Russell Moore, a leading figure in the large US-based Southern Baptist Convention, has urged Donald Trump to adjust his new refugee policy and warned that the President's actions could harm US interests overseas.
Moore today released a letter he intends to send to the President and Vice-President Mike Pence, citing the SBC's resolution last year to support refugees as "Scripture calls for and expects God's people to minister to the sojourner." Moore heads the public policy division of the usually conservative SBC and has been an outspoken critic of the new President.
Trump has ignited controversy with an executive order that has temporarily halted a refugee program from six Muslim countries, and indefinitely halted the acceptance of Syrian refugees into the USA. It also states it will in future prioritise refugees who are religious minorities in the countries they are fleeing – which would lead to Christian and Yazidi refugees in Iraq and Syria being preferred.
Moore described that not accepting Jewish refugees during World War II as one of "nation's darkest chapters".
The letter says the SBC is sympathetic to desires to strengthen the vetting procedures for incoming refugees. However it highlights the plight of 'legal permanent residents' of the USA who have been caught in the aftermath of Trump's executive order, such as the well-publicised case of an Iraqi interpreter who fought for the US military being refused re-entry to the country.
Moore argues that Trump's policies could negatively impact relations with the Muslim world, and harm missionaries working in those countries: "Southern Baptists are among the many Americans living in majority-Muslim countries to carry out the biblical call to love their neighbors.
"We are deeply concerned that the order will cause widespread diplomatic fallout with the Muslim world, putting Southern Baptists serving in these countries in grave danger and preventing them from serving refugees and others who are in need with humanitarian assistance and the love of the gospel."
The letter states that it supports some improvement in how refugees coming into the US are vetted. "Achieving the right balance between compassion toward refugees — one of the most vulnerable groups of people among us — and protection of Americans is crucial if the United States is to remain a model for freedom around the world," says Moore's letter. "It is one thing to debate whether the vetting process is adequate. It is quite another to seek to potentially turn our backs on Syrian refugees permanently."
Moore, as the reforming president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission within the SBC, has been a strong critic of Donald Trump, particularly the new President's stance on immigration, and his moral character. As a result, Moore has been sharply criticised by other Baptists who have even threatened to withhold funding to groups related to his work, or the Southern Baptist Convention itself.