Statement on the Immorality of Bringing South Vietnamese Orphans to the United States


This immediate response to the tragic crash of an “Operation Babylift” transport plane on April 4, 1975 can be understood as part of the controversial debate about that particular “rescue” effort. The crash, which occurred shortly after take-off from Saigon, killed more than 100 children, along with at least 25 of their adult escorts. The statement also suggests that opinions about Vietnamese children were inextricable from views of the Vietnam war. It made a number of points that have been repeated by critics of both international adoptions and U.S. foreign policy throughout the post-Vietnam era. For additional views, see Gloria Emerson, “Operation Babylift,” the New York Times ad about Operation Babylift, and Agency for International Development, Operation Babylift Report, 1975.

We, the undersigned professors of ethics and religion, strongly denounce the actions of President Ford and the private organizations, such as World Airways, for their planned airlifting of 2000 displaced Vietnamese children to the United States. Even though they may be motivated by good intentions, the airlift, we believe, is immoral, for the following reasons:

  1. Many of the children are not orphans; their parents or relatives may still be alive, although displaced, in Vietnam.
  2. The children will be well taken care of, even if the Thieu regime collapses, as they are already in North Vietnam and in NLF held areas of South Vietnam.
  3. The children would be happier growing up in Vietnam with Vietnamese, rather than in America with Caucasians.
  4. The only reason for bringing the children here is to salve our conscience, and children should not be used that way.

The war in Vietnam is a moral issue, and the ending of the war is a moral issue. The attitude that “we know best how to help them,” is the same attitude that sustained our immoral involvement in Vietnam for so many years. The Vietnamese children should be allowed to stay in Vietnam where they belong.

Professor Mark Juergensmeyer, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley
Professor Robert McAfee Brown, Stanford University, Stanford
Professor Charles McCoy, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley
Professor John Coleman, S.J. Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley
Professor John Bennett, Pacific School of Religion, former President, Union Theological Seminary, New York
Professor Davie Napier, President of Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley

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