Officials from a church agency that includes Mainline Protestant churches among its members are criticizing U.S. governors for declining to resettle Syrian refugees in their states.
The announcement from Church World Service (CWS) comes after terrorist attacks in Paris that left more than 130 dead and wounded hundreds more. The Paris assailants appear to have been radical jihadists connected to the Islamic State (ISIS); at least one recently arrived in France as a refugee traveling through Greece.
CWS President and United Methodist Clergy John L. McCullough urged public officials to avoid “knee-jerk” reactions and claimed that the governors were ignoring “robust security” in the refugee resettlement process.
“Governor [Robert] Bentley of Alabama and Governor [Rick] Snyder of Michigan have turned their backs on Syrian refugees who, like the Parisians with whom the world is mourning, are the victims of ISIS,” McCullough charged. “For these governors to falsely assert that the U.S. refugee admissions program places their states at risk is utterly preposterous.”
According to USA Today, Bentley and Snyder are two of at least 11 governors who say their top concern must be the safety of state residents, and they say there’s a chance the refugees include people with terrorist ties. Immigration is under the purview of the Federal government, but the governors can use executive orders to instruct state agencies to halt relocation of Syrian refugees to their states.
“Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” Snyder said in a statement. “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”
In addition to resettling refugees and other immigrants, CWS advocates for continued federal funding for its own work.
McCullough claimed that refugees are the single most scrutinized and vetted individuals to travel to the United States, “undergoing more than seven security checks by intelligence agencies, including biometric tests, medical screenings and in-person interviews with Department of Homeland Security officials.”
“These knee-jerk reactions stoke fear and bigotry, and have no place in this great nation. History will judge us all in this moment, when we had the opportunity to stand in solidarity with the victims of ISIS and work together to defeat hate, or to instead turn our backs on them in cruel irony,” McCullough continued. “At CWS, we pray for Governor Bentley and Governor Snyder, that they will choose wisdom over rhetoric and show true leadership in this time of great tragedy. We call on our elected officials to stand with the millions of Americans across the country who are donating to help refugees abroad and volunteering to welcome refugees in their communities. Our nation’s leaders must affirm the importance of resettling refugees who are fleeing the brutality of ISIS.”
Refugee resettlement can be a significant source of income for nonprofit organizations. The Episcopal Church, which is a member denomination of CWS, received $13.8 million in federal funds for refugee resettlement in 2013 through Episcopal Migration Ministries.
Church World Service, which was spun off from the National Council of Churches, counts 37 Christian denominations among its members, including the Mainline Protestant Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, American Baptist Churches USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Update: National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) President Leith Anderson has called for continued resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States: “Our system is designed to keep terrorists out and to help desperate families with little children. We want to help the victims of terrorism in the Middle East, not punish them.” Access Anderson’s full statement here.Google+