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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. Mike

    Do as you will. However, nothing is going to change the wave of immigrants coming into this country. Sure it may not be from Mexico but it will be be Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Now to some of you that might be better. Either way the changing face of America will not stop! So if you're Anglo and worried about the face of America. I'm sorry to tell this --GO HOME!! Take your butt back to Europe where your ancestors came from. Remember Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California was all once Mexico. Viva latino!!!!

    August 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • SO WHAT

      haha they can't go to Europe, its worse overthere! if Anglos think it is bad here they should see the Western European countries how much variation of ethnicities there are now.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • bubba

      Yep! Territory most of which was sold to the United States by Mexico CA, AZ, NM, etc. TX became a republic as a result of a war with Mexico and later became part of US

      August 16, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  2. FedUpToo

    Hey Realist-

    I have but one question for you. Do you know what a Neo-Conservative is? You throw the term around like football, but miss the target each time.

    Please enlighten us all...without taking too long to research the internet for a good definition.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  3. Open up a church in mexico

    Like these illegals give a whoot about the church.

    Recall how that lady used the church in Chicago for a safe haven! Keep this up and REFUGEE CAMP will be synonymous with CHURCH!!!

    August 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  4. dabble

    "We feel it would interfere with our freedom of expression, of our faith, and living our faith and caring for others," - and yet, they have no compunction about trying to restrict how gays live their faith, and care for others, and how they express their love and commitments (i.e., ban gay marriages)....such hypocrites.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  5. Julia Native American

    Native Americans were here first, but nobody actuall owns the land, the land was a gift form the Grand Creator of all the universe. Therefore, the Grand Creator gets to decide who lives here, not you or me, or any damn political party.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Padraig

      And one tribe attacked another and drove the other tribe off the land they owned. You need to identify that each tribe is different. Some were very agressive in search for power, land, and wealth while others were passive. So, to address some of the more agressive groups were the Iroquios Confederacy (Senaca, Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and later the Tuscarora) and the Sioux Nation (Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota). Add in the Apaches, Utes, etc... . So I don't want to hear it.

      Each person born in this country is a Native American it is not reserved for the Indian.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  6. William Demuth

    Of course the Church wants illegals.

    Where else but the third world can they possibly find easier victims to indoctrinate?

    More old ladies to fleece and more little boys to bugger

    August 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  7. Alba

    I have dual residency in both the states of California and Alabama. What I see with my very eyes is California does have a problem with illegal hispanics, but Alabama seems to have more black people blending in from carribean islands and other countries. Just like I am sure the northern states bordering Canada has many middle eastern people migrating into America. Nothern California has the migrating Asians, New York has people from Europe and Africa. But lesson here is people should not break the law and enter America illegally.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  8. NBGB

    What happened to separation of church & state. Let the religious leaders mind their collection plates and the government mind the laws.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  9. JOHN IN CINCINNATI

    Most immigrant families have more children than US families. Most illegal immigrants are unlikely to press charges when they suffer an assault; due to their immigration status.

    Now why would groups notorious for pedophilia welcome them to their communities?

    August 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Padraig

      You are absolutely mindless.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  10. Get a Grip

    what would Jesus do? Come on southern fundamentalist bible thumpers, put your laws and policies where the scriptures are! Not where your lower vibrating neanderthal mentality is....

    August 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  11. David

    This cancer from south of our border has bankrupted California. We are Mexifornia, and it is not safe here anymore. Our tax dollars go to illegals to complete their takeover. Thank your local politician..

    August 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Robert E

      AMEN

      August 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Ralph

      Now you know how the Native American felt when their country was taken from them.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Ralph

      Your comment seems to not have anything to do with -David's assertions. Are you assuming that 1)David didn't already know how the Native's felt...? 2) Are you assuming that Californians' should just get over it, because our ancestors basically took over the land from the Native's...?

      What are you *inferring* from your posting exactly...?

      Peace...

      August 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Peace2All

      I believe Ralph was saying to feed the Indians to the Mexicans so we can cut back on food stamps.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Willie D.

