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. Socal

    If the leaders of these churches wants to provide food, shelter, clothing and transportation to these people then they should move to Mexico! Maybe if the free aid is provided to them there, they won't come here illegally.

    August 16, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  2. Michael Begwill

    Hey William Demuth, your a fart head poopy pants that jacks off to batman while getting pounded by Robin.

    August 16, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Batman and Robin?

      What are you like 65 and autistic with a damaged brain stem?

      August 16, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  3. William Demuth

    Mexican drug cartels and the Christian church, truly a match made in hell.

    August 16, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  4. LLinMobileAl

    Two weeks ago there was a c0ck fighting ring busted in baldwin county Al out of twenty some people arrested eighteen were in this country illegally @ farmer john guess they couldn't read english to know you would hire them to pick your produce or work in the slaughter house

    August 16, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  5. Reality

    If we would cut our own grass, do our own landscaping, pick our own vegetables/fruit, cook our own food, clean our own laundary, care for own kids and clean our homes and churches/temples ourselves, there would be no need for Mexican, Haitian, Irish, Italian and/or Asian "slaves" and therefore there would be no illegal immigration.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Wow, a Christian bigot!

      I haven't seen one of them since your LAST posting!

      Forget not that Jesus was a Palestinian gay man with a liberal bias and poor hygiene!

      August 16, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Reality

      "Bigot -One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ."

      So how are my comments a form of bigotry?

      August 16, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • William Demuth

      because yor list of slaves lacked your own kind

      August 16, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      You think their motivation to come to the "land of the free" is to do your slave work?... They would actually stop coming here illegally if they didn't have those jobs? Problem solved!

      lol, silly.

      August 16, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  6. MC in TX

    It is amazing how quickly we abandon the "rule of law". Arguing that, because the clergy are unlikely to be arrested, they have no reason to be concerned or any basis to sue is crazy. That is another way of saying, "If you are unlikely to get caught then it's not a real law". That violates the very basis of our legal system. Moreover, I object to implication that the churches are somehow above the law (you cannot argue this is a non-issue without somehow making the churches exempt). The law applies to everybody. Freedom of religion applies only as far as it does not violate public policy (provided that public policy is not imposing an unnecessary restriction on religion).

    I admire the clergy for doing the right thing here and acting on principle by respecting the legal system and respecting the fact that they are subject to the law like everyone else. The right way to object to a law is to challenge it, not hide from it. Even the supporters of the law should recognize that the clergy are approaching the issue ethically and do the same.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Ethical clergy? Is that like honest politician?

      The ONLY reason they want them is to bugger the boys and rip off the old ladies. The cults are dwindiling in numbers and they need fresh meat.

      The church would bus in Martians if they satiated their hunger for money power and dominance.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  7. Joel Wischkaemper

    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.
    1. Any church group that transports an illegal alien from the Mexican Border to their church is criminal. They become smugglers. If it is a routine, it is racketeering. And yes.. there are groups that are doing exactly that, and recent articles on the efforts of Catholic Charities can still be summoned by google.

    2. No.. the cops are not going to bother the churches aiding the illegal aliens to become legal. If they need ministering to, we would like Immigration to check the illegal aliens to make sure the illegal aliens speaks English, and of course, citizens want to be sure it is not a scam, ****and that the 'minister' speaks Spanish. If not .. Go to jail.. do not stop for Go, do not collect any money at all.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  8. God is Crap

    It's nice to see the church trying to help people... but the BIBLE has no place in our LAWS!

    August 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  9. mike

    stupid crybabies... if you don't like Alabama's laws then DON'T LIVE THERE! it's not difficult to understand. <3

    August 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  10. David

    Illegal alians are criminals for even being here, they have no rights. If they were not so criminal minded, it wouldnt be so bad,

    August 16, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • John ATL

      You're just so totally wrong on so many levels, I don't know where to start.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • William Demuth


      They aren't even HUMAN, so no HUMAN rights!

      Lets cook them and eat them!

      August 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  11. John

    @Keith–"Religion is just another BUSINESS and should pay corporate taxes just the same as all other Corps. SHOULD."

    Aaaahahahaha. They are paying the EXACT same amount of tax that GE did bud.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • J.W

      A church runs off of donations that are voluntarily given. They are not selling or performing a service to make a profit. Therefore, they cannot be taxed as a business would.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Peace2All


      " not trying to make a 'profit' " Really...? Think that's true, do you...?

      I would suggest you 'may' want to re-think that position.


