Obama Slams Ted Cruz For Suggesting ‘Religious Test’ On Syrian Refugees

President Obama hit back at Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) during a news conference on Monday at the G20 summit, saying it was “shameful” to suggest a “religious test” for refugees from the Middle East.

Obama didn’t mention Cruz by name, but his remarks came after the GOPer said Muslim refugees from Syria should be barred from coming to the United States but that Christians should be admitted.

“When I hear folks say that well maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims, when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who is fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful,” Obama said. “That’s not American. That’s not who we are.”

In the wake of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, the Texas senator has argued that accepting Muslim refugees threatens America’s national security.

“There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror,” Cruz said at a South Carolina campaign event on Sunday, according to the Washington Post.

Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, fled the regime of US-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista for Texas in 1957.

Obama said on Monday that openness toward political refugees is essential to America’s national identity.

“The values that we are defending, the values that we’re fighting against ISIL for, are precisely that we don’t discriminate against people because of their faith,” Obama told the audience at the G20 summit. “We don’t kill people because they’re different than us. That’s what separates us from them. And we don’t feed that kind of notion that somehow Christians and Muslims are at war.”

The president commended his predecessor and Cruz’s fellow Texan, George W. Bush, for defending Muslims in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“I had a lot of disagreements with George W. Bush on policy, but I was very proud after 9/11 when he was adamant and clear about the fact that this is not a war on Islam,” Obama said. “And the notion that some of those who have taken on leadership in his party would ignore all of that, that’s not who we are.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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