Is it possible to discuss U.S. efforts to resettle Syrian refugees without mentioning religion?

The Boss (tmatt, not Springsteen) is playing word games again. I love word games, so I'm delighted.

Perhaps you recall the last time:

This time, the question posed to our GetReligion team concerns the New York Times' front-page story today on Syrian refugees:

The Times' lede:

WASHINGTON -- President Obama invited a Syrian refugee to this year’sState of the Union address, and he has spoken passionately about embracing refugees as a core American value.
But nearly eight months into an effort to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States, Mr. Obama’s administration has admitted just over 2,500. And as his administration prepares for a new round of deportations of Central Americans, including many women and children pleading for humanitarian protection, the president is facing intense criticism from allies in Congress and advocacy groups about his administration’s treatment of migrants.
They say Mr. Obama’s lofty message about the need to welcome those who come to the United States seeking protection has not been matched by action. And they warn that the president, who will host a summit meetingon refugees in September during the United Nations General Assembly session, risks undercutting his influence on the issue at a time when American leadership is needed to counteract a backlash against refugees.
“Given that we’ve resettled so few refugees and we’re employing a deterrence strategy to refugees on our Southern border, I wouldn’t think we’d be giving advice to any other nations about doing better,” said Kevin Appleby, the senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies of New York.
“The world notices when we talk a good game but then we don’t follow through in our own backyard,” Mr. Appleby said.

So what was the question that tmatt asked?

Here goes:

What crucial word in this debate is missing?

I read the full story, and then I raised my hand (figuratively, of course). Based on my own reading and stories I've written myself (here and here, for example), I thought I had a pretty good idea of the missing word.

So I replied:


The Boss gave me credit for that, but added another key term:

Also the word CHRISTIAN. What about the controversy that Christian refugees from the region are not being chosen?

I decided to play devil's advocate:

Why is it crucial that those words appear in this story? Is the religion angle crucial to this story or just added benefit? And might that angle take away from the strong focus on the specific question of whether Obama has lived up to its words?

Again, tmatt:

I would merely ask if the religion angle is crucial both to news consumers in America and to, well, the Christian refugees themselves. In other words, the faith element is crucial on all sides of the equation.
Note the nice assumption in the NYTimes that asking why noting that next to zero Christian refugees are being allowed into America is the same as arguing that Christians should be FAVORED. That's not the same thing at all, right?

So noted. But now it's time for you, kind GetReligion reader, to enter the discussion.

Here's the question for you: Is it possible to discuss the U.S. effort to resettle Syrian refugees without mentioning religion?

By all means, leave a comment below and/or tweet us at @GetReligion.

Inset image of Syrian refugees via Wikimedia Commons

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