      August 16, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • J.W

      How much money they have isnt the point. The point is that the money is gained through donations and not business activity.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      "Voluntarily given"? Sort of like how I would voluntarily give up my wallet at gunpoint?

      wallet = christian ti-thing (10% income)
      gunpoint = because the bible says so

      August 16, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
  12. Jeremy

    Well if they are deciding to get involved in politics I guess that means they should start having to pay taxes.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • John ATL

      Since when is it "getting involved in politics" to take exception to a law you believe is morally wrong? Endorsing a candidate is getting involved in politics. That's the way the tax exemption works. Having said that, I agree that all tax exempt status should be eliminated–it is a blatant public gift to organized religion.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • J.W

      Churches are not the only tax exempt organizations. Schools and charitable organizations are also tax exempt. Groups such as American Atheists are tax exempt as well.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  13. Mormons-R-Cult

    US law > the bible.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Anonymous


      August 16, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  14. William Demuth

    This article is silly

    These yahoos bugger little boys by the boatload and the government does nothing.

    Do they SERIOUSLY believe they will get pinched for driving around Pedro the Landscaper?

    Yhey could strap Pedro to the roof of their Church van with a crucifix hammeed up his hind quarters, and they cops would lock up Pedro!

    August 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Veronica13

      William, You are a racist. Get over yourself. You were LUCKY to be born in this country. You did nothing to get this gift. It was pure luck. If your children or mother were starving, I wonder if you'd cross a border to get food. Your lack of compassion and racism are only surpassed by your idiotic, uneducated pronouncement of your ideas, which are meaningless to the educated.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Robert

      So based on your logic we convict an entire group based on what a small percentage of the people did in that group. It's just shows you're clueless and need to get an education.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • William Demuth


      You are an indoctrinated idiot.

      I support the plight of the illegals, I am tired of them being exploited.

      The LAST thing those poor SOB's need is some lying deviant cleric pretending they give a damn about them. They will victimize them like they have done to a thousand generations of the poor.

      They want thier MONEY, and the rear ends of their children.

      You want to end it, deport anyone who gives them a job, and give their citizenship to the illegal.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • claybigsby

      veronica....my ancestors came to this country LEGALLY. That is the difference...if you are starving in Mexico, apply for citizenship the legal way like everyone else. If you dont want to, stay in mexico.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  15. liz

    To my fellow Christians in Alabama: this is what you get when you get into bed with the neo-cons. Gays, abortion, but shut up about everything else that makes you Christian.

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

      Yeah, don't ever mention the Pogroms, or the Inquisition, or the Witch Trials, they are just SOOO yesterday.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  16. Richard

    Can we say as long as we dont use 1 cent of taxpayers money, we wont bother them?

    August 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • bostoncreme

      No illegal immigration is still bad, for Americans, legal immigrants and illegal immigrants themselves. It is wrong way to solve by checking by profiling based upon language or accent or race. There should be a good reason to ask for papers and police officer should be trained about the immigration laws.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm |


    August 16, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  18. John ATL

    It is indeed refreshing to see the church, particularly the Catholic Church, acting like a Christian Church for once. I believe even the Southern Baptist Conv. has weighed in to oppose this law. How ironic is it that these churches who have fostered and defended intolerance throughout their existence should finally discover the compassion of Jesus. Now if only they could get a grip on their prejudices against women (in the ministry) and gays they might be able to assimilate more of Jesus' teachings and less of their own imaginary Biblical justifications for remaining in darkness. The Republican party in Alabama needs to dust off those white robes, and burning crosses and just come out of the closet for what they really are: the last bastion of the KKK in America. You see, I can remember seeing the Klan publications back in the 60's–they didn't stop with hating blacks, gays and commies–there was plenty of hatred left over for the Catholics and Jews. Of course, they didn't have the Immigration "problem" back then to galvanize their dim-witted supporters.

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

      And they can start paying taxes!

      August 16, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • William Demuth

      So the Catholic Church is somehow more deviant than the other sects of the cult?

      I mean sure they are racisit mysoginistic sociopaths, but they are almost indiscernable from any of the other offshoots of Abraham, including Judaisim and the Muslim sects.

      August 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  19. zhawk88

    weird... people who believe in the Bible actually doing what it says? I'm confused.

    August 16, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • William Demuth

      They do need more altar boys, all the ones they have now have dislocated hips.

      August 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  20. what about

    gay illegals? Boy, now come on church and bible thumpers...what do we do about those folks? Where oh where will those lost souls end up?

    Church = hypocrites!!!

    August 16, 2011 at 3:09 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.