We all watched the horrifying last days of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, witnessing the desperation of many Afghan people to escape the Taliban. Wyoming’s governor decided that was the moment for him to channel “Stephen Miller,” the right-wing icon of his xenophobic party.
He gratuitously announced he “has no interest” in relocating Afghan refugees to Wyoming. That may sit well with the radical right controlling the Republican Party, but not with those motivated by scripture. It is a roadblock to the ability of faithful Christians to live out the Gospels.
The Governor’s office claimed it had not been “contacted by any federal or international officials about bringing in Afghan refugees,” adding ”Please note, Wyoming currently does not have a state-administered refugee resettlement program.”
Maybe that’s why no one bothered to ask. It remains a stain on Wyoming that we are the only state in the Union without a refugee resettlement agreement.
In the absence of that agreement, Wyoming’s faith communities and others are denied the necessary funds to assist refugees in job training, learning English, finding a home, and other assistance necessary to integrate into American society.
The reddest American states, e.g., Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Utah and South Dakota, have refugee resettlement agreements. Utah’s LDS governor was first to say his state was willing to help relocate Afghan people who helped the U.S. during the war.
South Dakota’s Trump-supporting governor, Kristi Noem, says she is open to accepting refugees, particularly those who faithfully and courageously served alongside the United States military during the war.
But not Wyoming. How is it that Gov. Gordon is comfortable denying the religious freedom of those of us who believe our faith calls us to welcome the stranger?
Since President Trump announced we were leaving Afghanistan, Christian and other faith-based organizations let it be known they are prepared to receive refugees created by our country’s foreign policy. The Presbyterian Church (USA) asked that we “Pray for our churches and ourselves, that our hearts may be open and our hands and feet ready to meet the needs of the Afghans who are already arriving and will need our solidarity and compassion as they seek to rebuild their lives in the U.S.”
Evangelical Christian leaders wrote the president, saying, “The resettlement of vulnerable people from Afghanistan is of the ‘utmost moral urgency’ in the face of potential religious persecution. As Christians, we believe that each person is made with intrinsic value in the image of God, and we cannot treat any person’s life as expendable.”
The letter was signed by leaders of conservative groups, including the National Association of Evangelicals, Bethany Christian Services, and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.
Affiliates of HIAS, a Jewish organization, are receiving Afghan refugees and providing them services. Other faith-motivated people, like Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services, were welcoming Afghan refugees even as our governor announced they are not welcome in Wyoming.
Sorry, Governor. Religious freedom does not mean allowing Christians to discriminate against the LGBTQ citizens of Wyoming. It means that the government should not interfere with the free practice of one’s religious beliefs.
There is not a religious community in the state whose holy texts do not teach us to welcome the stranger. That tenet is central to a genuine practice of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Beyond religion, it is learned in Humanity 101.
That is not to say there are no Christian clerics who agree with Gordon. Plenty have exchanged their Christian card for a Trump card in the last five years. They forgot, as it appears the governor has, that Jesus said we will be judged by what we did or didn’t do “for the least of these.” At the moment, the “least of these” are Afghan refugees.
Even though you, Gov. Gordon, and Stephen Miller believe their lives have no value, could you at least get out of the way of those who God has called to serve them?