Anti-Refugee Bill Sets Off Church-State Debate in South Carolina
A South Carolina bill that would create a registry of refugees and would hold their sponsors liable for any crimes they commit has sparked a debate over religious liberty in South Carolina.
The bill, which would require all recently resettled refugees to register with local law enforcement, would also hold each refugee’s sponsors liable if he or she commits a violent crime or an act of terrorism. “We are protecting South Carolina citizens’ safety,” State Senator Kevin Bryant, one of the bill’s lead sponsors, told members of the local press. “And if we have to do something that would de-incentivize the sponsoring of refugees, well, we’ve got to choose our own citizens over those that are not citizens of this country.”
Some religious groups have denounced the bill as a violation of their First Amendment freedoms because it infringes their belief in caring for those in need. “We’re a Christian organization,” says Ted Goins, the president of Lutheran Services Carolinas, one of the state’s two main sponsors of refugee resettlement. “We get our marching orders from a Biblical perspective. It says we’re to love our neighbors as ourselves. Refugees are our neighbors.”