Clergy Sues To Stop Alabama's Immigration Law

From NPR yesterday, the article below goes into detail about how Alabama's United Methodist, Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches have sued the state, arguing that the new immigration law violates their religious freedom.

 

Episcopal priest Herman Afanador, Baptist pastor Amanda Duckworth, and Methodist minister Melissa Self Patrick are part of a growing chorus of critics who say the Alabama law goes too far, criminalizing all kinds of contact with undocumented residents. It's illegal, for example, to knowingly enter into a contract with, to rent to, to harbor or to transport illegal immigrants.

 

Patrick, who runs the inner-city ministry of the United Methodist church in Birmingham, says being a good Samaritan could now be illegal.

"This new legislation goes against the tenets of our Christian faith — to welcome the stranger, to offer hospitality to anyone," she says.

 

The issue of illegal immagration in the United States is a contensious one to say the least. I think both sides have valid points that need to be heard. However, what bothers me with this article and situation is that once again, religion is enterning a fight with the wrong intentions. As the quote above suggests, this law goes against "Chrisitan faith".  Why does this law or any law that has anything to do with civil rights, have to be associated with any thing other than the basic idea of human rights? Why does the religious community feel the need to associate anything good with "chrisitian values". To me, this is nothing more than missionary work hidden behind the show of being pro illgeal immigrant rights.  Join our faith, we will stick up for your rights! is the same thing as saying, I will feed you and cloth you, but hey look at our bible and learn about the word while you are eating that bowl of rice. The idea that chrisitanity has the monopoly on morailty is hideous to me.

 

So is this debate on illegal immigration important? Yes, incredibly so. However the fact that the issue itself is now trumped by the media's coverage of "Clergy Suing Alabama" is an indicator of how misguided our media actually is.

 

Memo to Religion: STAY THE HELL OUT OF POLITICS!

 

The full article:

August 23, 2011

Alabama's new immigration law gets its first test in federal court Wednesday.

The Justice Department and civil rights groups are suing to stop what's considered to be the toughest illegal immigration crackdown coming out of the states.

But the law is also being challenged from a Bible Belt institution.

'It Goes Against Tenets Of Our Christian Faith'

At First United Methodist Church in downtown Birmingham, clergy from around the city take turns leading a prayer service called in response to the new immigration law.

Episcopal priest Herman Afanador, Baptist pastor Amanda Duckworth, and Methodist minister Melissa Self Patrick are part of a growing chorus of critics who say the Alabama law goes too far, criminalizing all kinds of contact with undocumented residents. It's illegal, for example, to knowingly enter into a contract with, to rent to, to harbor or to transport illegal immigrants.

You cannot tell a church that if there's a man hungry out there, a family hungry out there, that they can't feed them just because they don't have a green card. That's not Christian.

- Reverend Robert Lancaster of Elkmont United Methodist Church

The state's United Methodist, Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches have sued, arguing it violates their religious freedom.

Patrick, who runs the inner-city ministry of the United Methodist church in Birmingham, says being a good Samaritan could now be illegal.

"This new legislation goes against the tenets of our Christian faith — to welcome the stranger, to offer hospitality to anyone," she says.

Some here see the issue through the lens of Alabama's history, including Lawton Higgs, 71, a retired Methodist minister.

"And I'm a recovering racist, transformed by the great fruits of the civil rights movement in this city," he says.

Higgs says he and his church were on the wrong side of that moral battle in the '60s, so he is pleased to see the churches entering the fray now. He likens Alabama's immigration law to Jim Crow — legislating second-class status for illegal immigrants.

"This is an expression of the same — what was called the white Southern redeemers," he says.

'This Is An Issue Of Right And Wrong'

But supporters say that's not a fair way to look at the immigration crackdown.

"It's not about racism; it is just about citizen rights," says Shawn Shelton, who runs a Christian soccer league in Birmingham. Shelton says the current situation hurts out-of-work Alabamians, and immigrants who came here through legal avenues. He says the church lawsuit is off-base.

You can't do things to help people remain in the state illegally.

- State Sen. Scott Beason

"It's not a separation-of-church-and-state issue here. This is an issue of right or wrong. And it is an issue of peoples' rights, even more so for the illegals," he says. "Who are they going to run to and say, 'Look we're only getting paid $6 an hour with no insurance and it's all under the table?' "

On Birmingham talk radio station WAPI this week, one of the bill's sponsors, state Sen. Scott Beason, disputed claims that the law will hinder Christian ministry.

"You can't do things to help people remain in the state illegally," he says. "And that's a little different than going out and picking some kids up for vacation Bible school."

A provision to exempt churches was removed for fear it would create a loophole for labor smugglers to claim they were on the way to revival. That's left a lot of ministers to navigate difficult terrain with their congregations.

Understanding Both Sides

On Tuesday nights, member Brian Williams leads a prayer group at the Elkmont United Methodist church in North Alabama. The Rev. Robert Lancaster says the average-size congregation runs between 95 and 100 on Sunday morning. He calls it "very evangelical, traditional, conservative congregation by far."

New state laws are joining a federal effort to restrict undocumented immigrant labor.
Friends And Foes Call Alabama's Immigration Law The Nation's Toughest June 10, 2011

"We're a small country church but we're doing big things for Jesus," Williams says.

As he and Lancaster chat, Williams admits that news of the immigration lawsuit brought by his denomination and others comes as a surprise.

"I was not aware of that. I'm ashamed but I wasn't," he says. "I haven't exactly made that common knowledge. Because this is a very conservative congregation, and from the comments I've heard, I would say at least half this congregation — if not more — support the new law. So [it's] not a discussion that I really want to have at this point."

Williams says he supports the new law, especially in a time of economic uncertainty and state budget woes.

"There can't continue to be a huge influx and a tax on the system that comes out of my paycheck because we can't sustain it," he says.

Still, Lancaster understands why the United Methodist Bishop sued.

"You cannot tell a church that if there's a man hungry out there, a family hungry out there, that they can't feed them just because they don't have a green card," he says. "That's not Christian."

The churches may get clarification on the law after a Wednesday hearing in Birmingham federal court. A U.S. district judge is considering whether to stop the law from going into effect Sept. 1, while all the legal challenges are sorted out.


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