Evangelical Advisory Board Pressured Trump Admin to Not Deport Iraqi Christians

(Photo: REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)Protesters rally outside the federal court just before a hearing to consider a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Iraqi nationals facing deportation, in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., June 21, 2017.

Update Appended

Members of President Donald Trump's evangelical advisory council have directly voiced their concerns to the administration about its efforts to deport over 100 Iraqi Christians back to a nation in which they could face persecution for their faith in Christ.

While it's been widely reported that about 30 evangelical leaders met with Trump at the White House last week and prayed over him in a moment widely shared through a social media picture, the prayer gathering with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence was just a tiny portion of the evangelical leaders' first all-day workday in the West Wing of the White House.

Members of Trump's evangelical advisory board who took part in the all-day meeting told The Christian Post that the gathering lasted from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Throughout the day, members of the administration would come in and give briefings and generate discussion around certain issues.

The evangelical leaders, who act as informal advisers to the president and administration, discussed a number of issues and raised concerns with administration officials over certain issues.

Johnnie Moore, a human rights advocate and a former vice president at Liberty University who is a member of Trump's evangelical advisory board, told CP that last Monday was the first time the evangelical leaders participated in an "all-day workday" at the White House.

Among the issues discussed by the group was the administration's attempt to deport Iraqi Christian and other Iraqi immigrants with unauthorized status back to Iraq, an issue that prominent evangelicals and humanitarians have called "disturbing."

"It was brought up during the work day and discussed openly and a number of us disclosed that this decision — that we know was not a White House decision but a mid-level decision at the Department of Homeland Security — was a decision that we had received a lot of criticism for," Moore, a CP senior editorial advisor, said. "We talked about it openly and we talked about it with administration people in the room."

(Photo: Johnnie Moore)A group of evangelical leaders lay hands on President Donald Trump and pray over him at a White House Oval Office meeting on Monday, July 10, 2017.

Moore, who provides media relations for a number of the pastors involved with the evangelical advisory board, explained that the conversation about the deportation of Iraqi Christians created subsequent conversations about the issue and eventually led to an agreement between the leaders involved in the meeting to submit legal memos to the White House on the matter.

Pastor Ronnie Floyd, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told CP that he was involved in the agreement to send written documents to the administration on the issue.

"We were all involved and I was there in that moment and yes, we reached an agreement that was what we were doing," Floyd, the pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, explained.

"We shared our concern with those that were there [in the room] and the administration took our concerns and the administration is considering what we have said. They are hoping to work toward a solution. They are working toward a solution."

Moore added that in the days following last Monday's meeting, "we have delivered memos and legal documents" to the White House

"Without disclosing too many confidential details, the administration gets it and they are taking it seriously and working on a plan to address it," Moore explained. "That is precisely because we have the type of relationship where we raise our voice when something could have been done differently. We also understand how it happens. We get it. The president of the United States is not responsible for every single decision that every bureaucrat makes across the United States government, a government with 20 million employees."

Moore stated that the "memos were sound legal arguments, rooted in genocide declarations passed by both houses of Congress to show a legal justification for treating these particular individuals differently."

Floyd told CP that the evangelical leaders involved in the all-day workday, which reportedly included televangelist Paula White, social conservative activists Tony Perkins and Ralph Reed, megachurch pastors Robert Jeffress and Jim Garlow, Southern Evangelical Seminary President Richard Land, former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and others, are "men and women of compassion."

"We believe that anyone within the border of the United States need to be dealt with in compassionate ways and to trust all of the processes involved in that. We believe that holy Scripture teaches that the government is there to keep the nation secure and that our role is to pray for and encourage any matters of the way that we would treat people in relation to the dignity of human life," Floyd said. "By no means is there compromise on that with any minister that I know that is in that room at all. They are very committed to that and we believe that deeply."

Last week, a U.S. District Court judge halted the administration's efforts to deport as many as 1,400 Iraqi nationals until courts can review the deportation orders. The ruling means that the over 100 Iraqi Christians who have been detained can not immediately be deported.

The White House did not respond to The Christian Post's media inquiry for this article before press time.

Update, 7/10/2017, 3:40 pm. 

Shortly after publication, The Christian Post received the following statement from a White House official: "This involves a very small number of Iraqi nationals in the country illegally and already subject to orders of removal, the vast majority of whom have been convicted of serious crimes, including rape, kidnapping and murder. Previously, Iraq refused to accept these individuals when they were ordered deported but now they are following negotiations with the U.S. government." 

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