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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. Anne

    I am not a bible scholar but I do read my bible and have never read nor seen "to love the stranger and welcome the aliens". The bible tells us to love our neighbor, but it also infers that we respect the law.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • John

      Which law, God's or man's?

      August 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  2. SSampson

    The Law is stupid – It isn't about illegal immigration, it is about power and asserting it over the weak – If it was about right and wrong, this land would still belong to the Native Americans (well except for most of Texas, Arizona and California etc... which was mexican....

    That being said, Religion has its freedoms, but it needs to keep its opinoins to itself.... It has no place in the courtrooms of this land – except when it commits crimes itself – or one of its members does .... or when the Catholic confessional trys to supercede the rights of the rest of society through secrecy...

    August 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  3. JC

    Lmao... That's awesome...Alabama getting sued by religious nut jobs, join the club Alabama...bunch of hicks

    August 16, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  4. WendyG

    I have said this before and say it again – would they harbor a murderer? a thief? What's the difference – these people are here ILLEGALLY! They have broken the law! And some may say they aren't hurting anyone unlike a murderer or thief – but that's not true – they are taking jobs away from people LEGALLY here and that does hurt!! !

    August 16, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Bruce

      Exactly, WendyG. Join me in supporting the death penalty for jaywalkers, because they–just like murderers–BROKE THE LAW!!!1!1!ONE!!!

      August 16, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Billy Bob

      Don't be a Bruce Bruce. You know what she's saying. The law allows for degree. Don't justify no law at all by using extremes. What a dufus.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Bruce

      She's comparing illegal immigration to murder and I'm the one using extremes? Give me a break.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  5. Carlos Arandara

    So, let me get this right. When the teaching of the church suits your conservative view, we should have more church on our government, but when it doesnt you raise the wall of separation of church and state. Interesting! I read the law and it does nto makes provisions if you are a religious minister or organization. Its not how we feel about religious persons, but what the law says.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Publius Novus

      I think you've got it.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • RIALgal

      Agree! For those yelling separation of church and state - it goes both ways: Keep religion out of politics!! I'm sick to death of people trying to impose their version of Christianity on the rest of us. THAT's what the founding fathers meant - no government-imposed religion. There are some folks who are trying to be our leaders who obviously have forgotten that. Please keep your religion out of our government and out of my life.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  6. Katz

    Well, since the church is so rich they can take in all the illegals, pay their housing, food, schooling and healthcare. If the church feels that they should harbor law brakers that's fine. Don't expect me to put my money in the envelope every Sunday!

    August 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  7. richard

    welcome to Alabama, where you ain't Christian unless you're white, republican, baptist, speak in tongues, drink poison or handle snakes. everybody else is a wimp. You guys do remember when the UMC was racist and part of the KKK in Alabama and a Methodist minister killed a Catholic priest in the 1920s there? Some things never change.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • RMohrUAB

      Speaking of some things never change ... makes you wonder what the Catholic priest was doing ...

      August 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Keith

      You used too may words, the meaning of the word religion IS HYPOCRISY.
      The holy rollers always say that they want these illegals to have a better life and I agree with them they SHOULD have a better life IN MEXICO or wherever they come from.
      When we deport them we should give them an assault rifle and plenty of ammunition and a map to guide them to the presidential palace in MEXICIO CITY.
      The problem with Mexico in particular is NOT that Mexico is a poor country it isn't, in fact Mexico is a VERY WEALTHY country. The problem is that the government of Mexico and the ruling elite want to get rid of the poor so that they do not have to spend money providing services for them, just like the GOP in the US. The Mexican government has virtually no way of collecting taxes from the wealthy elite and so the poor get poorer and migrate to the USA.
      What Mexico needs is a good old fashioned revolution and my suggestion above would hasten that event to the benefit of the overwhelming majority of the people of Mexico. They could have Nuremberg style trials and strip the oligarchs of all their ill-gotten wealth and stop the flow of poor people to the USA. The catholic church should be at the forefront of this revolution, the pope should be at the head of the peoples army leading the assault on the presidential palace.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  8. Sean

    While we are talking about the church trying o control law… how about some taxes.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • May

      The money 'given' to churches has already been taxed.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Keith

      Do you notice that all these holy rollers quote liberally from the bible to bolster their beliefs, however they conveniently leave out all thos quotes that DO NOT support their beliefs.
      Jesus said "render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasars and render unto god that which is gods". I have never seen a clearer directive than this telling the holy rollers to PAY THEIR TAXES just like all the rest of us.
      OH! sorry, except for General Electric of course.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Keith

      May I have a bridge to sell you, you are naive in the extreme, the money I spend in the supermarket has ALREADY BEEN TAXED but I still pay Sales Tax.
      Religion is just another BUSINESS and should pay corporate taxes just the same as all other Corps. SHOULD.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  9. MrMailman

    Religious hypocrites

    August 16, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  10. wat

    i cant wait for this law to take affect!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 16, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • dan

      grammar police would like you to know that the law takes Effect. but it might adversely Affect the charities of the state.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • RMohrUAB

      @dan ... You shouldn't start a sentence with a conjunction, and the first word should be capitalized.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • dan

      @rh you most certainly can start a sentence with a conjunction. and i just did, again. but sure (oh, i did it again!), i should capitalize. meanwhile, i was at least half-joking, hence calling myself the grammar police.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • RMohrUAB

      while i didn't point it out, i felt the humor was apparent. but apparently it was not.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  11. RMohrUAB

    The humanitarian argument here is valid. No doubt.

