American flag waving in blue skyWritten by Don Byrd

The terrorist attacks in Paris over the weekend are naturally causing officials here in the U.S. to evaluate security measures. Unfortunately, some leaders, including presidential candidates, are calling for security measures that would undermine our commitment to religious freedom.

Donald Trump called on U.S. law enforcement to engage in the surveillance of mosques, and even to shut down some mosques “because some of the ideas and some of the hatred . . . is coming from these areas.”

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said that our Syrian refugee relocation efforts should focus on Christians and should not allow Muslim and other religious groups that are also fleeing violence and persecution.

U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) made similar remarks, arguing that Christian refugees should be protected, while Muslim refugees cannot be properly vetted.

The Washington Post reports:

Sen. Ted Cruz Sunday continued to call for Muslim refugees from Syria to be barred from entering the United States but opening the borders to displaced Christians, arguing there is not a “meaningful risk” that Christians will commit terrorist acts.

Cruz did not say how he would determine that refugees were Christian or Muslim. He reiterated his assertion that it is “lunacy” to allow Muslim refugees into the United States, asserting that there is no way to know if they are aligned with the Islamic State.

“We need to be working to provide a safe haven for those Christians who are being persecuted and facing genocide, and at the same time we shouldn’t be letting terrorists into America,” he said.

President Obama called the idea of limiting Syrian refugees admittance only to Christians “not American.” [UPDATE: You can read the entire Q and A on this subject here.]

When I hear folks say that, ‘Maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims,’ when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful.

What is the purpose of our commitment to the principle of religious freedom if we abandon it in moments of crisis?

Millions of Muslim-Americans live peacefully and contribute mightily to this country. Their faith is not grounds for criminal suspicion. Likewise, refugees seeking asylum should be considered according to the merits of their claim, and an appropriate background investigation, not according to their religion.

The call for such blatant discrimination is a cynical reaction to the tragedy and horror of terrorist attacks. We should not stoop to such tactics.

Also, see the Baptist Joint Committee’s response to improper religious profiling by the NYPD in 2013.