Indianapolis archdiocese resettles family from Syria, defying governor

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Then U.S. Representative Mike Pence arrives for a news conference  at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on December 2, 2010. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-INDIANA-GOP, originally transmitted on March 31, 2015.

Then U.S. Representative Mike Pence arrives for a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on December 2, 2010. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-INDIANA-GOP, originally transmitted on March 31, 2015.

(Reuters) The Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis has resettled a family from Syria over the objections of Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who was sued for refusing to allow refugees fleeing the country to come to the state.

The father, mother and two children arrived in Indianapolis on Monday night after two years of security checks by the U.S. government, which asked the archdiocese to assist in resettling the family, the archdiocese said in a statement on Tuesday.

 Then U.S. Representative Mike Pence arrives for a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on December 2, 2010. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-INDIANA-GOP, originally transmitted on March 31, 2015.

Then U.S. Representative Mike Pence arrives for a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on December 2, 2010. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-INDIANA-GOP, originally transmitted on March 31, 2015, or with RNS-INDI-SYRIA, originally transmitted on Dec. 9, 2015.

Helping people flee violence is an “essential part of our identity as Catholic Christians and we will continue this life-saving tradition,” the statement said, adding that the family has relatives in the area.

Pence and more than 25 other U.S. governors, mostly Republicans, have publicly called on President Barack Obama to stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees following the Nov. 13 Islamic State attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

“The governor holds Catholic Charities in the highest regard but respectfully disagrees with their decision to place a Syrian refugee family in Indiana at this time,” Pence said in a statement.

Pence’s critics argue that his efforts to bar the Catholic Church from aiding refugees puts him on the other side of the religious liberty battle that he waged earlier this year when he signed a law that could allow businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of religious freedom.

Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin said he had met with Pence and explained to him the plight of the family and the role of the archdiocese’s Refugee and Immigrant Services program.

The American Civil Liberties Union on Nov. 24 sued Pence in federal court over his refusal to allow refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war to resettle in the state, saying his position violates federal authority and the U.S. Constitution.

On Wednesday, the ACLU requested the court to order Pence to suspend his attempt at refusing resettlement in his state.

A similar case is playing out in Texas, where on Friday the state withdrew its request for a temporary restraining order to prevent the resettlement of 21 Syrian refugees into the state, saying the U.S. government had provided it with the information it sought on the group.

(Reuters and RNS)