4 years ago

Alabama pastor on Syrian refugees: ‘God gave us specific instructions to destroy these people’

Hundreds of Syrian refugees waiting for the next train in Vienna, Austria (Photo: Josh Zakary)
Hundreds of Syrian refugees waiting for the next train in Vienna, Austria (Photo: Josh Zakary)

SAMANTHA, Ala. — The pastor of a small church in Tuscaloosa County has sparked quite a controversy inside the evangelical community after stating in a letter to the editor of the Alabama Baptist newspaper that Syrian refugees are the same type of idol worshipers God instructed his people to destroy in the Old Testament.

Pastor Ted Sessoms of Arbor Springs Baptist Church in Samantha, Alabama, expressed frustration with other Baptist leaders who have advocated for allowing refugees to enter the country.

“Perhaps our leaders should study the Old Testament when God gave specific instructions to destroy these people, even their women, children and animals,” he wrote.

The full letter to the editor reads as follows:

At the risk of being an outcast or considered a narrow-minded bigot, I must express my disagreement and disappointment with out Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders in regards to the Syrian refugee crisis. I am against allowing the refugees the rights to America’s soil and my neighborhood. These are the same people that hate America, hate Christians and have vowed to take over the world by destroying our way of life. Perhaps our leaders should study the Old Testament when God gave specific instructions to destroy these people (even their women, children and animals). Why would He give such instructions? Because He knew the impact these idol worshippers of false gods would have on His people. It is not a matter of loving your neighbor. My neighbors are the people that value the same standards of life and way of life that I value.

We owe it to our children and grandchildren to make good decisions for their future in America. And opening up our country to ten of thousands of refugees with their unknown background but known hatred for Christianity and America will destroy any future our children may have.

These are the same people that are willing to give their lives to carry out their commitment to Allah. They don’t have to be considered terrorists to hate Christians. Their religious conviction cause them that hatred.

What we will see is not more SBC churches being established but more mosques. What we will see is their way and their customs being forced on us to either observe or make way for us to give up our rights to observe their rights. They are victims of a more powerful force of Muslims within their own country but they are not victims when it comes to their lifelong hatred of us and our belief in Christ. It makes no sense to say to them, “I know you hate us and I know you want to destroy our country and way of life, and I know you will eventually find a way to kill us, but come on it anyways and live among us until you gain the strength and power to overcome us.” Has the SBC been turned over to a reprobate mind?

Ted Sessoms, Pastor
Arbor Springs Baptist Church
Northport, Ala.

Several of the Baptist leaders Pastor Sessoms was writing about responded via social media.

Dean Inserra, lead pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Florida, called the letter “garbage” and said he was surprised the Alabama Baptist newspaper would publish it.

Danny Akin, President of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, called it an “embarrassment to the gospel.”

Dr. Akin’s statement was retweeted by numerous evangelical leaders, including Russell Moore, the Southern Baptist Convention’s top public policy spokesman. Moore has been one of the evangelical community’s most outspoken proponents of accepting Syrian refugees.

“I don’t think we ought to have a religious test for our refugee policy,” said Moore. “We really don’t want to penalize innocent women and children who are fleeing from murderous barbarians simply because they’re not Christians.”

But while many Alabama Christians may bristle at Pastor Sessom’s “destroy these people” rhetoric, the actions of the state’s political leaders indicate that the majority of voters — including Alabama’s large bloc of evangelicals — are against allowing Middle Eastern refugees into the country, particularly due to concerns with the reliability of the vetting process.

Governor Robert Bentley was among the first governors in the country to public declare his intension to reject any refugees the federal government tried to place in his state.

“I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” Bentley said in a statement at the time. “I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.”

Alabama Senators Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions voted in favor of pausing the issuance of visas to more than thirty countries “at a high risk for exporting terrorists.” And Senator Shelby and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) pushed to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to permit governors to reject the resettlement of refugees in their state after legal experts questioned their authority to do so.

“We simply cannot trust this Administration to put in place the rigorous vetting system needed to ensure that the refugees who enter our nation will not be future threats to the American people and our way of life,” said Shelby.

To this point, no Syrian refugees have been placed in Alabama, and Catholic Social Services (CSS) in Mobile is the only organization in the state that works with the State Department to house refugees.

Though the CSS is part of the church’s Archdiocese of Mobile, the program is completely funded by the federal government. CSS volunteer outreach coordinator Erin Dunn told Yellowhammer last year the service is equipped to provide assistance to up to 130 new refugees this year.

“We work with them for about 6 months to help them become self sufficient,” explained Dunn. “We have various programs that our case managers walk them through, and we have a job developer that helps them find jobs, and case managers work on connecting them to local resources… As volunteer outreach coordinator, I work with volunteers who are willing to help teach them English, or take them to the grocery store, or teach them how to ride the bus. It’s pretty much everything you can think of to help orient them to the city so after six months they’re able to be self sufficient.”

