A Balancing Act of Politics and Religion for Governor Abbott

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By Angela Wills

A simple sign was posted in the Gov. Greg Abbot’s church, the University Catholic Center in Austin, by a group of college students who attend. The sign came almost a week after Abbot announced that he is against permitting Syrian refugees into the state of Texas.

It was a simple sign on a plain sheet of white copy paper and on it was a bible quote, Matthew 25:35, “For I was…a stranger and you took me in.” The words “Pray for Syrian Refugees” were typed in bold print underneath the scripture.

It is not known if Abbot saw the plea prior to it being taken down to allow for Christmas decorations. However, the overall message is in no way unfamiliar to him, reflecting calls from the Vatican and Roman Catholic leaders from across the country urging elected officials like Abbott to not turn a blind eye to the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who are escaping Syrian terror.

Abbot is a practicing Roman Catholic who often acknowledges his faith as a building block of his political views. Politics and religion are often inseparable in the state of Texas as Governor Abbott often utilizes his social media accounts to quote scriptures and solicit prayers.

However, his unsuccessful attempt to ban Syrian refugees add yet an additional issue to the list over which the governor deviates from his church. Linking the tension between his conservative political views and his Catholic faith requires him to maneuver overtones between the scriptural and nonreligious. This tension exists often from constituents who are led by cues from their very own worship.

Bishop Michael Olson, a friend of Abbot who also leads the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth has stated, “He’s not the Catholic governor of Texas of the governor of Catholic Texas. He’s the governor of Texas who is a Catholic. He has the responsibility to form his conscience rightly as a Catholic.

So far, Abbott’s office has offered comment for the story. However, a spokesman referenced a previous interview in which Abbott explained that his stand on refugees was motivated by his duties and responsibilities as governor “to keep the people of Texas safe.”

Leaders of the church haven’t blatantly criticized the governor for attempting to stop refugees at the border. However, they have summoned Catholics to recognize the plight of those who are fleeing war-torn Syria and to be hospitable towards them.

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