Leaders ask Alabama governor to soften refugee stance

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — More than 110 religious leaders asked Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to soften his stance against accepting Syrian refugees on Tuesday, citing what they called his Christian duty to welcome strangers and love neighbors.

A group organized by Greater Birmingham Ministries, an ecumenical organization based in the state's largest city, said it was delivering a letter to Bentley's office in Montgomery saying his faith requires kindness to "the least of these."

"In this season where Christians remember the plight of Jesus and his family as political refugees, let it not be said that in Alabama, there was no room in the inn," said the letter, signed by 116 pastors and other religious leaders from around the state.

Bentley's office did not have any immediate response to the plea, signed by 116 moderate leaders of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other groups from around the state.

Bentley, a Republican Southern Baptist who sometimes discusses his faith in public, last month ordered state agencies to do everything they could legally prevent the relocation of Syrian refugees to Alabama. He and other governors are trying to block possible refugees amid fears that terrorists will slip in among them.

The impact of Bentley's order is unclear, experts said, since governors have limited power in immigration matters, which generally are left to the federal government.

The Rev. Angie Wright, associate director of Greater Birmingham ministries, said the organization initiated the letter out of concern for Bentley's position against refugees.

"We have so many politicians that wear their Christianity on their sleeve and campaign around it," she said. "We think this is one area where faith needs to speak to more than our base fears."

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