Written by Don Byrd
The multi-faith “Know Your Neighbor” coalition, which includes the Baptist Joint Committee, has issued a statement in response to President Trump’s Executive Orders on immigration. Most recently, the President temporarily halted all immigration from certain majority-Muslim countries, and suspended the refugee program from any country unless the applicant is claiming religious persecution is a member of a minority religion.
Here is the statement:
The executive orders issued today and earlier this week by President Donald Trump require us to reaffirm basic values that we share with the great majority of Americans:
- Respect for diversity, pluralism, and religious freedom: Although the executive orders do not explicitly mention Muslims or their faith, several provisions target Muslims. As such, they violate the principles embodied in the First Amendment and our country’s commitment to religious neutrality.
- Care for the stranger and the needy: Except for the native peoples, since its founding the United States has been a nation of immigrants. Our country has a long tradition of welcoming and supporting immigrants and the needy; the rejection of refugees fleeing horrific violence flies in the face of the obligation to help and the hospitality that the American people have traditionally shown to those in need.
- Civil liberties: While these orders do not explicitly target particular groups, they clearly impact primarily one religion (Muslim) and one ethnicity (Latino). Singling out these groups reinforces and encourages existing prejudice and discrimination against them, including U.S. citizens and documented immigrants belonging to these groups.
- Unity and solidarity: Policies whose effect is to single out specific religious or ethnic groups violate the sense of national unity and solidarity that allows the diverse people of our nation to live in peace and harmony.
Although these measures purport to deal with the threat of terrorism, there is little evidence to support this claim. What they do, however, is to cast a dark cloud over the entire American Muslim population, making it all too clear that their significant contributions to American life are not welcomed. This impacts women in headscarves who have been the object of increased harassment and students in schools who have seen a rise in bullying in recent years due to anti-Muslim rhetoric which will increase with these policies. In response to the Executive Orders, we faith-based and humanist organizations call for an increase in:
- Interfaith engagement, including both interfaith dialogues and events bringing people of diverse traditions together for mutual encounter and learning. To get started, see this page.
- Education about Muslims and Islam, including presentations by Muslim speakers and “meet a Muslim” events in houses of worship or other public venues. To get started, see this page.
- Commitment to and training in being “upstanders” who respond supportively to incidents of hate and bigotry.
This is a time to come together as a community and uphold our sacred values. Therefore, in responding to the current situation, and to prepare for possible actions in the future that may likewise call our fundamental values into question, we commit ourselves, and call on all who share our concerns, to respect the principle of nonviolence in thought, word, and deed.
- We will maintain an attitude of charity and openness to all, including those with whom we most profoundly disagree. We will seek to understand their motivations and assume that they are sincerely seeking what is right unless presented with clear evidence to the contrary. If we are people of prayer, then we will pray for their well-being and for wisdom for them and for ourselves.
- In our statements, we will condemn actions but not persons. We will speak firmly but respectfully of and with those whose words and actions we oppose.
The President’s apparent intentions in signing Friday’s refugee Order violate the most fundamental principles of government neutrality at the heart of our religious liberty protections. In an interview with CBN’s David Brody prior to the signing, President Trump indicated that one goal of the policy is to prioritize Christian refugees over those of other faiths.
As the BJC’s Amanda Tyler responded, “A threat to anyone’s religious liberty is a threat to everyone’s religious liberty, and we as Baptists stand with those facing religious persecution around the world, regardless of their faith.”