Trustee scuffle over ‘unholy alliance’ leads IMB to leave ERLC’s side on religious freedom fights.
The trouble started last May, when several arms of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) reached out a legal hand to a Muslim community in New Jersey, publicly supporting their right to build a mosque.
The International Mission Board (IMB) and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) were 2 of 18 religious groups that filed an amicus brief decrying the Township of Bernards’ zoning board decision that required the proposed mosque to have more parking spaces than Christian or Jewish places of worship.
The town’s reasoning: since Muslim services are held on Fridays, people would be coming after work instead of together as families, and therefore more spots would be needed. But when the Muslim community offered to split the services, or use ride-sharing or overflow arrangements, the board still denied their application.
The amicus brief, which was also signed by the National Association of Evangelicals and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, argued that “such unequal treatment of the mosque in this case represents a potential threat to the free exercise rights of each of the amici represented here and is a affront to our nation’s commitment to religious liberty for all.”
On New Year’s Eve, a judge agreed.
Less than a month later, IMB trustee and Tennessee megachurch pastor Dean Haun resigned with a year left on his term.
“I love our IMB leadership and our missionaries and their work across the globe. I am not a rabble rouser and my heart is not to take down the IMB,” Haun told the Baptist and Reflector, the newspaper of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and one of the SBC’s oldest state papers.
“[But] if we defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship, …