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. richard

    I just love how the right wing Baptist trash come on how and are now spewing venom about how church leaders should stay out of government affairs? REALLY...because that would include you idiots as well and your messed up version of Christianity. You idiots talk about Heaven someday as where we'll all be equal in the sight of God, yet you shun those in life NOW that are different from you. Arrogant hypocites!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! God is not white despite what you think. I cannot wait for the day gay marriage is voted in in Alabama. I will laugh my ass off!!!

    August 16, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  2. Kathleen

    Nothing is more repugnant than those who hide behind the mantle of God and religion in order to achieve their sinister goals. There is nothing noble in feeding other people's children (illegals) while ours go hungry. Our country is experiencing dire economic conditions with 1:6 on food stamps, 14 million going to bed hungry every night and over 100,000 homeless veterans sleeping on the street on any given night.

    I would suggest each and every one of these religious hypocrites cease demanding suffering Americans continue to pay trillions of dollars a year for services provided to illegal aliens and forgo the hundreds of millions of dollars in uncollected revenues to the IRS as a result of corrupt employers paying these illegals "off the books" and take their lazy and self-indulgent bodies out of the homes parishioners provide to them and go work as missionaries in the countries they enable to send their cast-offs to the U.S.

    August 16, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      So Kathleen, you believe that I should ask a hungry child his immigration status before giving him food? May your god forgive you for your inhumanity.

      August 16, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  3. John


    August 16, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      If this was intended as a metaphor for most of the comments here, it was suitably vacuous.

      August 16, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • LinCA

      Spam, spam, spam. Hit the "Report abuse" link to get rid of this nonsense

      August 17, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  4. Bonnie

    I suppose False Religion reigns supreme? Don't these so-called religious leaders know that Jesus stated that "we should give to Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God's?"
    Illegal means just that ILLEGAL. These people don't belong in the United States as they have disrespect our laws!
    Jesus was for observing laws of nations. Not lawlessness.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • Terre08

      False religion? I suppose your definition of this cult is the correct one.

      August 16, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      I suppose you have seen Jesus' passport?

      August 16, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Shocking! Law beats bible when it comes to illegal immigrants? How convenient..

      Everything else – establishment clause, creationism in schools, gay marriage, and so on – bible beats law! Right?

      Must be nice to be a flip-flopping jesus fish. It's so easy to identify the personal convictions and feelings a religious person holds when they start quoting (in this case) jesus or the bible.

      Why don't you tell us how you really feel without your imaginary source of authority behind you to support your hypocrisy?

      August 17, 2011 at 12:08 am |
  5. XYZ

    They are going to send the illegals home so all the former middle class, whose jobs have gone to india and china can work at Wendy's now. I think we ought to send 95% of this country to Mexico. By the way, what is Kirkorian doing in Alabama – I thought they kept those people out so the Armenians can louse up the Northeast.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • Terre08

      I love the name of his organization, it sounds like it would be some serious scientific organization when after all it is an anti immigration group.

      August 16, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  6. XYZ

    They are going to send the illegals home so all the former middle class, whose jobs have gone to india and china can work at Wendy's now. I think we ought to send 95% of this country to Mexico.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  7. Islam Bomb Honour Killing Infidels

    If the Immigrant is ready to receive and practice our system then YES but if not and forcing their own system into us then NO. The problem with Islam is they immigrate and forcing us to accept their sharia system. They are not shelters, they are more look like colonialist.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • Terre08

      Thanks for keeping the IQ down. Where in this article do they mention Islam?

      August 16, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Got that talking point inked on your palm, eh?

      August 16, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  8. Awkward Situations

    -"The Bible is clear that we are supposed to love the stranger and welcome the aliens," Parsley said.-

    Oh yea? Don't forget, no one can hear you scream from outer space!!!!

    August 16, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      It shouldn't be necessary to say but here goes: Alien means foreign, not little green men; I don't think the bible was concerned with extraterrestrials.

      August 16, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      Don't you understand? They're not satisfied with spreading their bible internationally.. they're trying to go intergalactic! Open your eyes!


      August 17, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  9. Frank

    I object to the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church.

    These guys run around in dresses that are more elaborate that a prom dress, cost more than a modest house in America, and would make the average drag queen envious.

