Russell Moore has penned a letter to Donald Trump stating that Southern Baptists are "deeply concerned" that the refugee travel ban will "cause widespread diplomatic fallout with the Muslim world" and called on the president to affirm his administration's "commitment to religious freedom and the inalienable human dignity of persecuted people."
The Washington Post published a copy of the letter on Monday, which Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, will reportedly send to Trump and copy House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
In the letter, written in response to Trump's controversial decision to sign an executive order suspending the admission of refugees from seven countries to the US for the next four months, Moore says his denomination is committed to caring for and ministering to refugees.
However, he says Southern Baptists also believe the role of government is first and foremost to protect its people from harm: "As a nation, we must seek to resolve the tension created by these two values - compassion for the sojourner and the security of our citizens - in a way that upholds both values," he explains.
Trump's order, "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States", which affects citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia, raises "legitimate questions," says Moore.
"We are deeply concerned that the order will cause widespread diplomatic fallout with the Muslim world, putting Southern Baptists serving in these countries in grave danger and preventing them from serving refugees and others who are in need with humanitarian assistance and the love of the gospel," he continues.
If America is to remain a model for freedom around the world, achieving the appropriate balance between compassion toward refugees and protection of its citizens in necessary, Moore says.
"It is one thing to debate whether the vetting process is adequate. It is quite another to seek to potentially turn our backs on Syrian refugees permanently," he says.
He then calls on the Trump administration to: clarify the extent of the order; implement additional screening measures in order that the Refugee Admission Program may be resumed as soon as possible; work to ensure the safety of Americans serving in majority-Muslim countries, and affirm its commitment to religious freedom and the inalienable human dignity of persecuted people - whatever their religion.
Regardless of the order, Moore says his denomination remains committed to caring for and serving refugees both in the US and around the world.
During the 120-day suspension period, the U.S. government can approve admission of refugees persecuted for being a religious minority in their home country. Trump has said that persecuted Christians will be given priority over other refugees seeking to enter the country, saying they have been "horribly treated."
He told CBN: "If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible and the reason that was so unfair -- everybody was persecuted, in all fairness -- but they were chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them."
David Curry, president of persecution watchdog Open Doors USA, criticized the move and said all people should be protected regardless of their faith.
"President Trump rightly recognizes the incredible rise in persecution of Christians," he said in a statement. "However, cherry-picking one religion over another only exacerbates the already severe worldwide trend of religious persecution.
"We encourage a need-based approach that treats all faiths equally and works toward the comprehensive strengthening of religious freedom around the world."