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It is true that Christians, through The Church, see themselves as the universal Body of Christ, unified through all eternity by common faith, transcending all cultures and nations. But the vocation and definition of The Church are quite different from the responsibilities of civil governments, which have duties towards particular people, and which must “exclude” some to defend others.
Only in Alabama have church prelates gone to court to stop enforcement of immigration law. The New York Times noted the politics here are “unusual, with those opposed to the law, mostly coming from the left, arguing that the statute falls short of biblical principles, and the law’s supporters, mostly from the right, arguing that secular laws and biblical law cannot always run on the same track.”
Alabama’s new law, which the Times described as “popular,” allows police to ask about immigration status during traffic violations. It also prohibits transporting, harboring, making contracts with, or renting property to illegals. Anxious for a pretext to oppose, the litigating church officials and their allies protest that the law will criminalize their ministry of offering meals, counseling or rides to all. As the Times fairly noted, the law’s defenders say it aims at human traffickers and employers, not at church soup kitchens, or Sunday school teachers driving to the doctor’s office. The church litigators disingenuously claim they must now choose between God and Caesar. Other clerics of course cite Martin Luther King.
They naturally want to claim the moral drama of 1960’s era civil rights advocates. But the modern clerics are not likely targets of police dogs or fire hoses. “I do not think that any church or any clergyman is subject to prosecution for doing their Christian mission,” explained one state legislator defending the new law to the Times. Transporting illegals only becomes illegal if “in furtherance of [their] unlawful presence.” And “harboring” an illegal violates the new law only when deliberating shielding from detection. Do the litigating bishops expect their churches to go beyond ministry and to actively help illegals evade the law? Aren’t Christians supposed to comply with civil law unless it promotes an egregious evil?
“Alabama needs to sit this one out,” warned litigating United Methodist Bishop William Willimon of Birmingham. “The civil rights memorial in Birmingham is kind of a reminder that we’ve got to watch this sort of thing,” he told The New York Times. Should all states, and the federal government, “sit out” any enforcement of immigration law? The Religious Left and its allies insist so.
America welcomes about 1 million new legal immigrants to the U.S. ever year in what is the world’s most generous immigration policy. But even tripling or quadrupling this number would not appease most Religious Left opponents, who oppose any national sovereignty for the U.S. The New York Times, more equitable than the sometimes shrill prelates it quoted, reported that Alabama church members seem to endorse what the litigating bishops reject. They must intuit the oddity of bishops suing the government for performing its vocation to defend and protect.
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