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'60 Minutes' takes on Georgia's Syrian refugee stance


Georgia's failed attempt to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees - and the criticism from a prominent evangelical conservative who wanted to help the new arrivals - was the highlight of a "60 Minutes" episode on Sunday.

Gov. Nathan Deal struck a hard-line stance over the Obama administration's resettlement program after deadly terror attack in Paris in November, signing an executive order that prevented state agencies from filing any paperwork or halt any involvement in accepting refugees. But he was forced to retreat weeks later after Attorney General Sam Olens said in a formal opinion Georgia couldn't legally resist the program.

Bryant Wright, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention who is now the pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, emerged as one of the leading opponents to Deal's attempts to halt the resettlement of Syrians in Georgia.

He told "60 Minutes that he looked to the Bible to reinforce his stance:

Pastor Wright: Well see, our calling, Bill, is far higher to follow Christ and do what Christ teaches us to do than whether there’s an “R” or a “D” behind your name. And that’s what we’ve got to live by far more than what people are hearing on talk radio, or on the news or from political candidates.

The first Syrian refugee family the church helped - Mohammad and Ebtesam and their young son Hasan - resettled in metro Atlanta last year. Since then, the church has gone on to sponsor seven more Muslim families from Syria.

Back to to the show:

The refugees are given English tutoring and help finding jobs. This past summer, Mohammad was able to pay his bills on his own for the first time.  He’s working at a catering company owned by a church member. Hassan has started kindergarten and slowly they say they are starting to feel at home here.

 

Ebtesam: I feeling this country, my country. Mohammad: My country, yes.

Pastor Wright told us he is isn’t naïve about the potential risks of allowing in Syrian refugees.

Pastor Wright: The government has decided 10,000 Syrian refugees are coming. That’s not our decision.  Isn’t it better to reach out and love these folks than to give them the cold shoulder? Which approach do you think might cause a Muslim refugee to be more sympathetic to Islamic terrorism? Which approach? To me it’s a no-brainer.

Watch the whole clip here:


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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.