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July 14th, 2010
02:11 PM ET

Congress debates biblical stance on immigration

Congress tackled the role of religion and ethics in the politically explosive immigration debate Wednesday as biblical passages and church doctrines were invoked during a heated discussion of various reform proposals.

The argument exposed a sharp philosophical divide on an issue that has taken center stage in the wake of Arizona's passage of a controversial law designed to crack down on illegal immigration.

"We are so far apart philosophically," one Democratic congresswoman said, that it's hard to see how a middle ground can be found.

The debate occurred during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing featuring Richard Land, a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention; Bishop Gerald Kicanas from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Mathew Staver, dean of the Liberty University law school; and James Edwards Jr., a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies.

"Immigration is ultimately a humanitarian issue since it impacts the basic rights and dignity of millions of persons and their families," Kicanas said. "As such, it has moral implications, especially how it impacts the basic survival and decency of life experienced by human beings like us. ... Our current immigration system fails to meet the moral test of protecting the basic rights and dignity of the human person."

Kicanas, who is bishop of the Catholic archdiocese in Tucson, Arizona, noted that thousands of men, women and children have died in the desert over the past decade trying to cross from Mexico into the United States.

The current law has to be changed, he said. "Because of a broken system, immigrant families are being separated. Migrant workers are subject to
exploitation by unscrupulous employers, and those attempting to find work by
coming north are being abused and taken advantage of by human smugglers."

Most illegal migrants are coming "not for nefarious purposes," but to reconnect with family members or find work, he asserted. "Church teaching acknowledges and upholds the right of a nation to control its borders. (But) it is our view that the best way to secure our southern border is through (comprehensive) immigration reform."

But Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the Judiciary Committee's top Republican, repeatedly cited passages from the Bible in support of a stronger crackdown on illegal immigration.

"The Bible contains numerous passages that support the rule of law," he asserted. "The scriptures clearly indicate that God charges civil authorities
with preserving order, protecting citizens and punishing wrongdoers."

Smith cited, among other things, Romans 13: "Let every person be subject to governing authorities."

He also noted a passage from Leviticus: "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong." This, he contended, does not imply that "foreigners should disregard civil laws to enter (the country) or that we should overlook it when they do."

Addressing a passage from Matthew 25 about caring for "the least of these my brothers," Smith contended that it "advocates individual acts of kindness (but) does not mandate a public policy."

"Americans need not repent for wanting to uphold the rule of law and provide jobs for legal workers," he said. "A truly Christian moral approach would be not to acquiesce to illegal immigration, but to work to end it."

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, argued that the government is fundamentally "a reflection of who we are," and that there should therefore be little distinction between individual and governmental roles.

"Focus on (the undocumented) families" at the center of the debate, he said. "Let's focus on the human beings."

Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King, however, complained that for many reform advocates the only "biblically acceptable option ... seems to be open borders."

"I didn't realize that the Bible barred the enforcement of immigration laws and neither did I realize that it erased borders, demanded pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants, or ... forbid the leaders of a nation from caring most about the well-being of its own citizens."

King noted approvingly that "in the land of the Bible the leaders of today's Israel (have) built border fences to protect their citizens from terrorists or illegal job seekers alike."

There is a "greater and more immediate" moral obligation to take care of
U.S. citizens first, he said.

Land asserted that while "we have a crisis," it is not insurmountable.

"I believe that Congress can and should devise a plan to bring (illegal immigrants) out of the shadows. The more protracted the delay in action the more severe the problem will become." Arizona's law is a "symptom" and a "cry for help ... because the federal government has not done its duty" to control the border.

"Some people would argue that it's immoral to enforce our nation's laws," he argued. "I don't think it's fair and I don't think it's right." But once the border is secured, "I believe we have to have a six- to nine-month grace period for people who are here in an undocumented status to come forward, to register, to agree to pay fines, to pay back taxes, to undergo a background check, to learn to read, write (and) speak English, to pass a test that they've done so, and (to) go to the back of the line so that they are not being rewarded."

Turning to conservative critics of the current reform effort, Land said that he does "not believe that you can strain the English language into saying that is amnesty."

