Protestants & Politics 4/22/21

Biden and Refugees; Black Church, Race and Racism; Vaccine acceptance and faith groups; Nones; Evangelicals; Christians in Political Science; George W. Bush and immigration

Biden and Refugee Resettlement

Biden flip-flops on refugee policy after blowback

Friday saw the Biden administration giving mixed messages on refugee admission. After receiving blowback for keeping the historically low refugee cap set by President Trump, the White House quickly reversed its position, and said it will move to lift them. Yamiche Alcindor has more on the flip-flop, and discusses it with Jenny Yang, the vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief.

‘Broken promise’: Biden’s backtrack on refugees still slammed by advocates

“He's basically broken his promise, and he's abandoned his commitment,” Jenny Yang, senior vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief, said in an interview earlier on Friday. She later called the White House statement a “walk back” that changed little.

“Who knows if they’ll follow through on it which means 15K may remain in place,” Yang said in a text. “[And] they could have done this two months ago to recategorize the allocations.”

Michael Wear, senior adviser to Not Our Faith PAC and former religious outreach director for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, defended the administration’s decision and said he expects Biden to ultimately follow through on raising the cap.

“Because the situation at the border is so significant and fluid, and because circumstances might force the White House’s hand when it comes to making policy decisions, it makes the refugee cap decision a more complicated one than it would otherwise be — both politically and from a policy perspective,” Wear said in an email, adding that “some on the left have sought to downplay what is happening at the border.”

Evangelicals await fulfillment of Biden promise on refugees

Evangelical Christian and other advocates for resettling more refugees in the United States are waiting to see if the Biden administration will fulfill its latest commitment following what they described as a disappointing failure by the president.

After receiving criticism for his inaction, President Biden finally signed a presidential determination on refugee admissions April 16. However, the president kept the goal for the 2020-21 fiscal year at 15,000, the ceiling established by the Trump administration in its final year. Biden’s determination came after he had said in February the goal would be 62,500 for the year, which ends Sept. 30.

A Christian for Biden, I’m Feeling Betrayed

Like many conservative Christians, my vote has long been shaped by a candidate’s positions on a few key issues, particularly the belief that all human life, including that of an unborn child, is made in God’s image and is infinitely valuable and worth protecting. As uncomfortable as Mr. Trump’s rhetoric made me in 2016, I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Hillary Clinton.

But Mr. Trump’s near-destruction of the U.S. refugee-resettlement program shook me. The issue is personal to me: I’ve volunteered as an English teacher through World Relief, an evangelical ministry that resettles refugees in my community. I’ve come to admire my refugee students deeply. America needs more of these brave new neighbors.


Evangelical leaders are expressing dismay and disappointment that the Biden administration has not followed through on a commitment to raise the ceiling for refugee resettlement for the current fiscal year.

As of the halfway point, the U.S. is on pace to admit only 4,100 refugees this fiscal year, which would be the lowest level in the U.S. refugee resettlement program’s history.

The following are quotes from individual leaders of evangelical organizations. Additional context follows the quotes.

USCIRF Press Release: USCIRF Reiterates its Call to Urgently Increase the Refugee Ceiling

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) joins in the calls on President Joseph R. Biden to immediately sign the directive raising the numerical ceiling for refugees accepted from abroad through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for the current Fiscal Year, which runs until October 1, 2021. The International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) requires that religious persecution should be considered in determining the refugee ceiling.

World Relief Petition

President Biden promised to reopen the refugee resettlement program but has yet to sign his presidential determination. Because of his delay the lives of refugees and their safety still hang in the balance. We must and we will hold this administration accountable.

Raise your voice today and join us as we petition President Joe Biden to restore dignity and humanity and make the United States a welcoming country once again.

Black Church, Race and Racism

Faith leaders praise Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdicts, acknowledge work ahead

Religious leaders and faith-related organizations reacted swiftly to the verdicts. Here’s a sampling:

The George Floyd Trial and the Longing for Justice

History by itself cannot wipe away sin and injustice. Thus, we see instance after instance of especially African American men facing danger and sometimes death—often without the endpoint of the sort of verdict this court has handed down. Our structures and systems, of course, belong to us. For them, we are accountable.