    They beat the parishioners out of their last dollar to pay for these dresses, demand parishioners sacrifice their children to perverts, promote villains like Cardinal Bernard Law for his attempts to cover up the abuse of these children, tell foreign nationals that they have a right to enter the US illegally and then hold classes to teach them how to work the system to get free medical care and welfare, and then have the audacity to lecture America on ethics.

    The Catholic Church is a criminal enterprise, should lose their non-profit status, and its leaders should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for the crimes they have committed.

    August 16, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Terre08

      That goes for any other church in America as well.

      August 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  10. Truth Seer

    "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.

    Tell that to the old lady who had to remove her adult diaper at the a i r port or the young man with Down’s Syndrome , who had his little toy taken away from him by H o m e L a n d S e c u r i t y. “…BUT, "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… S U R E

    August 16, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  11. Delaware Bob

    Aiding and abetting an illegal alien is criminal. It is a felony. What gives the Catholic Church the right to say this don't apply to them? If the Catholic Church wants to really help these illegal aliens, but them a one way ticket back to their own country. We could all say a big AMEN to that!

    August 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Buggery of children is also a felony, yet they got away with it fourty thousand times.

      August 16, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • XYZ

      They should thrown 95% of the Northeast out of the country. I hope the religious right gets the pagan North good though. Let all the fornicators be thrown out of a job. I hear no mention, by the way, of your middle class jobs going to India, so you can permanently take the Wendy's job being staffed by the Latino. Even though I am a Perry fan, I also love all the hypocritical middle classes, who are Steinem and Freidan and Obama when they want to be living in SIN, screwing everyone over but themselves, throwing their kids under a bus for the two career family (by the way, getting rid of women's lib will get rid of our high unemployment), doing drugs until you are 60 – on second thought – yeah on your jobs going to INDIA! Have fun working at WENDY's UNTIL YOU ARE 90! Sincerely a business owner.

      August 16, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • William Demuth

      If you threw the North out, you would be Honduras with a workforce capable of little more than making mud bricks.

      And in case you forgot, or were never taught, the last time you rednecks tried this nonesense, we Norherners burnt your civilization to the ground, freed your slaves and inscripted your kids into our army.

      So it sounds like your plan will work for both of us! You have my support.

      August 17, 2011 at 8:20 am |
  12. William Demuth

    Servers are terrible today

    August 16, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  13. Reality

    From p. 7 in case you missed it:

    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 5:59 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Christian racisist above!

      August 16, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • Awkward Situations

      In case you missed it:

      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 9:12 pm |
    • June

      I do all that and everyone I know does that, but the illegals are still here. When the government and the TV anchors wonder where the jobs went, I'd love to tell them, that between the thousand LEGAL immigrants we import monthly and the millions of illegals who break and enter, the jobs go to them. We insource, outsource and make it impossible for Amercans to compete. And if you like illegal immigration, you're going to love Perry and all the other candidates. Our fight will never end until we elect someone who cares more for us than pandering to illegals and their supporters.

      August 16, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  14. Frank

    Greed Not Compassion

    The motive of catholic church can be found on FedSpending.org. The catholic church has received approximately 100 million a year in grants/contracts to help resettle/support immigrants, from the
    taxpayer, for the last 10 years.


    August 16, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  15. Bo

    ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? Why do I keep hearing "The sepration of church and state" There is no such a thing in the U.S.! ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

    August 16, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Well of course not, Bo. "Sepration" is not a word so it wouldn't be anywhere.

      August 16, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  16. William Demuth

    sorry 🙁

    August 16, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  17. Yoursisterwaswithmelastnight

    William is an inbred THAT IS ALL

    August 16, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Actully Aryan by the most strict measure

      August 16, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  18. HObiWANNAweiner

    William is an inbred racist, that is all

    August 16, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  19. Michael Begwill

    Hey William, your lucky I dont smack you back into last tuesday. What do you walk around with hay sticking out of your mouth and a sun burned neck?

    August 16, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Michael Begwill

      sorry, im rambling, forgot to take my meds today :*(

      August 16, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • William Demuth

      At six one two seventy, and fists like virginia hams, I would be pleased to let you try.

      Or I could have my daughter whoop you

      August 16, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      At six one two seventy, and fists like virginia hams, I would be pleased to let you try.

      Or I could have my daughter whoop you
      Not very big..not sure why you posted that??????????????

      August 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  20. ralphinator


    August 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • LinCA

      at what?

      August 16, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • ralphinator

      ummmm, at WINNING!

      August 16, 2011 at 4:33 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.