The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, Except for Syria
(Image by Modified by the author from a Creative Commons photo by Celso Flores) Permission Details DMCA
Once again, leaders of the Republican party have come out against core American values. By coming out against the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states, Republican governors across the country are also opposing the principles of openness and inclusion on which the nation was founded. Adding insult to injury, Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush are demanding that only "Christian Syrians" be allowed entry.
Injury, that is, not only to the Syrian refugees who need America's help, but to enduring American values, and insult to anyone who believes in them. Some of these values are laid out in a bronze plaque on an island in New York Harbor:
"Give me your tired, your
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Republicans, apparently, would rather close the golden door, put out the lamp, and send the "huddled masses," the homeless, and the "tempest-tossed," away to fend for themselves.
Well, except for the Christian ones, right? Here, yet another hallowed principle is undermined: no less than the very first line from the Bill of Rights: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
American conservatives in the Republican party and elsewhere have been trying to do away with this particular American value for some time. Perhaps they need to be reminded just why this line is so important, and why it was placed in such a crucial position by the founders of the American republic.
Why did the Founding Fathers think the separation of Church and State was so important? Because their experience under British rule had shown the danger of Church-State unification. Britain, at that time, recognized only the legitimacy of the Church of England; all other religious persuasions--Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Quaker, Methodist, you name it--were treated as second class citizens. At worst, they were seen as likely enemies of the state--terrorists, to be quarantined or expelled.