Americans United staff joined faith leaders Wednesday in voicing opposition to any efforts by the Trump administration to use religion as a reason to bar refugees and immigrants from the United States.
AU Faith Organizer Bill Mefford and I attended an afternoon press conference at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church and a prayer vigil at the White House to support Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders who spoke out against an anticipated presidential order that would ban immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries and block Syrian refugees.
According to a draft version obtained by Huffington Post, the order would make an exception for religious minorities fleeing persecution in the Middle East. In other words, non-Muslims may be admitted, undercutting the premise that the ban doesn’t target Muslims.
“This action is clearly targeted at Muslims, and it is a breach of the foundational American promise of religious freedom for all. It’s fundamentally un-American,” AU Executive Director Barry Lynn wrote on AU’s Wall of Separation blog yesterday.
Faith leaders who spoke at Wednesday’s press conference agreed.
“As communities of faith, we come here today to fiercely condemn Mr. Trump’s vicious and unprincipled attack on welcoming immigrants and refugees who come to America to make a better and safer life for their families,” said the Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life.
“As a Presbyterian pastor speaking to a Presbyterian president and standing in front of a Presbyterian church, I urge Mr. Trump not to allow discrimination to be a hallmark of his burgeoning administration,” she said.
Faith leaders condemn policies that would ban Muslim immigrants and refugees.
Rabbis Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Scott Perlo of Sixth & I Synagogue both spoke passionately of being descendants of Russian Jews who fled persecution and found safe haven in the U.S.
Their words struck home for me. I enjoy researching my family’s genealogy and have found many immigrants among my not-too-distant ancestors. I don’t know if they left their homelands for religious reasons, but certainly they were drawn by the promise of freedom and a better life here in America. If we eliminate that promise from modern immigrants, we eliminate the founding identity of our country.
“To our Muslim sisters and brothers, and I say this as a Jew, this country was built on the foundation of religious liberty for all of us,” Pesner said. “If there is a ban on one religion, there is a ban on all religions.”
After the press conference, the group marched down New York Avenue singing hymns and carrying signs that read “Refugees Welcome” and “Love Thy Neighbor.”
We’ll continue our efforts to combat any Trump administration policies that violate the fundamental principles of religious freedom. I hope you’ll join us.