Sixty Baptists are among 4,000 signers of an open letter opposing President Trump’s expected executive action barring travelers from the seven Muslim majority countries which were named in an earlier travel ban but declared unconstitutional by federal courts.
A petition released Feb. 22 by Church World Service and Faith in Public Life opposes “any policy change that would prevent refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, or individuals who practice Islam and other faiths from accessing the U.S. refugee resettlement program.”
“Proposals that would have the U.S. State Department disqualify refugees from protection based on their nationality or religion fly in the face of the very principles this nation was built upon, contradict the legacy of leadership our country has historically demonstrated, and dishonor our shared humanity,” the religious leaders said.
Prominent signers include Moral Mondays organizer William Barber, Faith in Public Life CEO Jennifer Butler and Sojourners founder and president Jim Wallis.
“We cannot remain silent as this administration sows seeds of division and bigotry,” said Butler, an ordained minister and former staff representative at the United Nations for the Presbyterian Church (USA). “Faith leaders must stand on the front line for justice.”
Baptists signing the letter include current and past leaders in the Alliance of Baptists, American Baptist Churches USA and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
“As religious leaders from a variety of backgrounds, we are called by our sacred texts and faith traditions to love our neighbor, accompany the vulnerable and welcome the sojourner,” the letter begins. “War, conflict and persecution have forced people to leave their homes, creating more refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people than at any other time in history. More than 65 million people are currently displaced — the largest number in recorded history.”
The faith leaders said the United States has “an urgent moral responsibility” to receive refugees and asylum seekers and “an ethical obligation as world leaders” to welcome refugees from war-torn Syria.
Within days the White House is expected to roll out a revised executive order aimed to address legal concerns that led to a court order blocking enforcement of the president’s Jan. 27 executive order and upheld Feb. 9 by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The original order barred citizens of seven particular countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, all refugees for 120 days and refugees from Syria indefinitely.
Thousands of visas were canceled. Hundreds of travelers were prevented from boarding airplanes bound for the United States or denied entry on arrival. Some travelers were detained, sparking protests at airports across the country criticizing the policy as a “Muslim ban.”
Media reports say the forthcoming executive order will likely clarify confusion created the first time around by specifying the executive order does not pertain to green card holders.
Sources say the order could drop language indefinitely suspending the acceptance of Syrian refugees, but a 90-day ban on travelers from the targeted countries including Syria will remain. Critics fear the bans will effectively turn permanent if refugees are unable to meet vetting standards that Trump will set to lift the temporary bans.
In addition to calling on the government to provide refuge for vulnerable, the faith leaders decried “derogatory language that has been used about Middle Eastern refugees and our Muslim friends and neighbors.”
“Inflammatory rhetoric has no place in our response to this humanitarian crisis,” the petition says. “We ask our elected officials and candidates for office to recognize that new Americans of all faiths and backgrounds contribute to our economy, our community and our congregations.”
“Refugees are an asset to this country,” the faith leaders said. “They are powerful ambassadors of the American Dream and our nation’s founding principles of equal opportunity, religious freedom and liberty and justice for all.”
Alliance of Baptist signers include current president Michael Castle and past president Carol Blythe. Paula Dempsey, director of partnership relations, signed the letter, along with other staff.
American Baptist signers include Donald Ng, pastor president of American Baptist Churches USA; Aidsand Wright-Riggins, executive director emeritus for American Baptist Home Mission Societies, and ABC/USA Interim General Secretary Susan Gillies.
LeDayne McLeese Polaski, executive director of Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America – Bautistas por la Paz, is a signer. So is Tyrone Pitts, general secretary emeritus of the Progressive National Baptist Convention USA.
Cooperative Baptist signers include field personnel Trey Lyon, pastor of communication at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta; Scott Stearman, pastor of Metro Baptist Church in New York City and representative for both CBF and the Baptist World Alliance at the U.N. in New York City; Blake Hart, missions coordinator with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina, and a number of ministers in local churches.
Here’s a full list of Baptist signers compiled by Faith in Public Life:
- Rev. Dr. Michael D. Castle, President, Alliance of Baptists
- Rev. Donald Ng, Past President of American Baptist Churches, USA
- Carol Blythe, Past President, Alliance of Baptists
- Dr. Tyrone S. Pitts, General Secretary Emeritus, Progressive National Baptist Convention USA Inc.