CNN's Alan Silverleib and the CNN Wire Staff contributed to this report

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Politics

soundoff (624 Responses)
  1. Muhammad

    The only way to be saved, is by believing that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead. Believe, and you are saved! It is that sipmle When you believe in Jesus, then you are given the Holy Spirit. You can pray and ask Jesus for more filling of the Holy Spirit if you like, but it is believing that Jesus died for your sins and believing that Jesus rose from the dead, that saves you Salvation is a FREE GIFT that happens in a split second when you believe in Jesus alone to save you! It is impossible to lose or leave salvation (John 6:39-40, 1 John 5:13). The truth about Jesus is that the only way to be saved and to get into heaven and avoid being sent to eternal hell, is by believing in faith alone that Jesus, who is God, died for our sins on the cross as FULL PAYMENT for all our sins, and then Jesus rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Believe this and you will be in heaven, no matter what! Please pray now: Jesus, please forgive me of my sins. I believe that You died on the cross for my sins and You rose from the dead. Thank You for eternal life! You will be in heaven with Him forever when you die.

    April 1, 2012 at 2:41 am |
  2. The Truth

    testing please ignore:

    @ Craig: "I agree with Huckabee, We have no right to question OBAMAS Faith, that is between Him and God.. We do have the right to judge his fruits, what he says, if it lines up with the Word of God. Which his latest decision on marriage equality does not."

    So you mean that his latest decision to not discriminate against people isn't in line with the Bible? Do unto to others as you would want them to do unto you? So you wish you couldn't be married?

    None of that even begins to talk about how there is Separation of Church and State in this country. Obama and every President's job is to follow the Const-itutional laws of the land, not to impose religious beliefs (or more apropos not to impose religious discriminatory tactics).

    Ho-mos-exuals are treated as second class citizens by many in this country because of people like yourselves. Sure, people have become more tolerant, but they are still not treated equally as our the basis for what our country was founded upon. "ALL men are created equal," not "straight men," "not "tall men," not "Asian men," but rather "ALL men" and they are enti-tled to "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." In any event, staying away from the political side of it, ironically it is the Christian right that does not want gay marriages.

    Christians believe it is a sin and they take a handful of passages out of the Bible, pretend that they are 100% correct in their interpretation of it and that makes it OK to look down upon the gays. Then there are the people that say, "Marriage No, but Civil Union Yes." I've heard that before... "White Drinking Fountain over here, Black Drinking Fountain over there."

    It is common perception that we are well past that stage in our nation's history, but clearly we are not. We are still living in a society where some groups of people do not have the same rights as others thanks to the massive xenophobia of some.

    How many people did Jesus discriminate against in the Bible again?

    The mere notion that the Bible is clear about gay marriage is hilarious. The Bible isn't clear about hardly anything... in fact it contradicts itself starting in THE VERY FIRST TWO CHAPTERS of Genesis when the order of creation is mixed up to having only 2 of the 4 Gospel writers bothering to talk about the birth of Jesus (and those two accounts conflict with each other while also providing timelines which make it impossible for Jesus to have been born based on their accounts) to 3 of the 4 Gospel writers not agreeing on what the final words of Jesus were. If I saw the Son of God die right in front me, I think I'd remember his last words verbatim.... wouldn't you?

    I'm sure all of you will agree that God also created sheep. Jesus called himself the "Shepherd" and referred to us as his "Sheep." With that in mind, science has proven that around 8% of all male sheep are gay. Jesus could have just as easily chosen "I am the mountain and you are the pebbles" but he specifically did not. In fact, shepherds have known about gay sheep for a long time and even have their own name for them calling them "shy breeders." Thus, it would make sense that shepherds back in Jesus' day would have been certainly been aware of this fact as well. So did God just mess up or was Jesus simply a dolt who couldn't make a proper analogy? If God and Jesus are omniscient and omnipotent, then surely they would have been aware of this. Thus, maybe it is YOU that is the one who has it all backwards with regard to the gay issue.

    If God hated ho-mos-exuality so much, then he wouldn't have created gay sheep and a host of other gay mammals (including all of those with the utmost brain power in the animal kingdom). He also would have made it one of the Ten Commandments, yet he thought it was worse to covet your neighbor's possessions than to be gay. Oh yeah, and the Romans and Greeks were having ho-mos-exual s-ex with CHILDREN well before Jesus ever set foot on the Earth and yet Jesus "coincidentally" doesn't talk about the horrors of ho-mos-exuality over and over again as he does with other recurring themes in the Bible.

    None of this even begins to talk about the simple fact that if God was REALLY so abhorred by ho-mos-exuality, he simply wouldn't have made the "parts" fit. This is precisely why we don't have "nostril s-ex." Oral s-ex isn't used for procreation, yet the vast, vast majority of Christian couples practice this. Good thing there is no hypocrisy there.

