In a direct response to the tragic terrorist attack on Paris on Nov. 2015, some elected officials (both on the federal and state level) are refusing to accept Syrian refugees into their states until more stringent steps are taken to ensure safety of all. The problem is (putting aside the federalism issue if the states have the power to refuse refugees) is some of the elected officials refusing refugees are using religious grounds as a justification. Refusal of refugees on religious grounds can amount to an establishment test, possibly violating the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
United States Senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz believes that using religion as a test can help ensure the country’s safety. “It makes no sense whatsoever for us to be bringing in refugees who our intelligence cannot determine if they are terrorists here to kill us or not. Those who are fleeing persecution should be resettled in the middle east, in majority Muslim countries. Now on the other hand, Christians who are being targeted for genocide for persecution, Christians who are being beheaded or crucified, we should be providing safe haven for them.”1
Other elected officials have hinted after the Paris attacks that at least part of the reason why they are refusing refugees into their state may have to do with religion. “These acts serve as a reminder that the world remains at war with radical Islamic terrorists. Our national leaders must react with the urgency and leadership that every American expects to protect our citizens.” said Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey after the Paris terrorist attacks.2
I argue that using religious establishment (preferring one religion over others) when granting asylum to refugees is unconstitutional and should not be permitted.