A recent survey conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) reveals Evangelical leaders are anxious largely over threats to religious freedom and “refugee/immigration” policies moving into 2017.
The survey results predate yesterday’s news that NAE’s humanitarian wing, World Relief, will layoff over 140 staff members and close five local offices. World Relief claims the layoffs are a “direct result of the recent decision by the Trump Administration to dramatically reduce the number of refugees” resettled in the U.S.
NAE’s survey asked respondents, which consists of the group’s Board of Directors, to answer the open-ended question, “What will be the most important public policy issues for Evangelicals to address in 2017?” For 63 percent of Evangelical leaders, the answer was attacks on religious freedom.
“We have had astonishing liberty and freedom in the United States. And I know when we compare to other places in the world, we still do,” NAE President Leith Anderson told USA Radio Network, responding to survey results. “The concern is the direction that this is going. The fear is that people be marginalized simply because they have biblical faith and hold to traditional Christian standards.”
Evangelical leaders are also anxious over the current refugee crisis and immigration challenges. Forty-six percent of Evangelicals listed “immigration/refugee” policies as a top concern in their survey answers.
“If the first weeks under the new administration are any indication, evangelical leaders accurately identified key policy issues and pressure points for the year,” noted Anderson in an official statement on NAE’s website.
Indeed, the survey results act as a harbinger to World Relief’s announcement of upcoming layoffs and office closures. World Relief receives funding as a voluntary agency (VOLAGES) contracted on behalf of the government to help resettle refugees in the U.S. Therefore a reduction in refugees means a reduction in government funding.
We do not know if World Relief’s contributions from private citizens and churches have declined, lending to financial stress. But It should be noted NAE’s survey does not ask Evangelical leaders to identify their, no doubt, varied policy preferences to resolve the refugee crisis and immigration reform. But as previously reported, Evangelicals’ differing approaches to resolution did not prevent World Relief from coordinating a full-page Washington Post advertisement denouncing President Donald Trump’s moratorium on refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries entering the United States.
According to NAE’s survey, other public policy concerns for Evangelical leaders include poverty, abortion, racial tension, court nominations, marriage/family, and health care.