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. Garfield

    Church is so overrated, tax them! Send them to Mexico to do their work there, they need it!!

    August 16, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  2. mvirgo

    Say a prayer for the illegals as they cart their illegal asses off.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • tellyou1nce

      now you're talking!

      August 16, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  3. aubrie

    Did I miss something??? I thought we had separation of church and state???? If I were a judge, I'd throw it out of court on that alone.... this is now oozing into dangerous territory...

    August 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • AbeFroman

      Absolutely agree. These guys are idiots.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • dan

      yes, you did miss something. this has nothing to do with separation of church and state. the fact that the men are religious does not mean they cannot sue in a legal court. seriously, i can't believe we have to have this conversation.

      the question is simple: if the law prohibits anyone from harboring or abetting an illegal alien, if they did not know the person was illegal, then what ramifications does it have for charitable organizations such as churches?

      the gentleman from the "center for immigration studies" (a nice, non-partisan name for a very partisan group) is wrong when he says the 'abetting' and 'transportation' clauses are only meant to apply to human traffickers. that would be true if housing your mother was considered trafficking.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • RMohrUAB

      You didn't miss anything. Chritianity is just continuing to master the art of politics. They want to be separate when it benefits them and they want to be able to jump in and b**** when it doesn't.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Polopoint

      Trampling on free speech is also oozing into dangerous territory.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Polopoint

      Who's an idiot? And why? Standing up for disadvantaged is idiotic? That line of thinking seems idiotic to me.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  4. ScipioRising

    Typical church crap. They are afraid of losing a growing base of revenue. Church is about nothing more than money, control and power. If they can control you then they get your money and have power. Screw'em let the church support all the illegals.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Polopoint

      Sounds like you have some issues yourself.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Rich Gerhold

      Not all churches are evil or corrupt.

      Your statement is a clear example of ignorance.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  5. TheBuckStopsHere

    And they wonder why people are leaving the church.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • tellyou1nce

      Actually, it's because people are much better educated now days.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  6. Ognywogny

    Back @ you DamianKnight: You look at context. The OT laws were laws for a whole society, like – ours!. You do love your Romans 13, but how about evil government, like in Revelations. Or said, otherwise "... we must obey God rather than man".
    Acts 5:29

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

      Once again. CONTEXT. Look at that story in Acts 5:29. In this case, the Sanhedrin were telling the disciples NOT to preach the word of God (a direct violation of God's law.) Obviously, if a law is directly against the word of God, we obey God over man. We also see this in the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

      However, in the context of immigration, the government has the right to enforce its own borders. That's not against the word of God, so Christians should adhere to it. Want to change it? By all means, appeal it to the authorities and see if you can get it changed, but obey the law (as long as it doesn't directly oppose the word of God) in the meantime.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Hooligan

      I like this "we" stuff... did it ever occur to you that not all of us believe in god? I sure don't.... and I dont appreciate YOUR right to practice your faith over MY right not to and the rights of everyone else have they faith or not by ignoring the fact that just because the Bible (YOUR faith) should not affect the rest of us. (WHICH IT IS)

      August 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  7. Religion + State = Medieval Times

    As long as the governments have laws that don't put someone in direct conflict with God's, "Christians" must obey them...

    Matthew 8:20 "And he said to them: “Whose image and inscription is this?” 21 They said: “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” ...this applies to more than just taxes.

    A true "Christian's" hope does not lie in these times so therefore we do not meddle in it's affairs as if to change it and make it a better place...

    John 18:36 "Jesus answered: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source."

    That's not to say that we don't care, simply that this world is not controlled by Jesus nor are we going to "fix it...

    John 12:31 "Now there is a judging of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out."...who rules it? Hint; it’s not Jesus.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  8. Conrad Shull

    The law may be bad law, but it takes quite a stretch of legal imagination to claim that "ascertaining people's immigration status...would interfere with [the clergy's] freedom of expression".