A religious argument for reparations? Christian authors make the case.

Q: Why do you think there are specifically Christian reasons to support reparations?

Kwon: We believe the biblical case for reparations is extraordinarily clear. The Christian church has a history that makes us complicit with the evils of white supremacy and responsible to remediate those harms. We believe we have a strong moral tradition that tells us the Christian church should embrace the call to provide restitution and to love our neighbors who have been historically robbed. Christians, more than any other group in America, should be at the forefront on reparations.

The Black Church in American Public Life

This week CARSS and the Berkley Forum ask: How do lessons from the history of Black churches resonate today, a moment marked by public discourse on racial justice, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, and a resurgence of white Christian nationalism? If resistance is a key theme in religious thought and practice in “the Black Church,” how does the tradition challenge us to reimagine American democracy? What roles do women play in Black churches, and how might these contributions change how we think about Black religious life? What are some of the challenges and possibilities related to gender and sexual identity in Black churches? How do popular conceptions of “the Black Church” differ from or relate to other forms of Black religious life in the United States? And what is the significance of the broader range of religious traditions that have animated Black cultures and communities since the arrival of Africans in the New World and especially across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries?


Religious Identities and the Race Against the Virus: Engaging Faith Communities on COVID-19 Vaccination

The positive influence of faith-based approaches on vaccine uptake is particularly important among Protestant Christians, who have higher rates of vaccine hesitancy and refusal. 

  • Hispanic Protestants are particularly likely to be vaccine hesitant (42%), and an additional 15% do not plan to get vaccinated. 

  • Nearly three in ten white evangelical Protestants (28%) are vaccine hesitant, and an additional one in four (26%) say they will not get vaccinated. 

  • Black Protestants are similarly divided, with 32% hesitant and 19% refusing to get vaccinated.

Church attendance is currently playing a different role in vaccine uptake among Black Protestants and white evangelical Protestants.

  • Among Black Protestants, attending religious services is positively correlated with vaccine acceptance. Nearly six in ten (57%) of those who attend services at least a few times per year are vaccine accepters, compared to 41% among those who do not attend services. Faith-based interventions here can increase momentum already evident on the ground.

  • By contrast, among white evangelical Protestants, only 43% of those who attend religious services frequently are vaccine accepters, compared to 48% of those who attend less frequently. In this case, faith-based interventions have untapped potential to shift these dynamics.

It’s Not Just Young White Liberals Who Are Leaving Religion

Compared to the U.S. population overall, nonreligious Americans are younger and more Democratic-leaning. But the number of Americans who aren’t religious has surged in part because people in lots of demographic groups are disengaging from religion — many nones don’t fit that young, liberal stereotype. The average age of a none is 43 (so plenty are older than that). About one-third of nones (32 percent) are people of color. More than a quarter of nones voted for Trump in 2020. And about 70 percent don’t have a four-year college degree.

What are evangelicals thinking about our country these days?

Here are some data I culled from the recent Morning Consult survey:

43% of Evangelicals believe the country is “going in the right direction.” 57% believe the country has “gotten off on the wrong track.”

47% of Evangelicals either “strongly approve” or “somewhat approve” of the job Joe Biden is doing as president. 49% of Evangelicals either “somewhat disapprove” or “strongly disapprove” of Biden’s performance (38% “strongly disapprove).


Christians in Political Science: Joe Biden's First 100 Days: A Virtual Conversation, Tuesday, May 4, 2021, 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Immigrants and the American Future: A Conversation with President George W. Bush

Russell Moore President, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention
Yuval Levin, Director, Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies, American Enterprise Institute
Thursday, May 6, 2021
11:30 a.m. CT / 12:30 p.m. ET

All In: Partnering with Community and Faith Organizations in COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts

Description: The White House would like to invite you to a conversation about additional ways that you and your community can help end the COVID-19 pandemic. The event will feature federal and state officials, vaccine providers and faith and community leaders who are working together to meet this challenge.

Time: Apr 22, 2021 03:00 PM Eastern