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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. Paul

    I would like to see these same Bishops/Denominations file cases in courts with regards to Gay marriages/Abortions etc. These guys do not want to quote Jesus or the Bible then. This country and its people are compassionate and people are taking advantage of us. Why dont you sneak illegally into Mexico and see what happens.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Hilo, HI

      -or better yet, why aren't these church men traveliing there, to Soamlia, etc.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • sassypants

      I agree. I also think that if these same church leaders feel so strongly about it then they should help them in spite of the law. That is what they are supposed to do but they should not get in the way of governing. The job of our government is to protect the rest of us from the law breakers. The job of the spiritual leader is to do the will of the Father. Although, I am a Christian, I am also a citizen who has rights that are to be protected especially since I am paying for the illegals to receive benefits out of my tax dollars.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Alba

      haha Paul you are quick to judge. I am a part time resident of Alabama and I can tell you that the majority of illegals there are blacks from carribean islands. Mexicans usually go to Western states, not Alabama....as Americans we have become pretty ignorant to judge all illegals to be from Mexico when in reality many are from southern America.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  2. BCA

    Oh boo hoo, less donations for the tax-free church to PROFIT off of. Organized religion is nothing more than a scam. People should figure out that their relationship with god is personal and that they don't need to shell out money for some talking head at a pulpit in a brand new multimillion dollar church to tell them how to feel about god.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • ramrods

      Stick to the pulpit and stay out of politics. Remember, separation of Church and State. I don't want you interfering in my life!!

      August 16, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  3. johnharry

    remove the tax exemption and TAX em

    August 16, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Chris

      Amen.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  4. Keith

    The whole problem can be solved very easily, as most illegals come from overwhelmingly catholic countries, the pope can visit the presidents and the ruling elites of these countries and threaten them with ex-communication if they do not stop their illegal activities and take care of the people of their respective countries FIRST.
    Then the pope could skip his pope-mobile and lead the poor and working class in a march to the presidential palace where he would demand justice in the name of god. All these god fearing politicians and billionaires would fall on their knees and beg forgiveness. Then they would liquidate their vast fortunes handing their money to the pope who would then start building decent homes, schools, hospitals and factories for the downtrodden. The ex billionaires would volunteer their time and sweat to help run the country ploughing all profits back into the country instead of into their own pockets.
    What's wrong with this?

    August 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Ysteb

      bulabula1 on October 10, 2010 NFL Red Zone ALWAYS stays on 1 paicrtular game much longer than any other game & that is why it SUCKS! I was sold on the idea that it was to show all games scoring evenly . DEFIANTLY NOT THE CASE & this host they have totally sucks as well always giving his ridicules opinions that nobody cares about, Goodbye FOREVER NFL Redzone & hello Direct TVVVVVVVVVV!

      March 4, 2012 at 1:32 am |
  5. James

    For those who came to this country illegally and where able to better themselves (lawyers, politicians, business owners and etc.) How about going down to Mexico City and fight for better opportunities. Don't that sound reasonable? What do you think about that!

    August 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Bruce

      First and foremost, James: SHOW ME YOUR PAPERZ! NAO!

      Sound reasonable?

      August 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  6. Bruce

    Hey, churches. Here's how to get around the law and make sure you never get arrested for helping out ILLEGAL ALIENS (OMG they're BREAKING THE LAWZ!!!).

    Simply hire them to do work for you for pennies per hour. Nobody ever gets busted for that...

    August 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  7. Heinz Doofenshmirtz

    "In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."

    Theodore Roosevelt 1907

    August 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  8. James

    For those who came to this country illegally and where able to better themselves (lawyers, politicians, business owners and etc.) How about going down to Mexico City and fight for better opportunities your people. Don't that sound reasonable? What do you think about that!

    August 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  9. alonzo pena

    Why is it that the bishops remain silent on the issue of violence associated with drug trafficking? Their voices should be loud and clear in trems of speaking against drug trafficking and the death and destruction caused by illegal drugs. Why do they only elect to speak about immigration? If they elect to cross the line between church and state, do not ignore an such an important issue. The bishops should take a stand that lets the world know the killings, kidnapping,and associated violence is against all God's teachings.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Hilo, HI

      -and preach that bringing life onto this earth for the sole purpose of attaining a Green Card is predatory and sinful.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  10. Vence

    I call that, divine intervention!