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the State Department will provide $1,850 per refugee for the first three months of assistance, to be used for reception, initial housing, food, clothing, referrals services and social programs.

If the refugees are not able to find a job in those first three months, or are precluded from doing so due to a disability, they are eligible for many welfare programs, including Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), and Supplemental Security Income.

23 mins ago

Alabama Dem. chair doubles down on racism charges against DNC, Jones — Will ‘be burning in hell for taking away people’s voting rights’

The rollercoaster internal battle among Alabama Democrats and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) reached another milestone on Thursday when a DNC committee voted to recommend stripping Alabama Democratic Party Chair Nancy Worley and Vice-chair Randy Kelley of their credentials.

The committee decision will now go before the full DNC this weekend for a final vote.

The vote in San Francisco, CA, came after a committee hearing in which Worley passionately doubled down on charges recently made against the DNC and those looking to unseat Worley, led by Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

Per The Montgomery Advertiser, Worley said the Jones-led efforts are simply a reaction to last year’s state party elections not going to his liking.

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“The problem is if we had not won that election … there never would have been a challenge,” Worley said. “And so it all had to do with who won and who was mad because we’ve won.”

She also emotionally suggested her opponents were undermining the legacy of civil rights activists in Alabama by looking to take power away from black Americans in the state party.

“You’re going to be burning in hell for taking away people’s voting rights,” Worley declared.

This escalated the sentiment expressed by Alabama Democratic Party Secretary Val Bright last week when she penned an open letter accusing Jones and the DNC of racism.

“Although blacks have been faithful to the Democratic Party and are largely responsible for electing Doug Jones and any white seeking office in this state, once elected on the backs of blacks, the urgency to remove black leadership begins,” Bright wrote.

“In other words, as long as we’re working in the fields all is well, but when we move to positions of authority, a challenge begins,” she added. “From slavery through Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement, we are constantly being shown how little respect blacks receive for being hard working and loyal.”

Bright went on to say the electoral challenge to Worley is “a smoke screen to make it appear that Jones and the DNC is not attacking his true target, blacks.”

State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) on Wednesday told Yellowhammer News he disagrees with Bright’s charges of racism against Jones.

According to Gulf Coast News Today, Jones defended himself to members of the Baldwin County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in recent days.

“I know voices in this state are questioning my commitment to the African American community,” Alabama’s junior senator said. “Because I have had the audacity recently to challenge those who have controlled the Democratic party for a generation and clung to power despite the fact the party has been spiraling towards extinction under their watch … because I believe a viable two-party system is the only way for a state to truly progress and build on the NAACP mission of prosperity for all.”

“If my life’s work … are not enough let me be crystal clear, I am with you. I am there for you. I have never left you and together we will remain vigilant in the mission of the NAACP, our shared mission and we’ll keep on a walking, keep on a talking and we’re not going to let nobody turn us around until the promise of America is made real for all Americans,” Jones added.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

56 mins ago

2019 Yellowhammer ‘News Shapers’ series continues with second rural broadband installment

Join the Yellowhammer News team Tuesday, September 17 for a “Yellowhammer News Shapers” event in Dothan.

Entitled, “Connecting Alabama’s rural communities,” the event is Yellowhammer’s second on rural broadband this year. This latest installment will focus on building partnerships and community awareness.

The event will feature a networking reception followed by a live forum on expanding broadband access and technology across the Yellowhammer State.

Confirmed forum panelists include State Senator Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva); Brad Kimbro, CEO of Wiregrass Electric Cooperative; Jimmy Copeland, director of special projects for Troy Cablevision, Inc.; Dr. Carmen Lewis, associate dean of Troy University’s Sorrell College; and Sean Strickler, vice president public affairs of the Alabama Rural Electric Association.  

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Areas of focus will include exploring partnerships that work, implementation obstacles and best practices, community awareness and future needs and next steps for program advancement.

The event will be held in Everett Hall on Troy University’s Dothan campus: 502 University Drive, Dothan, AL 36303.

The reception will begin at 5:00 p.m., with the moderated forum to follow at 5:20 p.m.

Sponsorship opportunities are still available. Please contact courtney@yellowhammernews.com for more information.

The legislative edition of Yellowhammer News Shapers kicked off 2019’s series and was followed by the rural broadband edition on July 18 in Guntersville, “Prepare for Launch” in Huntsville on July 31 and “West Alabama and the coal industry” on August 8 in Jasper.

More Yellowhammer News Shapers events will take place across the state this year. The series is non-partisan, on-the-record and designed to localize issues and highlight thought leaders.

