- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Nearly 30 Idaho clergy and faith representatives filled Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s office on Wednesday urging the Republican to welcome all refugees and not just give preference to persecuted Christians.

“We implore you, as the leader of our state, to use your voice on behalf of our shared values, our faithful congregations, and our beautifully diverse communities and assert the need to welcome all refugees who flee the terrors of war - regardless of whatever partiality we may feel,” the group wrote in a letter dropped off at Otter’s office.

Otter recently announced that Christian refugees should be treated as a priority in the U.S. refugee program and then acknowledged his stance was discriminatory. Otter has since backed away from that claim, focusing instead on the obligation that the United States protect groups being targeted for discrimination. But his remarks have sparked alarm among the state’s faith leaders.

The Interfaith Equality Coalition, a faith-based alliance in Idaho, has attempted to meet with Otter since he made his remarks on Feb. 3, but has not yet been successful.

On Wednesday, the group decided to deliver a letter asking Otter to use his position to accept anyone who is fleeing a war-torn country. Otter wasn’t available, but spokesman Jon Hanian was called in to briefly meet with the group.

“I’m happy to convey those thoughts to him,” Hanian said.

Otter has been a growing critic of the nation’s refugee program, often expressing frustration that governors do not have authority to block refugees from settling in their communities as under the Refugee Act of 1980.

“The Christian voices among us, surrounded by our brothers and sisters of other religions, decry continuing Christian exceptionalism in our country as if Christian lives and perspectives are more valued, and Christianity as a target of war and genocide is somehow more grievous than when other people are also targeted by the evils of war, nationalism and religious extremism,” the group letter wrote.

Boise, the capital, is one of a handful of smaller U.S. cities that has accepted Syrian refugees, at 108. Most refugees in the state settle there or in Twin Falls.

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