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US Evangelicals and Catholics reject anti-refugee politicians

NEWS | John Sandeman
Thursday 19 November 2015

Two dozen Republican Governors, and all the Republican candidates for President oppose Barack Obama’s plan to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States.

“Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that ‘Texas will not accept any Syrian refugees & I demand the U.S. act similarly. Security comes first.’ Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted that he ‘will oppose Syrian refugees being relocated to Arkansas,’ CNN reports.

“Indiana Gov. Mike Pence similarly ordered his state to suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees, “pending assurances from the federal government that proper security measures have been achieved.”

Map of State governors opposing refugees shown in red from Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson's Facebook site. The map was replaced because it bungled the shapes of states in the New England region.

Map of State governors opposing refugees shown in red from Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson’s Facebook site. The map was replaced because it bungled the shapes of states in the New England region.

These governors are seen as standing for conservative and Christian values. Abbott, a paraplegic, successfully campaigned for the Ten Commandments to be displayed outside the Texas capitol. Hutchinson is a graduate of the fundamentalist Bob Jones University. Pence has been a strong campaigner for traditional marriage.

But two of the United State’s most influential religious groups, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops have issued statements urging the government not to drop its plans to admit extra refugees from Syria, despite the Paris massacre.

“Of course we want to keep terrorists out of our country, but let’s not punish the victims of ISIS for the sins of ISIS,” said Leith Anderson, NAE president.

“We are horrified and heartbroken by the terrorist atrocities in Paris, but must not forget that there are thousands more victims of these same terrorists who are fleeing Syria with their families and desperately need someplace to go,” he said

The NAE statements pointed out that the US has stringent screening for refugees. “The United States has a strong track record for screening refugee applicants, having processed more than three million refugees over the past four decades. It is more thorough and careful than the screening for tourist and student visas to the United States. A tourist with a French passport does not need screening or a visa; a refugee from Syria must pass multiple careful tests for eligibility.

“As evangelicals we care about those in need one-person-at-a-time and urge our government to carefully screen individual refugees but not exclude a class of refugees from one or two countries where they have suffered.”

The Catholic Bishops spokesperson Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Chairman of the Catholic bishops’ committee on migration also made it clear they were not backing the Governor’s stance. “I am disturbed, by calls from both federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. These refugees are fleeing terror themselves—violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization.”

In a widely shared Facebook post, Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse put an alternative view (in the wake of the news that a Syrian passport used by someone who had passed into Europe as a refugee had been found at one of the Paris massacre sites): “I’ve said this before, and many people criticized me for saying it. We must reform our immigration policies in the United States. We cannot allow Muslim immigrants to come across our borders unchecked while we are fighting this war on terror. If we continue to allow Muslim immigration, we’ll see much more of what happened in Paris—it’s on our doorstep. France and Europe are being overrun by young Muslim men from the Middle East, and they do not know their backgrounds or their motives and intentions.”

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