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Federal Judge Blocks Ala. Immigration Law; Religious Leaders Continue to Pray

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By Stephanie Samuel, Christian Post Reporter
August 30, 2011|5:36 pm

A federal judge temporarily blocked Alabama's most recent and controversial immigration law days before its Sept. 1 implementation to allow more time to consider the many lawsuits that seek to block the legislation.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn did not rule for or against the constitutional merits of the bill Monday that allows state troopers to enforce federal immigration laws. Still, Blackburn's temporary stay gives illegal immigrants and their supporters more time for legal challenges to be heard.

In a statement emailed to The Christian Post, Attorney Augusta Dowd stated, "We have advised our clients that this order prevents the Act from being enforced until at least September 29, 2011."

Dowd represents Alabama Christian leaders who sued to stop the law, claiming it unconstitutionally hampers with Christians' ability to live out their faith and fulfill the mandates of Scripture.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley Jr., bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Alabama; Rev. William H. Willimon, bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church; the Most Rev. Thomas J. Rodi, Roman Catholic archbishop of Mobile; and the Most Rev. Robert J. Baker, Roman Catholic bishop of Birmingham.

Together they called the law "the nation's most merciless anti-immigration legislation."

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House Bill 56 was enacted in June and prohibits an illegal alien from receiving any state or local public benefits, including public schooling, and criminalizes behaviors of state residents who are deemed to be concealing, harboring and shielding illegal immigrants.

Church leaders and clergy in Alabama have expressed concern that the latter portion of the bill will prevent the faith community from reaching out to immigrant church members through its social and church services.

Bishop Willimon said in a statement, "To forbid members of Alabama's faith communities from providing these charitable services will violate their sincere religious belief in helping others without reservation."

Galen Carey, the vice president of Government Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, explains that Christians believe that laws are "a gift from God" and that the United States should have immigration laws.

However, Christians are also called in the Bible to care for those in need.

"Strangers, along with widows and orphans are the iconic biblical symbols for those who are poor, weak and in need of help and the biblical mandate to care for those in need is very strong," he shared.

Additionally, Christians are called to share the Gospel as well as the love of Christ to all people all over the world, said Carey. "We don't think that mandate should be restricted from any government," he shared.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Justice Department have also filed legal challenges against the Alabama law.

The ACLU is suing on behalf of an 11th grade orphan who came to the United States illegally as an 11-year-old. He and his brother are living with an American couple that wishes to adopt them.

The DOJ's challenge mirrors the challenge it successfully lodged against Arizona's immigration laws.

Dowd says she will continue to advise the court to rule against the bill.

She added, "[My] clients continue to pray for ultimate justice that will allow them to carry out the Great Commission given them over 2000 years ago, [that] God's grace should not end at the Alabama border."

 

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