In an editorial perfectly timed for Thanksgiving, The New York Times calls out what it refers to in its headline as “repugnant religious litmus tests” for Syrian refugees seeking to immigrate to the United States.
The Times sets up its argument with a recent example of a group applying a religious litmus test: that of the terrorists who attacked a hotel in Mali last Friday, killing 18 people. “There were reports,” read the editorial, “that hostages who could recite the Muslim profession of faith were set free; those who could not were killed. That the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, the Taliban or other fanatical Islamist sects measure the worth of a human life according to his or her religious belief is barbaric.”
The editorial board then–I think you know where this is going–circled back to the use of Christianity as a test. “Yet the impulse among American politicians like Jeb Bush and Senator Ted Cruz and Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, to offer refuge only to Christians fleeing war is as appalling,” it wrote.
What followed was a classic argument against the use of religion to single out groups.
There was foundational history:
Many of the first European settlers of North America came to escape an enforced uniformity of religion.
[It’s a] painful echo of chapters in that history when Americans denied refuge or rights to groups they perceived as “other” — whether Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, or Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps, or African-Americans long denied equal rights.
The debunking of the Syrian-refugee-as-fifth-column myth:
All the Paris attackers so far identified were born in France or Belgium, and there is no evidence that a Syrian passport found at the attack site belonged to a terrorist.
While talk of flouting First Amendment ideals by allowing in only Christian Syrian refugees has been an argument popular among many Republican presidential hopefuls, at least one Republican has come out against: Senator John McCain. “Are we going to differentiate children by their religion? I don’t think so,” he said last week.
Read the full editorial here.