      LOL...!!! 😀

      Peace...

      August 16, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Sharon

      You two should be ashamed of yourselves. Stealing the land and killing all those Native Americans is not something to laugh about. It just shows you don't understand what happened to them and continues to happen in their struggle. How did we become such a heartless country. It's disgusting. I guess it's true the younger generation coming up is rude and heartless.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  12. DSK

    If you think that these illegal aliens – I mean immigrants are giving donations to the churches, you are sadly mistaken. They are there to enjoy the free stuff they get from the church like food and clothing. They send their spare cash back to their home countries to support the families they left behind.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • William Demuth

      DSK

      One does not need to give consent to get an STD.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  13. James

    In response to Heinz Doofenshmirtz comment what about those who file for citizenship the legal way? Its not fair for whose who follow the laws. What kind of example are you teaching those who want to come to this country the legal way. Come on man, people who come across the border are breaking the LAW period. In addtion, we don't even know their real name

    August 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  14. Realist

    Funny how the right abandons the basics of christianity when it is in conflict with their ideology. The GOP's fascination with ideological purity will eventually be their demise as adherence to ideology pulls the party farther and farther to the right, and away from the majority.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  15. Dean

    I am a regular church going Christian........With the political actions the church has taken against the laws, maybe it is time for them to start paying taxes and lose their exempt status.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Realist

      Obviously from your statement you are a church going neo-conservative foremost, and a christian second.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Dean

      Realist.......................Even Jesus knew the state has rights....... “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.”

      August 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • April

      , To love me, you must love my wife, then I would have to walk away. I have not done that with Christ, but I've gotten close.I find that pploee who are fiercest in their defense of church are often those who simply cannot handle the idea that (1) their church can do any wrong, and (2) they themselves were wrong in their belief that the church can do no wrong. Facing those two issues would simply crumble their ego and belief.I am in a place right now where the churches are so screwed up that I cannot participate in them (having my reputation smeared by the toxic church does not help), but I maintain hope that Christ will lead me to his true followers if I keep looking, in church or out.Thanks again for what you do here.

      March 2, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  16. FedUpToo

    If these Religious organizations and its leaders continue to engage in anti-government activism (and that is what they are doing), then remove their tax-exempt status and tax them like everyone else. Perhaps the billions in the Catholic coffers can go towards paying down the debt incurred by illegals (benefits, schools, loss tax revenue, etc.)

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

      If these Neo-Conservative organizations and its leaders continue to engage in anti-christian activism (and that is what they are doing), then they will burn in hell for bearing false witness.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Realist

      You can't burn them until AFTER they pay their taxes.

      When the Romans crucified Christ, he had two books out from the local library.

      The loss of those two books, and the failure of his estate to pay the library fees resulted in the total financial collapse of the Palestinian Nation.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  17. Meat Puppet

    the Church leaders of all denominations need to have a reality check – while in theory helping immigrants is probably something that should happen in a perfect world. This is not a perfect world.
    What right do these self appointed leaders have to take actions that threaten and compromise America? Letting folks in is one thing – being able to take care of them is another. There are Americans that need help and should receive it before any illegal alien is given one dime – from any source – public or private.
    The well is not bottomless .........a simple question – who is going to pay for them for the next 10-15 years? And support their children? Provide medical care?
    I don't think that the bible says anything about giving until you kill off the golden goose – then what happens?
    Shut the borders and deport any illegal that ends up in the judicial system. If you stay here then you should be sterilized.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Bruce

      "who is going to pay for them for the next 10-15 years? And support their children? Provide medical care?"

      When they stay here for 10-15 years or more, they have jobs that pay for these things. They pay taxes (payroll taxes and sales taxes) and can't partake of many of the government services and benefits (Medicare, Social Security, scholarships to publicly-funded undergraduate schools, etc.) that these taxes pay for.