    As for the interpretation of the Bible and its "clear" message about ho-mos-exuality, it also COMMANDS you to kill everyone that works on Sundays, to kill children who talk back to their parents, etc, etc, etc... yet I don't see you running around doing that now do I? In fact, it commands you to kill these same ho-mos-exuals you are discriminating against, yet you aren't out doing that either. Must be nice to cherry pick out the parts of the Bible that fit your own mental schemas to cover up your blatant xenophobia.

    Get a clue and stop hiding your discrimination toward others that are different from yourselves by crouching behind your 2,000 year old book written by men who would have still believed the Earth to be flat and think for yourself.

    The irony is that these are God's children that you are discriminating against.

    I was on a different site before coming here and they limited character counts in posts and so I created a site to be able to answer their questions and respond with links instead. This link below uses the word "Catholic" but just replace that with "Christian" because this particular topic applies to both. So please feel free to read about what your God REALLY thinks about ho-mose-xuality based on PHYSICAL things that HE created. As the phrase goes, "Actions speak louder than words," so take a few minutes of your life and educate yourself as to what God actually created:

    http://uscatholic.yuku.com/topic/21

    Peace to all.

    February 25, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  3. The Truth

    testing please ignore

    If people are able to re-examine their thoughts from scratch with an open mind, they'll see this to be true. In above example, both the prost-itute and the po-rn star are doing THE EXACT SAME THING, yet one is deemed "legal" and one is deemed "illegal." (None of that even begins to talk about how making prost-itution illegal creates a circle of crime with dangerous weapons, encourages pimps to exist, we as a society get no income tax from their "work," it encourages the spread of S-TD's/HIV, encourages drug use, the women get no medical insurance, it dramatically reduces underage/child prost-itutes and the s-ex slave trade, etc, etc, etc)

    ~~ 2) Warren Jeffs is a sc-umbag and this article only touches on the tip of the iceberg with him.

    ~~ 3) The fact that this clown can regain control of his church WHILE IN JAIL speaks volumes as to the strength of the cult. Now, if the Pope were in jail with Jeffs (where they both should be), who here thinks that the Pope wouldn't be able to regain control of the Catholic Church from jail? LOL Of course he could because he runs a cult as well. If the Pope ever got put in jail, Catholics would STILL follow what he says from his jail cell. That is a cult at its finest.

    Peace!

    February 24, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  4. The Truth

    testing please ignore

    Another real life analogy of this type of "logic" revolves around prost-itution. It goes to illustrate the ridiculous nature of what is "legal" and what is "illegal." Let's compare a woman getting paid by a man to have s-ex in the privacy of her hotel room with a co-ndom versus a woman getting paid by a man to have s-ex with multiple partners without co-ndoms that will be released on DVD for the public. The first item is "illegal" as she is deemed a "prost-itute," but the second one is perfectly "legal" as she is an "adult film actress." Thus, the terms legal and illegal are what's really BS.

    February 24, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  5. The Truth

    testing please ignore

    I've got three things to say about this:

    ~~ 1) WHY IS POLYGAMY ILLEGAL???? This is ABSOLUTELY absurd. This is how backward our society is. If a man wants to have multiple wives or if a woman wants to have multiple husbands (Polyandry), then they should be able to do so as our country is founded upon the principles of freedom.

    So this is what our society says:

    Person X: Let's say it is Bill Paxson from the TV show Big Love. What he has done by marrying multiple wives, despite his family GREATLY caring for his the family unit as a whole, is illegal.

    Person Z: Let's say it is Hugh Heffner. He can do the EXACT same thing as Person X, but without some piece of paper "officially" saying they are married, and it is perfectly legal.

    For all intents and purposes, they are doing the same thing.

    Another real life analogy of this type of "logic" revolves around prost-itution. It goes to illustrate the ridiculous nature of what is "legal"

    February 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  6. The Truth

    testing please ignore
    rubbed elbows with some of the greatest minds in our lifetimes. He recently published an article in the Boston Globe calling marijuana a "wonder drug" that can be used to heal all sorts of ailments. If Jesus and his followers were anointing new potential members with the oil, this could have cured many of the ailments for a variety of reasons (both from a physical and mental standpoint). While they were touching the oil to anoint others, they too would feel the effects of it as it was absorbed through the skin.

    February 24, 2011 at 4:43 am |
  7. The Truth

    testing please ignore

    To make a long story short, Ruck and others believe that Jesus and his followers could have been baptized to wash off cannabis oil. I know, that sounds far fetched (I laughed at first myself), but reading the whole concept from start to finish and the facts that he backs it up with, the case is pretty interesting to say the least. "Christ" itself means "the anointed (one)" (e.g. Cannabis oil) and thus it could be a double entendre of sorts or just that we perceive it to have a different meaning.

    February 24, 2011 at 4:42 am |
  8. The Truth

    testing please ignore

    marijuana

    February 24, 2011 at 4:41 am |
  9. The Truth

    testing only, please ignore

    That feeling is once again mutual.

    My goal here is not "convert" people to agnosticism, atheism, etc. My goal is simply to get people to think for themselves. You remind me a lot of myself at one point in time. I grew up Catholic from Day 1 and so I was brainwashed from Day 1. Yet when you are in that environment, it is hard to realize that. As time went on, I started to question things, but in the end, I'd always end up back with the Church because of the fear and guilt they instilled in me from an early age. Items that started pushing me over the edge were the fact that I realized that they were only giving me part of the story. They NEVER talked about contradictions and instead just "spun" the stories as they saw fit. They also never taught all of the Bible, just the parts they cherry picked out. My brother became a Born-Again Christian and I remember asking him, "What happens if a child is born in the mountains of Tibet and never hears about the Bible before he/she dies." He immediately responded back with, "They go to hell." This seemed so absurd to me that I started to think more and more about religion as a whole. Then when I finally realized how hypocritical the Church was, I realized that I could no longer in good conscience be associated with them (and I doubt Jesus would want to be associated with them at this point either).

    Now keep in mind, this was NOT an easy move to make. I had a ton of fear and guilt looming over me. Yet as time went on, I realized I was MUCH happier not being held under their proverbial thumb. You have just as good of a chance of "correctly" interpreting the Bible as do I or as does the Pope or as does a homeless man. With that in mind, there was no need for me to allow them to have their thoughts dictate my life. Just because I don't have the label "Catholic" or "Christian" associated with me, doesn't stop me from doing good things. I never realized how heavy of a burden that guilt and fear was until I removed it. And to be honest, there are still random times when it creeps back in and I have to use logic and reason to dispel it.

    In the end, there are countless viewpoints that we can hold. I want to challenge my viewpoints constantly. 90%+ of the time when I listen to and/or read expert viewpoints on various subjects, they are from the opposite side of what I currently believe is most likely the case. I no longer have the need to have continual re-piti-tion from a bunch of people that agree with my point of view. What good does that do me? I want to read people who disagree with me in order to attempt to prove my own beliefs to be false. If my beliefs were false, then I change my belief schema to get back in touch with reality... it does me no good whatsoever to hold false beliefs. Thus, challenging one's belief schema is really a win/win scenario.

    February 22, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • The Truth

      testing please ignore

      *
      ****Made no sense, then the whole purgatory thing, having people pray for us to get to heaven, mortal and vienal sin, all seemed to deny that Christ did what he said(cleansed us from all sin), by thier standards. Sin is sin...how can we label it? If your broke one commandment, you have broken them all!***

      LOL... true.

      *** What is going on today in the CC, all the scandal of the molestor priests, and the infiltration by the Mafia, who used the Vatican for money laundering, (yes, its true,lol, google it) and again, all covered up. Yet, people still defend the cover ups. I cannot knowingly be a part of an insti-tution that allows this behavior. Otherwise, I am as guilty So, thats a little of why I am out of the Catholic Church.***

      I couldn't have said it better myself. :)

      ***I also want to keep myself open to all things and points of view, for that is how we learn. Otherwise there is no criteria to grow by. I feel as you do, if we are open to learning, we need not to be afraid to look at things and can grow.***

      Kudos to you!

      ***I can never thank you enough for everything***

      Nothing to thank me for. I've just found immense peace in my religious journeys and want to impart my experiences to others in case it helps someone else.

