By Will Hall, Message executive editor
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) – “Churches have become, particularly the White evangelical churches, have become political instruments,” former President George W. Bush told Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Bush made the accusation during an online conversation, “Immigrants and the American Future,” sponsored by the Bush Center in Dallas and moderated by Moore.
“The comments were stunning for a president whose 2004 reelection campaign relied in part on energizing those White evangelicals using the issue of same-sex marriage,” reported the Washington Times. “Eleven states had questions about marriage on their ballots that year, including Ohio, the crucial state in the Electoral College where Mr. Bush’s campaign said it benefited from Christian turnout.”
The former president’s comments were a response to Moore’s claim that support for immigration by U.S. Christians has flagged in recent years. But legal immigration to the United States has not dropped below 1 million per year since 2013 (990,553) under the Obama Administration. Moreover, refugee resettlements under former President Trump were on par year-for-year with Bush’s first term.
The pandemic likely impacted immigration in 2020, but information for 2019 indicates that refugee resettlement was a major effort, at least until then, of six of the largest faith-based aid organizations (Catholic Relief Services, $928 million; BCFS Health and Human Services, $537 million; World Vision, $1 billion; Church World Service, $74 million; World Relief, $60 million; Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, $63 million), which receive generous government grants composing major portions of their respective budgets (54%, 99%, 31%, 57%, 60%, 83%). Southern Baptists also have a major refugee and immigration ministry.
In its 2020 Annual Ministry Report, the SBC’s North American Mission Board reported that its Send Relief Center in Clarkston, Georgia, is charged with ministry to refugees and immigrants (the city is a major resettlement hub in the United States). No budget information is publicly available.
Former President Bush recently had to walk back accusations he made about all Republicans, whom he had criticized broadly as “isolationist, protectionist and, to a certain extent, nativist.”
In an interview with People magazine, Bush relented that “… what I should have said — there’s loud voices who are isolationists, protectionists and nativists, something, by the way, I talked about when I was president.”