At least 27 governors have recently come out against allowing Syrian refugees in their states, claiming that refugees could be a potential terrorist threat. Although the ultimate decision to resettle Syrian refugees will fall on the federal government, some governors have taken extreme measures like signing executive orders to prevent refugee settlement.
The anti-refugee position has struck many observers as hypocritical — especially considering the fact that, before the deadly attacks in Paris and Beirut over the weekend, many of these governors have invoked their Christian faith to make statements calling for tolerance and helping people different from them.
Indeed, many Bible passages call for Christians to “welcome the stranger.” Matthew 25:41-43, for instance, says that “we cannot say to those in need, ‘you are not our problem.'”
Here are just a few examples of previous statements from state leaders that run counter to the spirit of the position they’re taking on Syrian refugees now:
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R)
CREDIT: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
On Syrian refugees: “Given the horrifying events in Paris last week, I am calling for an immediate halt in the placement of any new refugees in Arizona.”
On religion: When Pope Francis visited the United States two months ago, Ducey, who identifies as Catholic, said that he was “honored” and “deeply humbled to be a small part of the Pope’s historic visit.” Ducey may admire the pope, but his statement goes against Francis’ long-standing call for a compassionate solution to handle immigrants. Notably, Francis has called on European parishes to each take in refugee families.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R)
CREDIT: AP Photo/David Goldman
On Syrian refugees: “In light of the terror attacks in Paris, I’ve issued an executive order [pdf] directing state agency heads to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia […] Until the federal government and Congress conducts a thorough review of current screening procedures and background checks, we will take every measure available to us at the state level to ensure the safety of Georgians.”
On religion: Deal has previously said that his faith guides his political decisions, noting, “I try to be a follower. Our understanding of what Jesus taught was that you’re going to hide these truths in your heart. It’s not so much what you say, it’s what you do. And it’s the way we try to live.” Deal perhaps missed the part of the Bible where Jesus instructed his followers to love their neighbors as themselves.
Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter (R)
CREDIT: AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger
On Syrian refugees: “It makes no sense under the best of circumstances for the United States to allow people into our country who have the avowed desire to harm our communities, our institutions and our people […] The savage and senseless ISIS-driven attacks in Paris illustrate the essential inhumanity of terrorism and make it clearer than ever that we must make protecting our homeland from this threat our primary focus.”
On religion: Otter briefly studied to become a priest, noting, “I’m a Catholic, and I’ve got a value system I grew up with.” That value system includes welcoming refugees; just this week, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reiterated the call to assist refugees in the United States.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R)
CREDIT: AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
On Syrian refugees: “Mr. President, in light of these attacks on Paris and reports that one of the attackers was a refugee from Syria, it would be prudent to pause the process of refugees coming to the United States. Authorities need to investigate what happened in Europe before this problem comes to the United States.”
On religion: During a prayer meeting in June, Jindal told a crowd, “The single most important time in my life is the moment that I found Jesus Christ.” However, Jindal’s embrace of Jesus Christ has failed to grasp that part of Jesus’ mission was to feed the hungry, to care for the sick, and to welcome the stranger, namely immigrants.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R)
CREDIT: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis
On Syrian refugees: “I will do everything humanly possible to stop any plans from the Obama Administration to put Syrian refugees in Mississippi.”
On religion: Bryant once told a group of students that Christianity shaped his world view and that Christmas wouldn’t be a holiday without Jesus Christ, whose own journey escaping from Egypt with his parents has some parallels to the plight of people fleeing Syria.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R)
CREDIT: AP Photo/Nati Harnik
On Syrian refugees: “Nebraska is a welcoming place for families seeking a home to live, work, and raise a family. My administration understands the danger and persecution many are facing in the Middle East, however, it is important that our state consider the safety and security of Nebraskans first in any refugee resettlement efforts.”
On religion: In a series of tweets written during Holy Week 2015, Rickets urged families to come together to remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and “to give thanks for the blessings we have received and to renew our commitment to treat others with Christ-like dignity and charity.”
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R)
CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Helber
On Syrian refugees: “I care for these people … “We have an act of war going on that could come to our country and my job as governor is to protect the people of our state while also showing empathy to those people who are being harmed by terrorists.”
On religion: In a statement made on Easter, McCrory, who identifies as a Presbyterian, wrote, “May we conclude our Easter celebration with a renewed commitment of unconditional service to each other with no expectation of reward other than Christ’s declaration, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R)
CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
On Syrian refugees: The governor doesn’t believe the U.S. should accept additional Syrian refugees because security and safety issues cannot be adequately addressed,” said Jim Lynch, a spokesman for Kasich’s administration. “The governor is writing to the President to ask him to stop, and to ask him to stop resettling them in Ohio. We are also looking at what additional steps Ohio can take to stop resettlement of these refugees.”
On religion: Kasich frequently references his faith to explain his policy positions, such as his decision to expand Medicaid coverage to addition low-income Americans. During a meeting with Christian conservatives, Kasich said that the most important thing about faith “is what you do and not what you say.” He’s also said, “when I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have an answer for what I’ve done for the poor.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbot (R)
CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Gay
On Syrian refugees: “Texas will not accept any Syrian refugees & I demand the U.S. act similarly. Security comes first,” Abott said in a tweet.
On religion: Earlier this year at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Abbott quoted scripture and urged attendees to remember God’s reminder that “a problem, a difficult situation, or a calamity” is an opportunity to “open the door to the Lord, so that he can come in.”
Additional reporting by Tara Culp-Ressler and Jack Jenkins.
Thanks to the Center for New Community for help compiling some of these governors’ most recent statements on refusing refugees.