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Alabama immigration law blocked: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 7, 2011 p 7. October 11, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Immigration.
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Henry Parsley

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in Alabama have hailed a federal court blocking implementation of part of the state’s new immigration law.

The Sept 28 ruling by Judge Sharon Blackburn “is good news,” Alabama Episcopal Bishop Henry Parsley and Methodist Bishop William Willimon said in a joint statement.

The ruling “protects our churches’ ministries from prosecution under this overreaching law, and substantially protects our religious liberties,” they said.

On Aug 1, the two along with the Roman Catholic bishops of Mobile and Birmingham filed suit to overturn the state’s new immigration law, arguing they had “reason to fear that administering of religious sacraments, which are central to the Christian faith, to known undocumented persons may be criminalized under this law.”

The Alabama law sought to forbid illegal aliens from residing in Alabama or holding employment in the state.  It also forbad residents from providing shelter or services to illegal aliens and requires schools to report on the residency status of its students.

The bishops’ lawsuit argued that “if enforced, Alabama’s Anti-Immigration Law will make it a crime to follow God’s command to be Good Samaritans.”

Judge Blackburn last week upheld the requirement that state schools report the residency status of students and permitted local police to question those whom they suspected were in the country illegally.

However the judged blocked sections of the law that would have made it a crime for an illegal alien to solicit work.  She also struck down a regulation that would have criminalized the transportation or harbouring of illegal aliens.  The bishops’ lawsuit argued this provision would have placed them in the “untenable position of verifying individuals’ immigration documentation” before providing aid to the needy.

Following the ruling, the bishops said their churches would “continue to provide food, shelter, transportation, housing, and the church’s sacraments to all of God’s people, regardless of race, class, or citizenship status.”

Last year, the US House of Bishops released a pastoral letter calling for a halt in the enforcement of US immigration laws and demanded a halt to “practices that treat undocumented workers as criminals.” At its July 2009 General Convention, the Episcopal Church called for the “millions of undocumented immigrants who have established roots in the United States” to have “a pathway to legalization.”

However, surveys of the US electorate have consistently shown the church’s leadership to be out of touch with its members over immigration. A Nov 2009 poll conducted by Zogby International found that 69 per cent of Roman Catholics, 72 per cent of main-line Protestants, and 78 of evangelical Protestants believed the current level of immigration was too high.

Asked to choose between stricter enforcement to encourage illegal immigrants to return home versus allowing them to find pathways towards legalization in the US, overwhelming majorities favored sending illegal aliens home: Roman Catholics 64 to 23 per cent; main-line Protestants 64 to 24 per cent; and evangelicals 76 to 12 per cent.