Paul Ryan: No ‘Religious Test’ for Refugees In House Bill

GettyImages-495849578 ryan
Getty Images

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is stressing that there will be no “religious test” barring the acceptance of Syrian refugees into the U.S. based on their faith.

“We will not have a religious test, only a security test. If the intelligence and law-enforcement community cannot certify that a person presents no threat, then they should not be allowed in,” Ryan said on the House floor. “We also must remember that our first priority is to protect the American people.”

According to Ryan, the bill the House is slated to vote on Thursday seeks to accomplish the dual goal of safety and compassion.

“We can be compassionate, and we can also be safe,” Ryan continued. “That’s what the bill we’re bringing up tomorrow is all about. It calls for a new standard of verification for refugees from Syria and Iraq. It would mean a pause in the program until we can be certain beyond any doubt that those coming here are not a threat.”

The new House Speaker acknowledged the concerns of constituents who who have called legislative offices, noting that the terrorist attacks in Paris have “shaken” Americans.

“All of us here—Republicans and Democrats—are hearing these concerns in our offices,” Ryan said. “People understand the plight of those fleeing the Middle East. But they also want basic assurances for the safety of this country.”

Any bill approved by the House must also be approved by the Senate and then the President before it can take effect. 

So some conservatives say Congress should also use the pending one-year appropriation budget to reduce, curb or defund entirely Obama’s refugee plan. That strategy, however, may cause a year-end budget battle, complete with White House threats and a possible shutdown of some government agencies. 

Some Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), have also pushed the idea the focus should be on Christian refugees, and that Syrian Muslim refugees should not be granted admission due to the potential security risk.