    August 16, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  9. Jenny

    Most churches create their own policies and rules in support of illegal and criminal activity in the guise of following scriptures. They have proven to be extremely manipulative to the detriment to the status of our economy, to the legal citizens needing employment, to the large number of prisons overpopulated with criminals that did not productively enter the workforce because of the illegal immigrants taking the "jobs that nobody wanted" and much much more. These religious leaders support illegal immigrants entering the country ILLEGALLY and they support criminal activity by having their pedofile priests and religious waive imprisonment by the state and federal laws and allowing these same pedofiles to continue their practice in other parishes, communties and by simply relocating them to other destinations and with children while at the same time putting the victims through decades of torment suffering mental, physical and personal financial loss (before and after hiring attorney representation.) Depending on what version of the bible references "aliens" or "strangers" these verses vary. If you want to help them, then help them by legal means. If you help a criminal or an illegal immigrant, you are in violation of the laws regardless of whether you are religious are not religious or a church member or not a church member.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • aubrie


      August 16, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • tellyou1nce

      Well said!!!

      August 16, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  10. roadrunner

    Thank god, we live in a country that allows States to decide how they want to run their lives. For all of those who do not like what Alabama is doing, don't go there, and if you are there MOVE for GOD's Sake.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Hooligan

      did you even read the article? a CHURCH is suing the STATE of Alabama.... this is not a state choice this is a CHURCH opinion and lawsuit.. a frivolous one at that, and the church has no place suing the state to begin with as there is a very clear law about the church staying out of political and law related affairs.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  11. coy4one

    God's love and charity has no borders, no politics, and no restrictions...."Where a group of people gather in my name...." For the government to determine any of this would be in contradiction with the bible and its teachings.

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

      gods love has no boarders.... unless you are a jew, a muslim, a Buddhist, a hindu or don't believe in god.

      Your god certainly has conditions for his love and acceptance and our country certainly has boarders and rules.

      get over it

      August 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Rich Gerhold

      It would seem to me that you do not understand the bible at all. God has love for all people, be they Jewish, Gentiles, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, and even people who worship Satan.

      Christianity says nothing about God only loving Christians.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  12. RIALgal

    The Alabama law says something to the effect that one should ask to see “papers” of someone who is suspected of being an illegal immigrant. The answer is quite simple for those who oppose the law – simply don’t suspect anyone of being illegal. Having an accent or being of a certain ethnicity in no way indicates that the person is “illegal.” To suspect such a person is profiling which is both immoral and illegal.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  13. docmartin

    One more solution: Enforce the friggin immigration laws!!!!!!!!

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

      You mean...enforce the laws...that we established? Nah, it'll never work. 🙂

      August 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  14. Hooligan

    Hold on... a church is trying to sue the state (a process upheld by legal courts which is a part of the government) for upholding laws to protect the rights of citizens under the guise of faith? THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE WAS INSTILLED FOR A REASON. So basically the church is using the law against the government to enforce it's religious principles?

    August 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  15. DWTT

    'Down with the trinity'

    @DamianKnight – Your ignorance grossly abuses Romans by assuming the authors context is the same as ours. "Let's look at the context of that." Well, I'll pass because the "you're 'right' and 'everyone else is wrong'" permeates from your post.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  16. Solomon Davis

    The bishops need more sheep to molest.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  17. Chris0369

    Religious "leaders" are only involved cause of money. American attendance in churches is dwindling. Illegal aliens coming from Mexico are devoted Catholics who continue to contribute their offerings to the church. I#seperationofchurchandstate

    August 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  18. Don Johnson

    Yeah, the governor was talking about Jesus one day, and 3 weeks after that signs this anti-Christian law... Go figure! Oh yeah, he was talking about Jesus so he could attract the votes and money of the white people, but then signs into law what he really has in his heart.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • tellyou1nce

      Do you know Gov Bentley? I didn't think so. Politicians in the south get voted on for their religous beliefs. This is the bible belt..... read, read, read before you type unintelligent remarks about people you know nothing about.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  19. Anthony Q

    Shouldn't this guy be out molesting children or something?

    August 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  20. DorkMike

    Churches like illegal immigrants )and poor ppl in general) for the same reasons politicians do. It doesn't take much to buy their vote (or soul). And they're usually using someone else's money to buy them, anyway. That is what the entire immigration issue is all about. Paying for a cheap labor pool for business, with taxpayer dollars.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:32 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.