    August 16, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  11. Chris

    I'm an atheist, but I applaud this church for actually acting like Christians, instead of hateful xenophobes.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  12. Jimmy

    If these so called bishops and ministers want to play games let'em.They are only after new memberships because after all the scandals they have lost a lot of people.There are ways to hit back and they may be about to find out.We are going to change this country come hell or high water regardless of which individual or group of liberals get in the way.We have sit on the sidelines and watched the democrats ruin this nation and now the Independents and Republicans are taking this country back.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Chris

      It's not just your country to "take back", bud. I hate to break it to you. Left and right are the same, the sooner we realize this the sooner we can get on with the radical change that we need in this country.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • ramrods

      What ever happened to the separation of Church and State. They need to practice what they preach and stay out of politics. Preach about all you want from the puplit, but keep your religious finaticism on the pulpit!!

      August 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Chris

      And pay some taxes on your money making scheme, please!

      August 16, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  13. SCOTTY

    render unto Caesar.... ~Jesus

    August 16, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  14. Bob

    This is why our forefathers made sure to separate church and state. The Church's often show they are not to bright. First of all the Federal goverment should take away their tax free status. Second I hope Alabama tells them to shove it. These are not citizens they are ILLEGAL ALIENS in violaton of our laws. The Federal Goverment needs to get home bal(((s and make E-Verify manatory in the U.S.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • PC

      Our forefathers don't mention separation of church and state. The way Christians are treated in this country, the scenarios mentioned are all too probable.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Heinz Doofenshmirtz

      Well said

      August 16, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Bruce

      These ILLEGAL ALIENS aren't flocking here because some Christians somewhere treat them nicely and give them a bowl of soup. These ILLEGAL ALIENS aren't flocking here because they can get on the dole.

      These ILLEGAL ALIENS flock here because there are ILLEGAL EMPLOYERS who break multiple laws every single day by hiring them for a pittance to do jobs that LEGAL AMERICUNNS won't do for a pittance.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • RufusVonDufus

      Exactly, and if they were going to take away the tax free status you would see these church people being completely non political. If they are the least bit political they should lose that status. Same goes for preachers, supposed preachers anyway, like Sharpton, Jackson, Wright, etc.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • kenny Aladefa

      most people tend to forget that this country was settled by immigrants including our founding fathers, so what gives anyone the right to declare and label someone as immigrant? oh i got it, because they were not born in this country. Your ancestors were them self immigrant !! what a sight it would have been if the native Americans start asking everyone to show the valid claim to a place you all call states now!! its all Native Indian territory, stop the Crucifixcation of Immigrants!!

      August 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Jon

      So, Bruce, why did your immigrant ancestors come here?

      August 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  15. mary

    who would jesus deport?

    August 16, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • clx

      God deported Satan.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  16. mary

    jesus was a migrant

    August 16, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Af090391

      Really? Last I checked, he stayed well within the bounds of the Roman Empire his whole life.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  17. Heinz Doofenshmirtz

    What is really clear to them is the loss of donations. Don't be fooled. This is about cold hard cash.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Hilo, HI

      100% correct. Also, these religions are against birth control, even in the mist of the worldwide overpopulation crisis. Trying to deal with these exploding numbers by accomodating them, makes this crisis easier to ignore.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • RufusVonDufus

      Hilo, the church people have always been for the poor and downtrodden as that is their base. Once people arrive and have made it for themselves they are much less likely to see that the church is just like the politicians who only want our money. That is why they are now in the corner of the illegals. The newest supporters.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • RufusVonDufus

      Change that to much "more" likely!

      August 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  18. John

    I can hear and see it already. Far right wingnuts will be calling religious leaders CINO (Christian In Name Only).

    August 16, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  19. Rick

    So, if I read this correctly, if a religious organization provides comfort to the needy without checking their immigration status, it has criminalized itself. And if that organization disagrees with the law that makes it so, it has opened itself to the kind of vile sniping we see in these comments. What kind of fellowship is this?

    August 16, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      I think its called Faux-christian fellowship.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Hilo, HI

      These religious organizartions are perpetuating the over-population crisis.
      The are against birth control, and believe everyone else (tax payers in AL, here) should foot the bill.
      Offering donated food and clothing is cheap. The ER medical care, and 9 months later when the anchor babies arrive, more medical, food stamps, housing vouchers, schools, etc -fall on everyone else.
      -But hey, they dwindling instutions just got a new batch of grateful members.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • RufusVonDufus

      You want fellowship? Fine, send them all of your money and you can be any kind of fellow you wish but do not allow them to come here and take our money. Send them all you want as long as it is going to Mexico and now New Mexico!

      August 16, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • RufusVonDufus

      Hilo gets it! What's wrong with the rest of you?

      August 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  20. jorge washiinsen

    Churches have to invite everyone, even if they park their planes out side while waiting for the big day.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:25 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.