An attack on one great people of faith is an attack on all faiths — particularly in a country that claims to adhere to religious rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. When that happens, we better preserve and guarantee those rights by joining as one.
Today, as the Trump Administration takes further steps to implement a refugee ban that restricts immigration of people from Syria and other Middle Eastern and African countries, including establishing a religious test for refugees of Muslim nations that, among other things, grants Christians priority over Muslims, we declare our solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters.
In so doing, we denounce those restrictions in the strongest possible terms. We further call those so-called restrictions what they are: a less-than-veiled attempt to appeal to racism, xenophobia, and bigoted sectarianism at its basest level.
At this very moment, people who are traveling to the United States at the time of the signing of the Trump administration’s refugee ban, who have been granted refugee status after having completed a vetting process that, in some cases, has taken years, and in all cases, has taken extended periods of time and included enormous amounts of background checks, interviews, and vetting at every conceivable level by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, are being physically detained at airports and other U.S. entry ports while their families, stunned and horrified, wait to learn their status!
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No people anywhere should ever be required to meet a religious standard in order to gain admission to a civilized nation. No people anywhere should ever be singled out simply because they have the decency and courage to declare and celebrate their long-respected faith. No people of faith should ever be influenced to look the other way simply because people of their religion are granted deference while people of other faiths are being denied basic human rights owing to the exercise of their religion.
We consider this ill-informed and politically motivated action to be unworthy of the principles of a great nation. We believe it ranks with the shameful internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the era of Jim Crow, and the Trail of Tears. Moreover, this action tears at the fabric of the words “Mother of Exiles ... Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me,” emblazed on the Statue of Liberty.
It is as though the light of that New Colossus has been irrevocably dimmed, that we are no longer capable of lifting its lamp and serving as a beacon for all, “beside the golden door.”
More than anything else, we are shocked and dismayed that, as a nation of immigrants, the executive leadership of our own country has sought to evoke the potent weapons of fear and hate to paint millions of kind, decent, honest, peaceful and moral people of a great faith with a broad brush of contempt in order to advance a political agenda.
Like the Book of Ezra, which called on the community to recant and denounce their foreign wives and children, this action can only be interpreted as the latest step in an overall attempt by a reactionary administration to portray Muslims as the latest scapegoat, and thereby make them fair game, both within and without our borders, for any person or country which chooses to ally itself with such regressive thinking. It proposes the pursuit of an agenda that relies on fear rather than honest dialogue, avoiding the latter out of a deep awareness that such a dialogue would expose and lay its bankrupt ideas bare.
We therefore call on all people, especially people of faith, to join with us in joining hands in full community with our Muslim friends, including raising our voices and signing this letter. We further urge you to respond to the administration’s plans with #NoBanNoWall
In so doing, we do not stand in front or behind our Muslim brothers and sisters, but side by side!
Today, we are Muslims, too!
Rev. Dr. Robert D. Sichta is the senior pastor at Congregational United Church of Christ in Bradenton. The Rev. John Vertigan is the state Conference Minister, Florida Conference of the United Church of Christ. Fifteen other reverends and religious leaders co-signed this column.