The Executive Order on Refugees and Immigration is an Affront to American Religious Freedom for All
On Friday, January 27, President Trump signed an Executive Order entitled, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” The undersigned heads of religious denominations and organizations in the United States, representing the Executive Committee of the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign, stand in opposition to the extreme policy changes contained within this order, and to the exclusionary and un-American values that they reflect. As people of faith, we affirm the right for all peoples to live in safety and security, without the threat or reality of terror or persecution. We are committed to our long-term work together in building communities of justice and peace.
The Executive Order’s 90-day immigrant and nonimmigrant ban targets individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries, excluding them from entry to the United States based on national origin, rather than being based on evidence of intent to harm. While this order does not explicitly use the terms Muslim and Islam, the greatest impact will be on American Muslims as well as Muslim refugees and immigrants. The Constitution of the United States states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” We fear that this move calls this founding principle of our nation into question, by targeting a particular religious community.
Further, this Executive Order gives priority only to those religious minorities who have experienced violence and persecution, in essence excluding Muslims from Muslim-majority countries who are also fleeing the grave dangers of ongoing violence and persecution. Refugees are refugees, and the United Nations’ vetting system already has mechanisms for prioritizing individuals who have been targeted in extraordinary ways. To add a religious litmus test to this process amounts to religious discrimination by a country founded on the ideals of religious freedom and equality for all. Our collective vision of just treatment for all human beings is born of our religious faiths and of our commitment to fundamental American values; it is manifested through our support of the principle that religious freedom must be guaranteed to people of all faiths and of no faith.
As leaders of diverse denominations and faith groups, we believe that the most vulnerable of God’s children, no matter their nation of origin or religious identity, ought to be eligible to seek refuge in this country. Anything less is contrary to the religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution and is contrary to the Biblical mandate to welcome the stranger. Indeed, this Executive Order sets a worrying precedent for all religious communities in America.
Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, Chair of Interreligious and Ecumenical Affairs
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Azhar Azeez, President
Islamic Society of North America
Rabbi Deborah Waxman, President
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary
National Council of Churches
Rabbi Marc Schneier, President
Foundation for Ethnic Understanding
Rev. Ron Stief, Executive Director
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Peter Vander Meulen, Coordinator for the Office of Social Justice
Christian Reformed Church in North America