caused division.

“I apologize to Southern Baptists for how distracting and divisive this has been,” he said. “I can say with full confidence that in the days ahead, IMB will have a process in place to keep us focused on our primary mission: partnering with churches to empower limitless missionary teams for evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.”

As previously reported, 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 2016 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 last May.

The International Mission Board outlined 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 explains.

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“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,” it states.

However, in November, Dean Haun, pastor of First Baptist Church of Morristown, Tennessee and trustee on the board, resigned from IMB due to his disagreement with the board’s part in the legal brief.

“I understand the religious liberty aspect of the entire argument. But I do not understand why the International Mission Board, with our mission to reach the world for Christ, would have to jump into the fray of a mosque being built in New Jersey,” he told reporters.

“If we defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship, are we not helping them speed down the highway to Hell?” Haun said. “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.”

Last month, in light of the controversy, Platt advised that the board had changed its policies about taking part in such legal briefs in the future.

“As a result of discussions among IMB trustees and staff over recent months, we have revised our processes for our legal department filing any future amicus briefs. IMB leaders are committed in the days ahead to speak only into situations that are directly tied to our mission,” he told the Baptist Press.

Platt, author of the best-selling book “Radical” and former pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Alabama, then told reporters on Wednesday that he was grieved that the matter had caused a distraction, that it had drawn the focus of discussion away from missions work.

“I am grieved how the amicus brief in the recent mosque case has been so divisive and distracting,” he said. “And my purpose in bringing it up here is not to debate religious liberty, but to simply say that I really do want IMB to be focused on [its] mission statement.”

Platt noted, however, that similar briefs had been filed before he became president of the board.

“Going back to at least 2010, so far before I stepped into this role, our … legal department has filed various similar briefs related to religious liberty. And since 2010, all of those matters have been handled by our legal department,” he stated.

He said that in the future, any amicus briefs will be filtered through his office and the board’s trustees.

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  • I suppose I could see the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission taking part in such a thing. But the IMB is supposed to be about… missions! Personally, it seems almost a slap in the face to Christians that are supported by the IMB in Somalia and other Muslim nations, that we would be involved in such an issue. And, since the IMB and ERLC both represent a greater body of baptists, perhaps such a controversial decision should be put up for a vote. When you consider the negative affect such an advocation could have locally, and even the appearance of ecumenism, nationally, it is quite unseemly. Where do rights come from? God. Muslims have the dubious freedom to sin by their idolatry. But would we defend the building of a house of prostitution, or a gay wedding chapel, in the name of freedom? I think not. We have the right to share the gospel, even if it becomes illegal. Why? Because God says so. In the mean time, honor our forefathers and foreign missionaries, by not participating in the deeds of darkness… Which Mosque do you thin Jesus would defend building? Yeah… I thought so… So in our “tolerance,” are we holier than Jesus?

  • Michael C

    You can’t complain about the lack of religious freedom in other countries if you do nothing to protect it here at home.

    • Grace Kim Kwon

      The Muslims are safe in the USA. No American forces them to bake perv cakes against their doctrines or conscience, and no Muslim got their businesses destroyed for that. Only the Evangelical Christians are being persecuted and ruined in the USA. USA got ranked with nations like Saudi Arabia this year for villains that conduct religious persecutions against the Christians.

      • RWH

        That’s because no Moslems have had spasmodic fits at the thought of having to make a product identical to one made for anyone else to a gay couple.

        • Grace Kim Kwon

          The Muslims will not be tamed by the Western pervs. It is a disgrace as a human being, not just as a Christian, to submit to today’s Western mental illness. No normal humans raise their children to be pervs; only secular Westerners do such crazy suicidal things because they are not real parents. Everyone needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be saved and become civilized,

          • RWH

            Sorry, Grace. When I was growing up, I had the experience of getting to know a lot of Jewish people in my neighborhood. They all told me about the days when a community passed all sorts of zoning laws to prevent them from building a synagogue. They also remember signs posted in windows stating that Jews wouldn’t be served. They also remember the times when businesses would refuse to cater events for Jewish people. Prior to World War II, they remember people like Father Caughlin of Detroit who stirred up anti-Semitic feelings among the people until the Church shut him down. The same thing is happening to this particular Moslem congregation, and all fair-minded people should believe that no group should experience the shenanigans of a government who bends the rules to allow one group to build and prohibits another group to do the same.

