As Christian leaders and bishops of the Church of God who live and minister in a state marked by wide religious and ethnic diversity, we wish to express our clear opposition to President Donald Trump’s Executive Order issued on Friday, January 27, 2017 titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into The United States.” The President’s Order is discriminatory, unjust and inhumane. As such, it violates what we hold as core values and commitments of the Christian faith.
The Baptismal Promises of the Episcopal Church call upon Episcopalians to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as our self,” and “to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 305). The Affirmation of Baptism Liturgy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church commits ELCA members to serve all people following the example of Jesus…and strive for justice and peace in all the earth” ( Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 237). Our sacred scriptures offer clear guidance about our Christian obligation to aliens and the dispossessed:
You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Exodus 23:9). When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34). Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2). In his Summary of the Law, Jesus enjoins his followers, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-40).
The President and his Administration have asserted that this travel ban is not “a Muslim Ban.” Insofar as it is directed against people from seven countries where the majority population is Muslim, and whereas it makes exceptions for “religious minorities,” expressing a bias that favors Christians, it clearly and unfairly targets people of the Muslim faith. Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to us.
This travel ban has already resulted in the needless detaining of persons loyal to the United States and the separation of families. Many are being prevented from boarding flights around the world. Refugees, who have already undergone significant vetting processes by the United States authorities, have been stranded. Some have been returned to the countries from which they were seeking asylum.
The President’s Executive Order adds to the trauma of people who have experienced profound and underserved suffering. Refugees and asylum-seekers have fled their countries in the face of horrific war and ugly persecution. That the United States of America would violate its core values and turn its back on such persons is shameful.
The President’s Executive Order was signed on Holocaust Remembrance Day. The sad irony of this is not lost on us as we remember that many Jews were turned away from this country. Some were returned to their countries of origin to face the horrors of Nazi persecution. Mr. Trump’s Executive Order threatens to return persons who have supported the United States to countries where they face continued danger and persecution as a result of this support.
President’s Trump’s Executive Order is serving to further divide people in this country and around the world on religious grounds. Far from promoting safety, it further jeopardizes safety and the cause of peace.
For all these reasons, we strongly urge the President to reconsider and rescind his ill-considered, discriminatory, inhuman and unjust Executive Order of January 27, 2017. We urge Members of Congress to oppose this and all similar discriminatory policies.
The Rev. Tracie Bartholomew
Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America New Jersey Synod
The Rt. Rev. Mark Beckwith
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark
The Rt. Rev. William H. Stokes
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey