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August 16th, 2011
12:38 PM ET

Alabama church leaders enter immigration law fray

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - The latest voice in the debate over Alabama's tough new anti-illegal immigration law - considered the most restrictive in the nation - comes not from the usual activists but from a more traditionally conservative group: church leaders.

Leaders from the Episcopal, Methodist and Catholic churches of Alabama sued the state's governor, its attorney general and a district attorney this month over the law, which is to go into effect September 1.

One of the plaintiffs, Episcopal Bishop Henry Parsley Jr., said Tuesday that religious leaders were worried over a provision in the law that will make transporting or harboring unauthorized immigrants a crime.

"The Bible is clear that we are supposed to love the stranger and welcome the aliens," Parsley said. "And we feel that this law could make some of our ministries criminal activities."

Supporters of the law say it is ludicrous to imagine that a religious leader or church member would be arrested for giving a hand to those in the country illegally.

But the lawsuit states that the law is vague and does not make it clear what activities fall under the scope of the restrictions.

According to the lawsuit, "churches will perpetrate crimes by knowingly providing food, clothing, shelter and transportation to those in need without first ensuring compliance with the stipulations of the anti-immigration law. Moreover, the ministry of the churches, by providing such services to known undocumented persons, is criminalized under this law."

Another argument the church leaders make is that if compliance with the law means ascertaining people's immigration status, it would represent an infringement of their rights.

"We feel it would interfere with our freedom of expression, of our faith, and living our faith and caring for others," Parsley said.

Parsley was joined in the suit by Methodist Bishop William Willimon and two Catholic leaders, Archbishop Thomas Rodi and Bishop Robert Baker.

"I'm afraid this is a phony issue," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports the law.

"The opponents of enforcing immigration law and supporters of amnesty for illegal immigrants are using this as an emotional issue, raising this phony idea that a nun ladling out soup to an illegal alien is going to be wrestled to the ground by a SWAT team," he said.

No one, including the plaintiffs, believes that a priest or nun would be arrested for carrying out their religious duties, he said.

Human smugglers are the target of the provisions on transporting and harboring unauthorized immigrants, not the clergy, Krikorian said.

Citing the Bible to argue against the law "is a pernicious use of scripture," he said.

Indeed, the lawsuit cites scripture to make its point.

"If enforced, the law will place Alabama church members in the untenable position of verifying individuals' immigration documentation before being able to follow God's word to 'love thy neighbor as thyself,' " the lawsuit states.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Alabama • Catholic Church • Christianity

soundoff (407 Responses)
  1. docmartin

    Here's an idea- If the churches want to harbor the illegals, then they have to provide all the freebies that the taxpayers have been imposed on giving to them (ie: food stamps, health care, education, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc)

    August 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Moosquatch

      They already do, to the best of their abilities, with donations. It's called Christian charity. Ask your pastor about it sometime.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • J.W

      They arent trying to harbor them they are just trying to give them food and clothing.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Mike

      @Moosquatch, Another "Christian" that thinks they are better than everyone else.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Marina

      The Oracle called me Lame. I am depely hurt and offended and will not be taking my lame self to Starbucks for my Grande Dulche de Leche anytime soon.I also am not a fan of the color pink. I do have a pink shirt, and people always tell me it looks great on me, but I just can't get into it.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  2. WVLady63

    I have a solution to this problem. LET THE BISHOPS AND THEIR CHURCHES FEED, CLOTHE, HOUSE, EDUCATE AND PAY THE MEDICAL BILLS OF THESE ALIENS WHO ONLY COME TO AMERICA TO MANIPULATE THE SYSTEM!!!! I HOPE THE GOVERNOR STANDS FIRM! WE THE PEOPLE ARE SICK TO DEATH OF HAVING TO STAND BY AND WATCH OUR GOVERNMENT GIVE PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT TO PEOPLE WHO CAN'T EVEN SPEAK OUR LANGUAGE, HAVE NO JOBS, KEEP HAVING CHILDREN THEY CAN'T FEED AND CONTINUE TO BE AN OVERWHELMING BURDEN ON AMERICA!!!! GO HOME, WE DON'T WANT YOU HERE!!!!!

    August 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • epicjourney

      I actually think they already do feed, clothe, etc. the people, illegal or not. That is fine for them, not so fine for the state.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Moosquatch

      Maybe they'd learn English faster if we SHOUTED IT AT THEM REALLY REALLY LOOOOOUUUUD!!!!!1!11!!1!!

      August 16, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Frogist

      @WVLady63: Thanks for that prejudice-laden post. It makes me feel better for being a human being without the burden of your disgusting bias.

      August 16, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  3. joedaddy

    Does anyone know how to stop illegal immigration?? Stop hiring cheap labor workers..No jobs, no illegals..Simple..Everybody is too greedy and no one likes to work intensive labor jobs...So stop crying and complaining. You can't have it both ways...

    August 16, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • John

      Big article in the Milwaukee newspaper a couple of weeks ago, about problems dairy farmers would have with complying with requirements to verify alien status. They felt they'd lose up to 40% of their workers when it was determined that they are illegal, and it would kill their business. If anyone thinks conservatives want to end illegal immigration they've got another thing coming. GW wanted to make it easier to gain legal status, not because of any sense of compassion, but because businesses depend on that source of labor. If there are no jobs there will be no illegal immigration. They don't come here to live on welfare as it makes it easier to be discovered and deported.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  4. epicjourney

    Political move by a religious group. So what happened with separation of church and state? Is that just Dem BS when it doesn't go their way? Hypocritical.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Luke

      if the church want to have a say in the political debate, i say have them pay the price of admission like everyone else, TAX'em!

      August 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Moosquatch

      The point is valid, no matter what right-wing religious nutbag raises it.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • aubrie

      Couldn't agree more.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Evelyn

      I'm not sure which large file is slowing down the home page, but wehchiver one it is freezes the screen for about 60 seconds. Based on past download times, my prime suspect is the system map that's included in the August 30 Restoration Missouri System Map Now Available post from about a week ago. And since the screen freezes, I can't scroll down to see which file is actually laoding / is the culprit. Once that post goes away (as new ones are added), I'll let you know if load speeds return to normal . Thanks!

      September 6, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  5. Bo

    I believe they are taking the text out of context. A sojouner in not a crimnal, but a welcome visitor.who has no intentions of staying a long time. What does the word illegal mean? I'm sure there must be a lot of mixed emotions, because they are trying to help someone that needs help, but that is illegal too. But are they not illegal by their own choice?

    August 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • epicjourney

      D'oh – illegal means they are in the country by criminal means. They crashed the party or they over stayed a visa (fraud).

      August 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Don Johnson

      These people always try to give their own interpretation to justify their actions. Love your neighbor means love your neighbor. What part of LOVE THY NEIGHBOR YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND??????

      August 16, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Stevie7

      @epicjourney – entering the country illegally is not criminal – it does not violate criminal law, it violates administrative law. Thus the punishment is not jail, but deportation.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Moosquatch

      @ Bo, and Epicjourney:
      The point the pastors and ministers are trying to make here is, if they provide assistance to someone, because that's part of their duty to church and to Christ, and they DON'T check the person's immigration status, or heavens forfend, the person misrepresents or doesn't understand what they're talking about, under the new law, they (the ministers and pastors) are therefore criminally culpable. This law is forcing EVERYONE, not just pastors and ministors, but EVERYONE into the role of immigration enforcement.
      Consider this: You are driving down the road and come across a traffic accident and people are hurt. Let's say you stop and render aid, which if your state has a Samaritan law you are required to do. Under this new law, you must now check the accident victims' immigration status, because if you help them, even by calling an ambulance, and they are illegal, guess what? You just became a criminal!
      Does this make it any clearer to you whatsoever?

      August 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  6. sameeker

    The Bible also says to take all that you have and give unto the poor. Couldn't you just see the mega churches doing that?

    August 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  7. What's wrong with obeying the law?

    If you break the law, you should pay the price. I realize all religious kooks, Christians and Muslims alike, think laws shouldn't apply to them, but in America the law applies – or SHOULD apply – to everyone. If you think you're above the law just because of your religion, you're a fanatic who should be locked up before you hurt someone.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  8. HotAirAce

    Laws should be completely ignorant of tribal belief systems. Anyone *knowningly* breaking the law should suffer the consequences of their actions.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  9. Sean Russell

    Bishops get involved in politics. Tell everybody to vote republican or else. Now, they don't like the republican laws. Are they going to threaten people with excommunication if they vote republican now?
    Exactly why these jokers should stay out of politics- or pay taxes.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  10. Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

    I find it interesting how church people seem to feel they are above the law???????????????

    August 16, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  11. budd

    So our loving christian leaders are suing Alabama not to protect the poor illegal immigrant but to protect their own butts. I say fine give them a statue that protects them then attach the death penalty to any religious cleric who molests children. See which one they want

    August 16, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  12. Gator

    I guess they are running out of American boys to fondle, so need some new ILLEGAL ones who might not be wise to them. What about the LAW?!

