The Pen

Money Talks: IMB Backs Away From Supporting Mosques

With Russell Moore’s ecumenism in full view (the former Democratic staffer has led interfaith prayers with Sikhs and Muslims at the Becket Fund’s Interfaith gathering), it was no surprise when the social progressive leader of the Southern Baptist’s ERLC supported an amicus brief (put together by the Becket Fund) asking the federal government to force a New Jersey township to ignore their zoning laws and allow a Mosque to be built. What surprised people is that David Platt, who has a reputation for his robust biblicity, also signed the brief on behalf of the SBC’s International Mission Board, for which he serves as president. Platt’s move left Baptists scratching their head, wondering what on Earth local zoning regulations and Mosque-building had to do with the purpose of Baptist foreign missions.

We wrote about the SBC’s ambition to see the New Jersey mosque built in Worshipping Religious Liberty: SBC Joins Mosque Building Effort. While joining in the amicus brief gave the two Southern Baptist entities reason to sing kumbayah around the syncretistic campfire and be praised by the growing evangelical left (which is showing more and more strength thanks to The Gospel Coalition’s burgeoning fixation with social justice), the reality is that the New Jersey township rejected the mosque’s building proposal due to very standard zoning law and not Islamophobia. That didn’t stop America’s largest and supposed most conservative denomination from jumping on to the ACLU-bought bandwagon and the SBC’s elitist class from pinning roses on their chests for their politically correct open-mindedness.

But then, something interesting happened. The SBC lost funding – and potentially significant funding – over their dalliance with the religious left. Not only did Robert Jeffress and other prominent SBC pastors threaten to withhold funds, one IMB trustee actually acted on it. The unlikely hero of prevailing common sense is Dean Haun, one of many Southern Baptist pastors to get his church to put a moratorium on Cooperative Program offerings. The only difference with Haun is that he was an IMB trustee and happened to pastor a megachurch with what is no doubt a sizable annual contribution to the Cooperative Program. Not only was Haun – as a trustee of the entity, no less – not informed about the IMB joining the Mosque-building effort, he was incensed that the entity he was supposed to be helping to govern was trying to get a house of false worship built. We wrote about that, by the way, in SBC Loses Funding Over Mosque-Building Effort.

The IMB defended their decision to interject themselves into New Jersey zoning law on their website. They wrote…

A public record by IMB of supporting freedom of religion for all people in the United States—regardless of their beliefs—gives IMB workers overseas a credible foundation from which to advocate for freedom of religious exercise in countries that are hostile to Christianity, penalize those who convert, or make it difficult for a new church to own or rent property for worship. … 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.

Within weeks of Haun withholding funds and speaking out, the IMB had begun to walk back their decision to side with Muslims and Russell Moore. David Platt has now told the press

“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.”

You don’t say. Why the change of heart, when previously the IMB asserted that the amicus brief was directly tied to their mission? The answer? It starts with an “m” and rhymes with “honey.” The fact is, for the massive and staggeringly expensive Southern Baptist denominational bureaucracy, money talks louder than common sense.

Russell Moore, on the other hand, remains defiant. He told the Southern Baptist Convention messengers, “Sometimes we have really hard decisions to make. This isn’t one of those things. What it means to be a Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody.” 

And yet, while Baptists believe that religious freedom applies to all, the ERLC says that it exists to “assist churches,” and not mosques (link).