(CNN) Scores of evangelical leaders, including at least one from each state, have taken out a full-page newspaper advertisement to denounce President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on refugees, urging him to reconsider his executive order and welcome people fleeing persecution and violence.
CNN | 100 evangelical leaders sign ad denouncing Trump’s refugee ban
On January 27, Trump issued an executive order that temporarily restricts travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries, suspends the US Refugee Admissions Program for four months, indefinitely bars Syrian refugees and reduces the number of refugees the United States will accept from 110,000 to 50,000.
The order also says that religious minorities will be given preference, which many assume will apply to Christians in the Middle East. In a separate interview, Trump said persecuted Christians should be given priority over members of other faiths.
Dozens of religious leaders have denounced the executive order, and several states and legal organizations have sued to stop its implementation. On Tuesday, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments for and against the ban.
The evangelicals’ advertisement, which is slated to run in The Washington Post, is signed by 100 prominent evangelical pastors and authors, including some who rarely wade into politics. It is addressed to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Signees include Pastor Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, Christian author Ann Voskamp, Bill and Lynne Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, preacher and author Max Lucado, Pastor Eugene Cho of Quest Church and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
CNN obtained an early copy of the advertisement, which appears in the name of World Relief, an evangelical relief organization that has resettled thousands of refugees in the United States. In addition to the leaders who signed the print ad, hundreds more have endorsed its message online, said Scott Arbeiter, World Relief’s President.
“As Christian pastors and leaders, we are deeply concerned by the recently announced moratorium on refugee resettlement,” the evangelicals’ advertisement says. “As Christians, we have a historic call expressed over two thousand years, to serve the suffering. We cannot abandon this call now.”
The evangelicals acknowledge the government’s “crucial role” in keeping the country safe and setting the terms on refugee resettlement. But Trump’s executive order, they say, fails to strike the right balance between compassion and security. Meanwhile, innocent people are suffering, even as Christian ministries in the United States stand ready to help.
“While we are eager to welcome persecuted Christians, we also welcome vulnerable Muslims and people of other faiths or no faith at all. This executive order dramatically reduces the overall number of refugees allowed this year, robbing families of hope and a future. And it could well cost them their lives.”
While the advertisement is signed by evangelical heavyweights, several evangelical leaders who backed Trump during the campaign are supporting the ban. They include Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition; Franklin Graham of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; and the Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas.
According to polls, most white evangelicals side with Trump.
More than half of white evangelicals (54%) and white mainline Protestants (53%) would support a law barring Syrian refugees from entering the United States, according to a survey conducted in June by the Public Religion Research Institute.
A majority of those same groups, as well as a slight majority of white Catholics (52%), also endorse a temporary ban on Muslims coming to the United States from abroad, the survey found.
“We see a lot of statements from people saying they’re evangelical leaders, but that most evangelicals don’t recognize,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Illinois, and a signatory to the evangelical advertisement.
“These are key evangelical leaders, with names recognizable to most evangelicals. My hope is that it causes them to ask what the real facts are — and that we can have (and have had) both security and compassion. I think many will notice the names (on the advertisement) and give this another look.”