It was apparent by Tuesday that former Florida governor and current 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush had no idea how to implement the process by which immigration officials would discriminate effectively in culling only Christians from the Syrian refugees being allowed to enter the United States. Bush himself had floated the idea of a religious test to enter the US on CNN’s “State of the Union” and NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday, doubled down on “CBS This Morning” on Monday, but clearly had not thought his exclusivity measure through by Tuesday. In fact, when asked about it, he was clearly at a loss for a well-thought-out explanation on how Christian only should be allowed entrance.
ABC News reported November 17 that Jeb Bush, while stumping in South Carolina, made the statement: “At a minimum we ought to be bringing in people that have — orphans or people that clearly aren’t going to be terrorists. Or Christians,” he suggested. “There are no Christian terrorists in the Middle East, they’re persecuted.”
And so are various other religions (persecuted, that is), including sects of Islam opposed to ruling regimes and, with particular attention to the rise of ISIS, anyone not in adherence to that group’s particular brand of extreme Wahabbist/Salafi-based Islam. So why do Christians, in Bush’s mind, get preferential refugee treatment over, say, the Yazidis, a monotheistic religion practiced in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries that the United Nations has accused the terrorist organization ISIS of attempting to systematically eradicate? What of those people, who are in the midst of a full-on genocidal offensive, a situation a somewhat more severe than persecution?
The Yazidi situation aside, Jeb Bush, when asked by a reporter how he would handle the immigration processing of just Christians from among the Syrian refugees, said, “I mean you can prove you’re a Christian.” He then added, “I think you can prove it, if you can’t prove it, you are on the side of caution.”
“How?” a reporter tossed in.
“I think you can prove it,” Bush insisted. He then shrugged. “If you can’t prove it, you know, you err on the side of caution.”
Here’s the thing: You cannot prove you are Christian, no more than you can prove that you are dedicated to any other belief system. You can claim affiliation, even offer investigators your knowledge and understanding of the belief system, go so far as to provide your personal and family history of said affiliation, but in no way, shape, or form can the claim of religious fealty be accepted as an immutable truth. And who is to say that the refugee applicant isn’t a recent Christian convert, unable to prove their conversion? Or maybe they’re the opposite, having converted from Christianity to, say, Islam, but have no history of being a Muslim? Or perhaps they are simply donning the ideology long enough to complete the immigration process, effectively committing a falsehood (read: lying on their application), only to return to their preferred — and actual — belief system upon entry into the United States? Given the inability to definitively prove that that anyone is actually a Christian (or a member of any other belief system), would not, according to Jeb Bush’s suggested parameter, erring on the side of caution become the standard by necessity? This, of course, would effectively shut down the immigration process altogether, thwarting the humanitarian effort it was designed to be.
Discriminating on the basis of religion, as President Barack Obama pointed out in his rebuke of both Jeb Bush and fellow Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), is simply not the American thing to do. Although the president is correct for any number of reasons, his position is supported in that our federal Constitution forbids it.
Jeb Bush, a Catholic Christian himself, and others like him arrogantly raise their own belief systems to a perceived higher standard than those beliefs practiced by others, blindly exalting those like themselves and supporting the ostracism of the lesser understood, the different, the outsider, the other. All in the name of national security, as it were. Regardless, a religious test is discrimination in its most base form. The Founding Fathers that Bush and others pay lip service to provided for religious freedom when framing the Constitution, their work allowing for the United States to become a land where one’s personal religion would not disallow equal treatment under the laws of the nation. And yet, Bush, Cruz, et. al., would enact a religious — actually a Christian exclusivity — test to enter the land of the free. Apparently, to them, it’s just an idea that looks good on paper.