- Susan E. Gillies, Interim General Secretary, American Baptist Churches USA
- Rev. LeDayne McLeese Polaski, Executive Director, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America – Bautistas por la Paz
- Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins, Executive Director Emeritus, American Baptist Home Mission Societies
- Rev. Leah C. M. Lonsbury, Clergy Care Specialist, The Alliance of Baptists
- Rev. Paula Clayton Dempsey, Director of Partnership Relations, Alliance of Baptists
- Rev. Dr. Kenneth J. Meyers, Knollwood Baptist Church
- Rev. Leah Grundset Davis, Alliance of Baptists
- Rev. Dr. Andy Smith, Retired, American Baptist Churches, USA
- Rev. Jason Smith, Congregational Engagement Specialist, Alliance of Baptists, Arkansas
- Rev. Dr. Ken Uyeda Fong, Senior Pastor, Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles, California
- Rev. Dr. Paul C. Hayes, Noank Baptist Church, Groton, Connecticut
- Rev. Dr. Robert K. Carpenter, Retired Pastor, American Baptist Churches, USA, Florida
- Rev. J Phillip Miller-Evans, Pastor, American Baptist Church of the Beatitudes, St. Petersburg, Florida
- Reverend Kathy Manis Findley, Retired, Alliance of Baptists, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Macon, Georgia
- Rev. Trey Lyon, Pastor of Communication and Engagement, Park Avenue Baptist Church, Atlanta
- Rev. David W. Watkins, III, Senior Pastor, Greater Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church, Chicago
- Rev. Justin Thornburgh, Pastor, Emerson Avenue Baptist Church, Indianapolis, Indiana
- Rev. Amber C. Inscore Essick, Pastor, Port Royal Baptist Church, Kentucky
- Dr. Mark Medley, Associate Professor of Theology, Baptist Seminary of Kentucky
- Reverend Scarlette Jasper, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Kentucky
- Rev. Lauren Jones Mayfield, Associate Pastor of Young Adults and Mission, Highland Baptist Church Louisville, Kentucky
- Rev. Charles Conkin, Associate Pastor of Central Baptist Church, Lexington, Kentucky
- Rev. Dr. Mark D. Johnson, Senior Pastor, Central Baptist Church, Lexington, Kentucky
- Rev. Zachary Bay, Pastor, Alliance of Baptists & Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Kentucky
- Rev. Lisa M. Zahalka, Pastor, Big Spring Bloomfield Presbyterian and Trinity Baptist Church, Kentucky
- Rev. Matthew K. Johnson, Pastor, Ridgewood Baptist Church, Kentucky
- Rev. Dr. Dennis L. Johnson, Retired Pastor, American Baptist Churches USA, Kentucky
- Rev. Ashlee Wiest-Laird, Pastor, The First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
- Rev. Christopher Roe, American Baptist Churches, USA, Michigan
- Pastor Pamela Reed, Flemington Baptist Church, New Jersey
- Rev. Dr. Michael Ford, Senior Minister, Lake Avenue Memorial Baptist Church, Rochester, New York
- Rev. Kathy Donley, Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Albany, New York
- Rev. Joseph Perdue, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Cooperstown, Kentucky
- Rev. Dr. Scott Stearman, Representative United Nations, Baptist World Alliance & Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Pastor, Metro Baptist Church, New York City
- Rev. Joanna Loucky-Ramsey, Special Ministries, American Baptist Churches of New York
- Rev. Andrew T. Collier, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, North Carolina
- Rev. Brian D. Crisp, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina
- Rev. Derrick K. Holmes, Senior Pastor, Second Baptist Church, Ohio
- Rev. Dr. Andy Smith, Retired, American Baptist Churches, USA, Pennsylvania
- Rev. Dr. Marcus C. Pomeroy, Retired Pastor, American Baptist Churches, USA, Pennsylvania
- Minister Benita L. Weathers, M.Div., Associate Minister, Vision of Hope Baptist Church, Philadelphia
- Rev. Eugene T. Dyszlewski, Pastor Lime Rock Baptist Church, Rhode Island
- Rev. Dr. Tom Wiles, Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches of Rhode Island
- Rev. Blake Hart, Missions Coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship South Carolina
- Rev. April Baker, Alliance of Baptists, Tennessee
- Rev. Deborah Lynn, Glendale Baptist Church, Tennessee
- Rev. Earle J. Fisher, Senior Pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church (Memphis) and Religious Affairs Chairmen of Memphis Branch NAACP, Tennessee
- Pastor Jason W. Ivie, Sunset Canyon Baptist Church, Austin, Texas
- Rev. Garrett L. Vickrey, Pastor, Woodland Baptist Church of San Antonio, Texas
- Rev. Robin Anderson, Pastor, Commonwealth Baptist Church, Virginia
- Rev. Melissa Scott, Associate Pastor, Colonial Avenue Baptist Church, Virginia
- Rev. Robin Anderson, Pastor, Commonwealth Baptist Church, Virginia
- Rev. Dr. Michael Bledsoe, Pastor, Riverside Baptist Church, Washington
- Rev. Christian Ricker, American Baptist Churches USA, Wisconsin Region