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Religious test for refugees debate goes on

By Staff | Dec 9, 2015

To the editor:

Currently, here is considerable debate over the use of a religious test to allow people fleeing Syria to be admitted to the US as refugees. Some claim that such a test would be unconstitutional, based on the Non-Establishment (of religion) Clause in the US Constitution.

Actually, Federal law (US Code Title 8, section 1101(a)(42)) defines a “refugee”, as being a person who is unwilling to return to his country because of “a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” There are special exceptions allowed, but the basic structure of our refugee law was intended to accept persons being persecuted for religious or other reasons. No mention in the definition is made of economic or war zone situations, but there is a specific reference to religious persecution as a reason for admission.

Admitting Syrian Christians who face beheading when ISIS takes over their neighborhood can hardly be considered “establishing” a religion in the U.S., and is fully consistent with current law.

Will Smith

Sanibel