      As I said earlier, you remind me much of myself. I was in the same spot as you after leaving the church. It was a series of several big sets of baby steps that got me to where I am now. I'm not saying that is what you should do as everyone needs to find their own path, but just feel comfortable knowing that it is fine way out here where I'm at on the religious spectrum.... it was scary to make the leap to leave the RCC and it was scary to make the leap to where I'm at now. However, only good things have resulted for me. ;)

      *** I wish you well in all your endeavors, and am looking forward to reading and talking with you under future threads! You are a wonderful person, and have a wonderful day! ***

      Very sweet of you. The feeling is certainly mutual. Have a great day! :)

      February 24, 2011 at 4:37 am |
    • The Truth

      testing please ignore

      You might also be interested in some of the "other" Gospels that were left out of the Bible. At the time, various Christian sects believed all of these left out Gospels to be true. The irony is that if the powers that be had selected the Gospels of Thomas, Mary Magdalene, James and Peter as the Canonical Gospels, then 95%+ of Christians today would consider the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to be heretical. (I talk about this very loosely in the blog site here: http://uscatholic.yuku.com/search/topic/topic/39 )

      *** After I started looking into the Catholic Church, history, ecu-menial coucils, papal authority, all of it, I knew I had to get out of there,too. I could not justify alot of thier beliefs, when I compared what Jesus said about certain things..***

      Agreed...I just did a post to CatholicMom on here earlier today saying that around 3/4 of all items in Catholicism come from pagan origins.

      ***the biggest problem I had was the Baptism as a baby saves thing. A baby cannot reason, and is sinless in the eyes of God.***

      Yep, this seems rather silly. However, the reason why they do it is to indoctrinate children from the earliest age possible and have the parents bring them to church because in the future, those children will be the ones funding their million dollar chairs.

      As yet another aside that will be probably be WAY out there for you at this point, I can offer you up the ideas of Carl Ruck. He is currently a professor at Boston University (a highly respected private university with religious affiliations) where he has expertise in Ethnobotany, Religion, Mythology, Greek Poetry and Language Training. Moreover, he received his degrees from Yale, Michigan and Harvard. Thus, I'd say this guy is pretty qualified and then some.

      February 24, 2011 at 4:38 am |
    • The Truth

      cannabis

      February 24, 2011 at 4:39 am |
  10. The Truth

    testing only, please ignore

    *** I don't usually do this, but here goes, lol. I have been reading thru your posts to others, as well as the ones you and I have engaged in. I must say of all the athiest people I have encounterd on these boards, you have my UTMOST respect! ****

    Thank you Mary... I am e-Blushing right now. That feeling is mutual.

    ****I actually was fascinated by some of the facts you pointed out (especailly about Noahs Ark and the Whales).***

    I think we were given our brains to utilize them to think for ourselves. Growing up, my father preached two things to me non-stop: Follow the Golden Rule and use Common Sense. Those were two great pieces of advice.

    ***I know what you are putting forth are not just copy and pastes from some other persons website.***

    That is a very astute observation and you would be correct. A very large percentage of what I say is original thought which is based on facts that I have obtained. I try my best to only use facts that seem fair, unbiased and from reputable sources. I don't like to go on "Godsucks.com" or "Godrules.com" or whatever because that is not unbiased material. When I need to use material that is biased, I weight it as such when I make my opinions.

    *** I know that at times we all use them, sometimes they can explain things better then we can. However, you present a debate that makes one think,,not just want to fire back a retort in defense. ***

    You should be congratulated for having the capacity to recognize and attempt this. The vast majority of people in your shoes do not.

    *** I appreciate you reponse to CatholicMom regarding myself and how we would have never left the church had we been true Catholics. You were spot on with my own feelings on the subject matter! I could not have said it better, Thank You! ***

    My pleasure. Notice how she has "conveniently" not responded. lol

    *** Now, I still believe in my God, nothing will ever change that for me ****

    And that is fine.

    *** but I can revisit some things, like the Noahs ark issue, and search for more on what you presented. I guess someimes we just take things for granted, and don't really look into them. ***

    I commend your ability to keep an open mind. Sadly that is a rare trait nowadays. Kudos to you!

    *** Thanks also for your again, well written reponse to my post above. My admiration is overwhelming even me,lol! ***

    I try my best to treat others with the same amount of respect they show me. You were thoughtful in your tone and so I responded as such. ;)

    *** I am grateful that God put you on these boards(SMILE!), you are a breath of fresh air***

    Most kind of you! I'll say that an open-minded person like yourself is a breath of fresh air from my perspective.

    *** and I have been here for awhile, not new to these threads. ***

    This site could be awesome if they changed a few things (like accounts, censorship, subscriptions to threads, etc)

    **** Peace2All is another favorite athiest of mine. If everyone was like the two of you, I am sure there would be much more civil debate, I for one am grateful for it!
    Keep up the good work, my friend! ****

    February 22, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.