    HOWEVER ... "making what we do illegal" is not grounds to sue. Every law makes the activity of some group of people illegal.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Billy Bob

      No it isn't. There's nothing in the law that says you can't give someone food, drink, or temporary shelter. This is all bunk. The law is geared to stopping those who aid illegals in carrying out their illegal activities and advancing their goal of staying in the U.S. illegally. No one would fault the churches if they provided food or water to someone in need. However, helping the illegals to stay illegal in the long term is wrong. This is just a smoke screen for the liberal social justice agenda of the churches. It's all a bunch of bull.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • dan

      Liberal social justice agendas?! Oh my!

      Heaven forbid social justice be on the agenda.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Kevin

      It is, however, when the new law directly conflicts with long held spiritual beliefs. (which is why, for example, the Native American church is immune to the anti drug laws prohibiting the use of peyote.)

      August 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  12. Ashley Harris

    It’s clear to me that the Catholic Priests only REAL concern is that they will Lose $$$$$ from the Illegals and have fewer children to Molest. As for the Methodist and Episcopalians, Name one of the Apostils that did not go to prison for the Cross of Christ. The answer is they all did, quit crying and show some common scene for the people of this country. Enough is enough.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  13. Dirk

    The churches are free to sponsor as many illegal aliens as financialy possible-step up to the plate with your tax exempt status oh holy ones

    August 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  14. Rex J

    Secular governmental laws supercede religious laws. If the Bible is in conflict with the laws of the US or the state of Alabama, then the Bible loses. Period. It has to be that way. What if clergy wanted to drive to Mexico and bring back people to the US in order to give them a better life? Should the Border Patrol let them through merely because these clergy are following God's law but breaking US law???

    August 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  15. CSX

    Hey church, 3000 + babies will die today.
    Hey church, hundreds of thousands are going to hell each day.
    Hey church wake up. Your Kingdom is not of this world.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  16. John Schwendler

    Bless these bishops for their caring and understanding. Here's a thought. Why don't they take on the fiscal responsibility of caring for 12 million illegals who have broken the budgets of at least two states, CA and AZ, and are straining all others, including the federal budget? Sell off their landholdings and buildings, sell their cathedrals and all the gold therein, and start practicing what they allegedly preach, bringing charity to the poor? Illegals in this or any other country forfeited their rights when they broke the law. Send them back, let them apply, overhaul entry processes, and let them try, legally, to enter.

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

      Illegal immigrants have not "broken the budgets" of those two states. They are a minor factor in both, but especially in California. Don't tell lies.

      August 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Publius Novus

      Illegals have not broken any state's budget. Many illegals are paying Social Security, Medicare, and income taxes, with no possibility of claiming benefits or receiving a refund. All pay sales taxes, gas taxes, and excise taxes, and many pay property taxes (directly or indirectly through rent). In fact, there are several studies indicating that illegals are tax positive–meaning they pay more into public coffers than the value of services they receive.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  17. Dcox3

    This is an important instance of the separation of church and state. Churches tend to blur the law of the land when it does not suit their agenda. Obviously, these churches and their congregation benefit from the illegals being here, therefore they are against this law. These laws will benefit the churches of the working class Alabamians and they are not crying wolf.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  18. Robert

    What's your problem, if you don't like the law move to another state. It's that simple. If you don't like what's on TV you change the channel.
    It's another black eye for our country when a church sues over a law that's going to protect the average citizens rights and privileges.

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

      LOL seriously? Move to another state? That's your solution to this?

      When the Supreme Court strikes down all of these idiotic laws, you can move to another country if you don't agree. You know, just like changing the channel on the television...

      August 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  19. CSX

    Jesus was not concerned with the State. The Romans occupied his home country, yet his concern was for people joining a different Kingdom. This article is a testimony to th efact that churches have lost their focus. Millions pouer into hell and this is an issue? Render unto Ceasar his laws.
    Follow your laws first, the one's from God.
    The churches help those who have broken the law. Yet, the Bible says, slaves and servants, serve your master well.
    The only thing that matters is knowing Jesus, is that their mission? Charles Wesley where are you? We could use you right now to reprove and rebuke these panty wastes.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Ceri

      CSX, if you look up now you might just see something going way up over your head. It is commonly known as "the point".

      August 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  20. Dan

    Then let this churches congigation support all the illegals in their area, along with their kids! They should also be held accountable for any crimes committed by these people as well.

    August 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Larry

      Dan, you are right on! But that would mean they would go bankrurpt in 24 hours and then get a federal loan to pay for the illegals. And since the church is already tax exempt, it is a win-win for these churches.Keep religion out of immigration and government policy.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:05 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.