      And make no mistake–they do pay taxes. Pretty much all the money they spend here is taxed via sales taxes, even if they are paid in cash by an ILLEGAL employer who breaks the law and doesn't withhold payroll taxes.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Get a Grip

      by what right... by the laws laid down by God... every read the bible, Mr Christian? What's the matter.. the laws of God too inconvenient for your political ideology?

      August 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  18. Julia Native American

    if you're not native american, then your illegal just ask any Indian Fightin' terrorism since 1492

    August 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • bubba

      Native American status is afforded to the human inhabitants of the North and South American continents that predated Columbus i.e. Pre-Columbian. Those peoples were migrants also, most likely from Asia.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Smokin What?

      You were decimated, because you were inferior and couldn't handle the White Man's liquor. Your days are done, and you lost fair and square. The only thing you were good for is showing us that we need to fight our foreign invaders harder than you did. That is what we will do. Go back to the Casino.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Ralph

      "Your days are done, and you lost fair and square"

      You're an idiot. Now the immigrants have a tag line they can use on you. What a moron.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Bruce

      Wow... "foreign invaders" ...

      This debate really brings out the worst in people.

      If you really believed those words, you would... nevermind. I don't want to give you any ideas. (And as long as they are not given to you, you probably can't come up with them on your own...)

      August 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  19. bubba

    These clergy are way over reacting. Even if the law implies that churches would be guilty oi aiding and abetting, law enforcement is too strapped to enforce to put this too high on their priority list. Question? Does ICE raid religious orgs that support the needy no questions asked? Law are designed f0r the greater good.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • John

      If the law is on the books, law enforcement and prosecutors can choose to enforce it at any time and against any person or organization. Don't be so ignorant as to think it couldn't or wouldn't happen.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Realist

      "Laws are designed f0r the greater good"

      Yeah, and abused by idological zealots

      August 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • bubba

      That's right John. The problem is that anybody can be ordained minister, priest, rabbi etc.if the they follow certain procedure. I do not know the precise details of this law. Hypothetically a criminal could set up an illegal human trafficking activity in a church and then claim protection because of his religious status if the church, mission, whatever were raided

      August 16, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  20. Kevin

    So on one hand we have the Teabagers complaining that the illegal immigrants are taking everyones jobs and then on the other hand we have the same Teabaggers complaining that they are coming here for a "free ride"....so which is it?
    You can't have it both ways... those statements are mutually contradictory.
    Either they are taking jobs or they are on "welfare" (which, by the way, was abolished by Clinton in 1996...someone should really get around to telling the teabaggers that little fact!).

    August 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Beth

      The teabaggers are mentally stuck in 1776, how can you expect them to be aware of anything that happened in 1996?

      August 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Dean

      Kevin – they do take jobs and they do get free rides. The ones working do not have insurance so they use medicaid, the families also get food stamps, aid to dependent children, education without paying taxes, free in state tuition. The hospital in my town closed its maternity ward and does not birth anyone because they lost so much money birthing illeal aliens who could not pay. Do a little thinking and research before opening your mouth.

      August 16, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Bruce

      Dean, you are wrong. These people are not on the dole. They don't get Medicaid, food stamps, ADC, and moreover, they most-certainly pay taxes.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Smokin What?

      I don't use either of those arguments Kevin. I simply use the argument that they are not needed here, nor are they welcome. I have been to Mexico dozens of times, and I don't want this country looking like theirs. End of conversation. I don't hate the people, just don't want them here. The only people I hate, are the mentally ill liberals who take sides with them.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Bruce

      Smokin What? I don't want this country looking like you. End of conversation. I don't hate you, I just don't want you here.

      Next time you are in Mexico, stay there.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Dean

      Bruce – maybe you should spend the day at your local county health department and check ID cards.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Bruce

      Dean - maybe you should SHOW ME YOUR PAPERZ, NAO!

      And then you can actually go and get some facts that completely contradict what you said. Undocu.mented immigrants pay more in taxes (on average) than they get in government services.

      And anecdotal evidence is anecdotal...

      August 16, 2011 at 3:13 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.