Bishops Defend Refugees (updated)

Updated on April 26: The original posting of this news noted 14 bishops’ names. TLC has since learned that a draft version of the amici curiae brief did not include the names of the Rt. Rev. Gladstone B. Adams III, Bishop Provisional of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, and the Rt. Rev. Barry L. Beisner, Bishop of Northern California.

Another brief, filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, makes the same arguments.

Sixteen bishops of the Episcopal Church have filed an amici curiae brief that opposes President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration.

Attorneys for the bishops filed the brief April 21 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District in San Francisco.

The brief says at the beginning of the argument:

The Bishops earnestly believe the President’s recently revised executive order impedes the ability of Episcopalians to practice their faith and keep their baptismal covenant with God. This executive order has slammed the door on people who have suffered some of the greatest atrocities in recent times, and it does this solely on the basis of their religion. From its earliest inception, America has been a safe haven for victims of religious oppression in part because religious tolerance is a value enshrined in our Constitution through the Establishment Clause. The President’s original executive order and his recently-revised order directly contradict those values, and in doing so undermine America’s longstanding and special status as a place of refuge for the world’s most vulnerable populations. Both as leaders in the Episcopal Church and as members of the broader faith community, the Bishops have a deep interest in preserving this country’s special status as a safe haven for refugees and in protecting the fundamental principle of religious tolerance enshrined in the Establishment Clause.

These bishops filed the brief:

  • The Rt. Rev. Gladstone B. Adams III, Bishop Provisional of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina
  • The Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, Bishop Suffragan of Connecticut
  • The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of California
  • The Rt. Rev. Barry L. Beisner, Bishop of Northern California
  • The Rt. Rev. Patrick Bell, Bishop of Eastern Oregon
  • The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Bishop of Connecticut
  • The Rt. Rev. Dan Edwards, Bishop of Nevada
  • The Rt. Rev. Thomas Ely, Bishop of Vermont
  • The Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves, Bishop of El Camino Real
  • The Rt. Rev. Scott Hayashi, Bishop of Utah
  • The Rt. Rev. Mark Lattime, Bishop of Alaska
  • The Rt. Rev. Dorsey W.M. McConnell, Bishop of Pittsburgh
  • The Rt. Rev. Robert O’Neill, Bishop of Colorado
  • The Rt. Rev. Rayford Ray, Bishop of Northern Michigan
  • The Rt. Rev. David Rice, Bishop of San Joaquin
  • The Rt. Rev. Gregory Rickel, Bishop of Olympia

Bishop McConnell wrote a letter to his diocese that explained his reasons for joining the brief:

First, as the brief clearly argues, the executive order appears to be a fulfillment of the many statements and promises made by the president, beginning in his campaign and since, toward a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”  Subsequent modifications to these statements aside, I see at their root a generalized fear of the “other,” of those who do not look like “us” or think like “us.” I am troubled that a Muslim ban has been so enthusiastically embraced by those who view their own race as superior, a point of view dangerously represented within this administration. When policies of the State deny the image of God equally present in and among all human beings, I believe the Church is called to warn and to resist.

Second, I believe the Church has an absolute duty to support and protect the poor. The banning of refugees, even for a limited time, imposes a further burden upon some of the most desperate people in the world, whom the United States has always recognized a sacred responsibility to welcome. Whatever one may think of matters related to immigration, refugees are in a different class entirely. We are not speaking of an influx of those who come to take jobs or even to do us harm, but rather of women and children and families seeking safe haven from the impoverished and war-torn homelands from which they flee. One of the earliest titles of the bishop was philoptochos, or “friend of the poor,” so when policies of the State consciously increase the misery of the most vulnerable, I believe bishops have a particular responsibility to speak out.

Of course, a counter argument could be made to my first two points by raising concerns about national security, which is a legitimate role of our government and responsibility of the president. In this case, I find those appeals specious, especially in regard to refugees. Those who seek the safety of our shores must pass a battery of checks that already are among the most stringent in the world. And while it is true that some radicals attack our values, we as a people have learned the errors of distrusting the many because of the actions of a few.

This brings me to my third concern. There appears to be an undercurrent of thought among some of the president’s advisers that we are engaged in a great “clash of civilizations,” the “Christian West” facing off against the “scourge of Islam,” and that this administration has a unique role of leadership in spearheading the struggle. This, I believe, is actually the most pernicious thread underlying a misdirected policy. The State must never be allowed to usurp the voice of the Church, to claim— even implicitly— to speak in the name of Christ, particularly as the self-appointed protector of Christian values or Christian culture.

Finally, I have a deeply personal reason for speaking out. My mother was a refugee. She twice escaped from occupied France, and it is only through the kindness and bravery of those who assisted her, some of whom did so at the loss of their own lives, that I am alive to protest at all. In our own day, such help is given by Episcopal Migration Ministries, which is to my mind one of the finest missions of the Episcopal Church. I encourage us all to become familiar with them and consider contributing to their financial support. Their website may be found here.

The 21-page brief follows.

Amici Curiae Brief 9th Circuit by TheLivingChurchdocs on Scribd

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