    August 16, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  13. Jack Miller

    It's silly that Alabama – quite possibly the most undesirable state in the Union – is trying to keep ANYBODY out of their state. If anything, they should be on their knees thankful that ANYBODY – illegal or not – would want to live in that dump of a state.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Rea

      You obviously haven't been to Mississippi or West Virginia.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Bluewing1800

      I once felt the same way about Alabama until I moved here 4 years ago. I would just as soon that anyone not living here, stay away. Nothing like people with morales, hard working, and greatful for what they earn, that folks from Alabama.

      The Bible says to OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND. I guess that is a part of the scripture that the alleged "Men of God" failed to read,

      As a Minister of the Gospel, I can tell you, without hesistation, that there are far more Ministers of the Gospel, in the Great State of Alabama, that support the Governor and the Immigration Law.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Stevie7

      "The Bible says to OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND. I guess that is a part of the scripture that the alleged "Men of God" failed to read,"
      ----
      Your bible also depicts how your supposed savior kept company with people who didn't necessarily obey the laws of the land. Or did you think that the sermon on the mount had caveats?

      August 16, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  14. TriplA

    Yank the church's tax exemption. They don't deserve it.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Dom

      I'm glad someone else finally sees the logic in taxing the church

      August 16, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  15. God

    Will you morons down in Alabama quit giving me a bad name?

    August 16, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Sally Clyde

      And all the angels sang, "Amen!"

      August 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  16. sunsudo

    Where are my libtard dems on seperation of church and state on this one. ( and all you can hear are crickets)

    August 16, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Ken

      Fine, I'll bite. Religious groups' beliefs should not have any bearing on law. I don't care if it's the Catholic Church, the Branch Dividian, or voodoo cults. I guess that makes me a "libtard" by your definition. Sorry that there are actually people that think the way I do as I know it's inconvenient for you.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Moosquatch

      I'll repost this here so as not to tax your little scrolling finger:
      The point the pastors and ministers are trying to make here is, if they provide assistance to someone, because that's part of their duty to church and to Christ, and they DON'T check the person's immigration status, or heavens forfend, the person misrepresents or doesn't understand what they're talking about, under the new law, they (the ministers and pastors) are therefore criminally culpable. This law is forcing EVERYONE, not just pastors and ministors, but EVERYONE into the role of immigration enforcement.
      Consider this: You are driving down the road and come across a traffic accident and people are hurt. Let's say you stop and render aid, which if your state has a Samaritan law you are required to do. Under this new law, you must now check the accident victims' immigration status, because if you help them, even by calling an ambulance, and they are illegal, guess what? You just became a criminal!
      Does this make it any clearer to you whatsoever?

      August 16, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  17. Mark

    Church leaders why dont you sue the inside pedophiles in the chruch rather than going after the state that is prosecuting ILLEGAL activities.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Mike

      Right on.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  18. Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

    Sounds like the churches need to get out of the smuggling business. The mythical book has no bearing on law.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Boo on you

      True that. If you're an illegal, you're breaking the law. If you harbor illegals, then you're doing worse.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  19. derp

    Leviticus (19:33-4):"And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself."

    looks like you jeebus lovers are going to have to be cool with Mexicans, or you are going straight to hell right along with the gays.

    August 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      Let's look at the context of that. What immigration laws existed during the writing of Deutoronomy? Probably none. Here is a scripture that is more appropriate to what we're talking about.

      Romans 13:4-5 "For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience."

      August 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • just me

      Romans 13 1-7

      August 16, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • derp

      "Let's look at the context of that. What immigration laws existed during the writing of Deutoronomy? Probably none"

      Oh, so the bible does not apply anywhere we have modern US laws. That's funny, I thought it was the absolute word of god. My bad.

      So if gay marriage is legal, as in NY, then the bible passages with regards to ho mos exuality no longer apply?

      Awesome, I am so looking forward to christians embracing ho mos exuals as they deport illegal christian straight Mexicans.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  20. Glad I don't live there

    Once again, Alabama proves what a backwards shithole it is.

    August 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Mike

      If you don't like Alabama because it's trying to do what the Federal government is not doing with respect to illegals, why don't you go live in Mejico. Or even Texas, for all his talking Perry has left the door wide open. Even offered in-state tuition to illegals.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • just me

      @mike: Amen to that!

      August 16, 2011 at 1:27 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.