KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Some Christian groups are speaking out in support of accepting Syrian refugees.
Last week Governor Bill Haslam was one of several governors asking the federal government to halt the settlement of Syrian refugees unless state agencies can become involved in the vetting process.
Some Christian groups say it is against their practices and beliefs to turn the refugees away, and they are hopeful the country’s leaders will not turn their backs on them.
“It’s our vocation as Christians. To not do it would be to betray our own tradition, and it’s also for the health of our country,” said Rev. Jim Sessions in Knoxville.
Sessions is one of 179 people who signed a petition by the Southern Christian Coalition to allow Syrian refugees into the United States. The fear of the refugees something he is trying to combat.
“It’s not new, but I don’t know that we’ve ever faced situations like this globally as we face today,” he said.
Sessions says the country’s already tough screening process should be comforting to anyone with fears about the refugees. It takes a refugee up to two years to be cleared by the FBI, state department and several other organizations.
“We play right into the hands of the terrorists by closing the door on these people. It causes more recruits for them and it also makes the global situation more tense and more insecure,” said Sessions.
The House of Representatives last week passed the SAFE Act which requires the FBI, Director of National Intelligence and Department of Homeland Security to directly certify to Congress that each person allowed into the country does not pose a threat to the U.S.
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The SAFE Act still has to be approved by the Senate, and President Obama has stated he will likely veto it if the act ever makes it to his desk.
“Our political leaders, especially in the south I’m afraid to say, are playing politics with this and that means they play politics with the lives of women and children who have been run out of their own country, who are fleeing persecution,” said Sessions.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition sent Governor Haslam a letter Tuesday urging him to rescind his request to suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Tennessee.