            Concerning gays and your so-called pervs, you’re way off topic. Just a lot of more canned hate speech by someone belonging to a cult.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            The Jews know how Sodom and Gomorrah got destroyed. You American liberals should stop demanding mankind to support Western immorality; everyone has rights to morality and life. Today’s victims and scapegoats in the West are Evangelical Christians. The Islamic doctrines require all infidels to arm themselves to retain the sovereignty and freedom. There is no other choice. You are not Christian and have no rights to call anyone cult, because you are a Non-believer. You must repent of your sins to become Christian.

          • RWH

            I don’t think that you have the slightest clue as to what Jewish theologians teach. What they believe about Sodom and Gomorrah is not what you believe. The idea that these two cities is about gays came from the Roman Catholics. The idea is foreign to Jewish theology. Also, you don’t know a thing about me, nor my “sins, nor what I believe nor my church membership. However, all of your writings expose you for what you are. It’s significant that you have not revealed anything about your church membership or where you’re coming from when you make such generalized comments–which are basically the same no matter what you post. To you, everything is about gays/abortion, whether it has anything to do with the topic at hand or not. It’s the sure trademark of a brainwashed cultist.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            Your support of infanticide and homosexuality is wrong. Those sins and Christianity are forever incompatible.

          • RWH

            Grace. We don’t run a strong-man government where everybody behaves like a bunch of robots. Neither do we want a state church where people who question or dissent are persecuted. It’s unfortunate that you think that these things are a virtue. This is the way people think in cults. They want a strong man and a strong church to do their thinking for them. And since you continuously sound like a broken record, it figures that you belong to a cult. This conversation has nothing to do with infanticide and homosexuality. These topics are trademarks of people who don’t believe that a woman should be her own free agent to make decisions that she deems are best for her–even though you may not agree with these decisions. They are also trademarks of people who believe that people should be forced to conform to a set of standards, whether they violate an individual’s pursuit of happiness.

            Don’t you think that it is time to flip the record and actually contribute something relevant and constructive to a conversations rather than just repeating the same old canned phrases.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            Evangelizing souls and saving children’s life and opposing the immorality’s tyranny are the most urgent issues in free nations today.

          • RWH

            Well, “immorality” is a judgment call. What is necessarily immoral to one group of people is not necessarily immoral to another. Prohibition in the 1920s proved this. The sale of booze was outlawed, but lots of people found a way around the law. Lots of behaviors considered outlandish a century ago are perfectly acceptable now.

            The day we allow an authority figure of some sort to determine morality, we’ll have the Christian version of the Taliban and a virtual hell which results. When the Puritans took over in England in 1640, the cultural development in England came to a screeching halt. As with the present-day Taliban, they destroyed cultural artifacts and trashed every cathedral in England.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            You are wrong. It’s what the Holy Bible calls. Liberals should not call themselves CHristian at all.

          • RWH

            More rantings from a bitter, meddlesome soul who can’t do anything more than to criticize, condemn, and generally make everyone around her miserable. This type has nothing positive to contribute other than to empty churches.

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            You are wrong. Liberal social clubs are dying from the lack of Biblical truth. Read Revelation chapter 2-3. You must stop bullying people online.

          • Vince

            You are a very rude and very misogynistic old man.

            Why do you hate women so much? Your posts to the women on these blogs are almost pathological in their hatred.

            I’m flagging you from now on, you need to take your hatred for women to some other site.

    • Well… that is, perhaps, sound “political” thinking, but it’s not biblical thinking. Defending oppressive religions is not religious liberty. What part do we have with Baal worship?

