By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
February 5, 2016
NEW BERN – In New Bern, more than 200 people met in a main courtroom to weigh in on a controversial resolution of the Craven County Commissioners Monday night. The resolution called upon a local refugee ministry (Interfaith Refugee Ministry), an affiliate of the Episcopal Migration Ministries (based in New York), to decline the placement of refugees from designated terrorist nations.
Interfaith Refugee Ministry has placed more than 2,000 immigrants in the Craven County area for more than 20 years. Commissioner Scott Dacey, who introduced the resolution, said in a statement released before the meeting that he hoped the ministry would continue its good work of providing safe passage and support for refugees, but the current circumstances presented the community with a different kind of refugee, one who wanted to hurt Americans because of their values.
The proposed resolution noted the problems in getting proper verification from individuals from countries like Syria and Iraq. “It is unlikely a complete assessment of those individuals can be performed and that the safety of those who will be asked to live in near proximity to those individuals can be fully guaranteed,” stated the resolution.
The resolution concluded:
“Therefore Be It Resolved, that in the interest of safety to our community and the desire to maintain the continued goodwill of those within our community toward all refugees finding their way to Eastern North Carolina, that the Craven County Board of Commissioners requests that the Interfaith Refugee Ministry decline the placement of any refugees from countries that have significant territory controlled by an organization designated by the State Department to be a Foreign Terrorist Organization, including but not limited to Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.”
The resolution comes on the heels of the Obama Administration’s pledge to accept 10,000 Iraqi and Syrian refugees into the United States although various government agencies have said these people cannot be vetted properly and may present a grave threat to national security. Governors from 31 states, including Gov. Pat McCrory, have also called on the President and his administration to deny refugees from war-torn countries where groups like ISIS are based.
People FOR and AGAINST the resolution were allotted 30 minutes on each side and three minutes per speaker to speak.
Opponents wore red clothes or red ribbons to signify their opposition. They referred to resolution supporters as “fear-mongers,” “xenophobic,” “racist,” “religious bigots,” “close-minded,” and “Hitlers.”
Rosemary Stark, an opponent and founder of Interfaith Refugee Ministry, said, “I come here today dressed in red for righteous indignation that this motion has come before this august body…Red on my cheeks for the embarrassment that we are the only county commission in the entire state that has even thought of such a thing…Red for the blood of refugees that most assuredly will be shed if they have no place to go.”
Others like Rev. Paul Canady of Christ Church in New Bern, said the resolution might have unintended consequences. “What concerns me the most,” said Canady, “is that a resolution such as this could be used by jihadists in other parts of the world to radicalize people…even radicalizing Christians.” He also thought the resolution was a “first shot” at keeping out all refugees – “a first shot against people of color all around.”
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, also attended the meeting and spoke to the resolution. Dr. Creech told commissioners that although he was not a resident of Craven County, he was present to speak on behalf of the many supporters of the Christian Action League from the area, and he had also been invited by Commissioner Jason Jones to address the issue.
Dr. Creech explained that serious Christians everywhere were heartbroken at scenes of innocent refugees fleeing the violence and bloodshed of their native lands, but Christian compassion must be balanced with protection from those in terrorist nations that would disguise themselves as refugees for the purpose of harming Americans.
“All too often, when interpreting Scripture, some fail to differentiate between the Bible’s teaching on personal behavior, and it’s teachings on the role of government,” said Dr. Creech. “A proper interpretation concerning Christian compassion for the oppressed, or ‘the least of these’ would have us balance this teaching with other teachings that deal with the divinely ordained civil magistrate’s calling to protect the innocent and punish evil-doers, as well as the Christian duty to show deference for our own…As a Christian community, or simply as a decent people, we are free to help refugees in numerous ways. As individuals, we are even free to disregard our own safety to minister to others in such oppressive circumstances. But we don’t have the right, nor are we called upon by the precepts of Scripture, to endanger others without their consent,” he said.
Dr. Creech added he thought the resolution was consistent with the tenants of the Christian faith, as well as the Governor’s request for the Obama Administration to halt the relocation of Syrian refugees, which was also backed by a government oversight committee of the North Carolina General Assembly.
Read the full text of Dr. Creech’s speech by clicking here.
Mark Griffin, an Air Force Veteran and the War on Terror, also spoke for the resolution, arguing that the war on terror continues. “Here in Craven County,” he said, “we have one of the biggest targets – Cherry Point.” He said he appreciated the resolution and hoped it passed.
“I just don’t get why we need to take an unnecessary risk to allow Syrian refugees into our country, when we are clearly at war and the administration has clearly stated that we cannot vet every refugee properly…the risk is too great,” said Griffin.
Ann Bowman seemed to summarize the thinking of many supporters present when she concluded, “Many of the opposition have good intentions, but they lack the knowledge of the people who want to destroy us.”
Still other supporters raised legitimate questions about the enormous costs on state and federal governments borne by taxpayers to support those who would stealthily and intentionally harm the country. Matt Schwob argued the millions of tax dollars to help Syrian refugees here would be better used setting up safe zones for them in the Middle East.
An amended version of the resolution passed by a wide margin of 6 – 1.
The amended resolution excluded any mention of the local Interfaith Ministry, but was broadened to include any entity that might seek to bring refugees into the community from a country that has terrorist ties.
Dr. Creech said the resolution had no legal or binding authority. “Still, a resolution like this serves to put a ministry or some other non-profit group on notice. If they ignore the expressed admonishments of their leaders, the community as a whole, and an incident happens, they’ll bear responsibility, and their support and their ability to help anyone will go in the tank.”