Continue to visit Yellowhammernews.com for announcements during the 2019 calendar year.

1 hour ago

Limestone County sheriff’s attorney blasts ‘draconian’ ethics act after indictment

After it was announced on Thursday that longtime Limestone County Sheriff Michael Anthony “Mike” Blakely has been indicted on 13 state ethics counts, separate press conferences featuring his personal attorneys and the spokesperson for the sheriff’s department pumped the breaks on those looking to equate Blakely merely being charged with actually being guilty.

First, Mark McDaniel, the lead attorney for Blakely’s defense, emphasized that the sheriff would be entering in a plea of “not guilty” on all counts and looks forward to trying the case in a court of his peers.

WHNT carried McDaniel’s comments to the media, in which he emphasized that a large part of the defense will be challenging the constitutionality of Alabama’s ethics statute.

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“Virtually anything you do as a public servant now under that act is illegal, so we’ll be contesting the constitutionality of the ethics act also,” McDaniel said.

He called the ethics act “draconian” and added he will file a motion asking the court to strike it down.

Asked what about the ethics act they will be challenging, McDaniel responded, “A lot of things.”

McDaniel specified that one of those things will be how overly “broad” the statute is.

“You don’t even know what you’ve done [wrong],” he added, saying that the public should stay tuned to see their motions “attacking” the ethics act’s issues.

In a press conference shortly afterwards, Limestone County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Stephen Young stressed that Blakely continues to serve as the sheriff and that the department’s operations will not be affected by the ongoing legal situation.

Young also cautioned people about utilizing indictments as indicators of guilt.

“A grand jury indictment is not a conviction,” Young advised. “In fact, it’s the process typically used when an agency cannot obtain enough probable cause to obtain its own warrant. As Sheriff Blakely once told me, ‘You can indict a ham sandwich.’”

Watch:

Blakely served in the U.S. Marine Corps and as an Alabama State Trooper before becoming the county sheriff in 1983. He has also served as an officer in the Alabama National Guard.

McDaniel said it is an “honor” to represent the sheriff and that he is “proud” to defend Blakely against the charges.

The attorney noted that Blakely “absolutely” intended to continue serving. The sheriff was back at work immediately after posting bond on Thursday.

A Democrat, Blakely is the longest-serving sheriff in state history. He won the statewide “Bobby Timmons Sheriff of the Year Award” as recently as 2017.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Alabama postpones 50th anniversary tour over singer’s health

Country band Alabama says it is postponing the remainder of its 50th anniversary tour as lead singer Randy Owen battles health complications.

The group announced Wednesday that the 69-year-old Owen is suffering from migraines and vertigo, and doctors say he needs more time to recover.

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The news comes after a string of already-canceled shows due to the singer’s health.

Bass player and vocalist Teddy Gentry wrote in a statement that though he and the rest of the band are disappointed, Owen’s recovery is the priority.

The 50-city tour was scheduled through Nov. 23, where it would have ended in Salisbury, Maryland.

Rescheduled dates will be released in the coming weeks.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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How Alabama’s Iron Tribe Fitness sets the standard for group workouts

Iron Tribe Fitness, founded in Birmingham, Alabama, is leading the way for workout programs across the nation. Ranked as one of the top five workouts in the nation, this 45-minute HIIT group workout class offers participants exciting and effective workouts in a time frame that works with any kind of schedule.

Recently, the gym hosted Coach 201, a weekend training session for their instructors in their downtown Birmingham corporate location. This session brought together all of Iron Tribe’s local coaching staff to review training guidelines and program goals.

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In hosting this training, Iron Tribe is living out their core value of delivering a consistent experience. Forrest Walden, Iron Tribe’s founder and CEO says this training session taps into the heart of what the program does — which is creating communities that change lives.

“It’s always great to see the entire team come together to fellowship and dive deep into why we do what we do every day,” Walden said.

During the training, Iron Tribe coaches were given the opportunity to learn more about the classes they teach and strengthen their relationships with each other. As a result, the coaches are empowered to return to their home gyms and lead their athletes with renewed skills and confidence.

“Kyle Sottung, our director of product development, is extremely thorough and talented at what he does. To see him lead our Birmingham coaches is always such a blessing. Our coaches are more empowered now than ever to pour into the Birmingham community,” Walden stated.

According to Walden, Iron Tribe is successful because the program is more than just a workout, but a way to strengthen the communities they serve.

“Iron Tribe stands on a list off essential core beliefs. These beliefs steer what we do every day, both inside and outside the gym. It’s our hope that by continuing to develop ourselves that we can be exceptional coaches and role models within our communities,” Walden said.

Ready to get in the best shape of your life? Learn more by visiting irontribefitness.com.