      • Michael C

        I guess I just thought that standing up for those who are being mistreated was something that you guys did. I also assumed that it was a great opportunity to witness and display the love of Christ.

        I’m not a Christian, though, so I’m always learning from people like yourself. I rely on the people here to show me, in word and example, what it means to be a Christian.

        Thanks for your comment.

        • Michael, in your answer, “standing up for… the mistreated,” and “oppressive,” are being used in very broad brush terms. As I understand, these Muslims can build a Mosque, just not exactly where they want to. In Christianity, you submit to the government, unless they attempt to force you to sin. However, you should rebuke them, if they are sinning. Understand, that this is not a Christian nation, nor is the gov’t agency in question, particularly, or specifically, “Christian.” The business of Christ’s church is to take the gospel forward. That includes helping people in practical ways, but the main purpose is the spread of the gospel. We are not an advocacy agency for pagan religions, nor is our business to help them in their sinning, by raising an altar with them, to a false-god. By the law of the land, Muslims have the right to raise a Mosque. But by the law of God, they do not. There are various Christian Universities that show great hospitality to Muslims that come to this country. And there are Christian mission groups in every Muslim country. But our only official business with government, is to confront it when it sins, Regarding individual Christians that serve as a government official, they should take Christian principles to their office. Listen, I can show love to the homosexual without officiating his, (quote, unquote,) marriage ceremony. In the same light, though the Muslim might not perceive it so, just like the doctor that diagnoses his patient with cancer, and tells him so, the most loving thing I can do is to confront the Muslim sinner’s need of the Savior. Just as I also need Him. Men are sinners. They need Jesus. As do you.

        • IzTheBiz

          Nonsense! Muslims are not mistreated. Every muslim society (without exception) oppresses every other non-muslim group. And if you don’t know much, then educate yourself instead of making smart comments.. Jesus did not tolerate everyone, if by ‘toleration’ you mean He accepted everyone’s views and lifestyle. He called it like it was and pointed to the source of their problems. Big difference to this spineless multicultural ‘accept everyone’s perverted views’ present day version of ‘toleration’, which end the end is self-destructive and counter productive.

    • IzTheBiz

      Tolerance is reserved only for those who are tolerant. In the same way Christians should have been intolerant of Nazi ideology, Christians today (and secularists) should be intolerant of this medieval oppressive ideology which seeks to overtake western society and is NOT at all compatible with western liberalism. Totalitarian leftists/globalists and Muslims should be expunged from western societies, NOT tolerated!

  • Steven

    grieved that the matter had caused a distraction
    Grieved at the distraction and not the error in Christian theology? Yeah…not sure…but I’m smelling another wolf amongst the sheep.

    • Titus 3:10 : “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him …” except wait, that’s wrong. It doesn’t say that in the real Bible – that’s the ESV. The word of God says this: “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject, Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” Now he might still qualify, but at least he must qualify with heresy, rather than merely being “divisive”.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Good! The Baptists should really focus on evangelizing everyone and teaching everyone the Biblical truth alone. Christians battling for building pagan worship places or the rights of sexual pervs only increases religious persecutions and severe injustices and the pandemic pedophilia crimes in the land. American Christians should not be fooled. Let the pagans battle for their own rights because Western liberals are altogether very nice to the pagans. Both pagans and secularists need Christian education for liberty and for everyone’s safety because the dominance by Judeo-Christian values alone grants everyone goodness, respect, freedom, and fairness. Everyone needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation.

  • Victoria Martin

    I agree with Pastor Dean Haun. I would not have any more to do with this “Christian” mission group, which has allowed this impurity to cast an ugly shadow on our Lord’s missionary goals. Rather than apologizing for causing a distraction, David Platt needs to repent of promoting a watered-down politically correct version of Christianity that supports and validates all religions’ rights to co-exist. That is not true Christianity; that is apostacism. Christianity is not political. It is Truth. How absurd to make a precedential stand in secular courts for the promotion of lies.