Conservative political activist Ralph Reed is taking a lashing from liberal blogs and media organizations for applying biblical principles to the immigration reform debate, which he wrote about in a recent op-ed for USA Today.
In the op-ed, Reed suggests that politicians can and should refer to the Bible for guidance on difficult issues, such as illegal immigration, when writing laws that affect the citizens of the United States, and those who are applying for citizenship.
To support his position, Reed cites historical events from the Bible that reflect the values modern-day Christians should exhibit in response to immigration: Deuteronomy 10:19, Hebrews 11:9, Matthew 2:14, Exodus 12:49 and Ezekiel 48:22.
"The Bible instructs God's people to show compassion and love for the foreigner (and the immigrant), a command based on the Israelites' harsh treatment as aliens in Egypt," said Reed, who is the founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition (FFC), in his Feb. 12 op-ed.
"In our own time Mexicans, Indians, Koreans and others come to the U.S. for the same reason: They hunger to be free," said Reed, who supports Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) immigration reform plan.
"First and foremost, immigration should strengthen the family. Today, there are an estimated 1 million spouses and children of legal U.S. residents awaiting green cards. It could take three to 10 years before they can join their loved ones. This delay is needless and heart-wrenching. Sen. Marco Rubio has proposed reforms that would prioritize immediate family members before granting a green card to anyone who entered the U.S. illegally."
In retaliation to Reed and the "religious right," the liberal blog Politicususa posted the headline, "Right Wing Bigots Claim Immigration Reform Path to Citizenship Violates the Bible."
The blog states the following about Christians who believe the Bible reveals insights that are applicable to modern-day society: "Religious bigots have a difficult time understanding that the United States is not Israel; that the law of the land is not Leviticus or the Ten Commandments or even the Bible, but the United States Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of a state religion; that their God, their Bible, and their Ten Commandments, do not even get a passing nod in said Constitution."
Salon also took aim at Reed for suggesting that the Bible is an applicable resource for directing the course of the immigration debate, and used the headline and subhead: "Ralph Reed: The Bible opposes immigration; The Good Book is specific in its prescriptions according to the 'Christian' operative," and then linked to a column by Peter Montgomery of Religion Dispatches.
Reed told The Christian Post that the headline used by Salon completely and deliberately distorted his views and the FFC's position on immigration reform.
"At no time have I stated that the Bible opposes immigration, nor did I do so in my column in USA Today," Reed said in a statement to The Christian Post. "I merely observed that there are principles of sound immigration policy that can be gleaned from history, including the history recorded in the Bible. I made clear the application of those principles in the U.S. today is a matter of prudential judgment and sound reason. Those principles include compassion for the alien, respect for the rule of law, honoring work, and strengthening the family. The only explanation for the deliberate distortion of these views by Salon is malice and a reckless disregard for the truth."
Montgomery, who is the associate editor for Religion Dispatches, and the author of the column that Salon cited, said that: "In my blog post, I was addressing Reed's op-ed as an example of the way some Religious Right leaders find biblical grounding or justification for specific policy proposals. (David Barton, for example, argues that the Bible opposes progressive taxation, the minimum wage, the estate tax, etc.)."
"I don't believe it is a problem for anyone, on any side of the immigration debate, to draw on scriptural themes to make their case to the public or public officials," said Montgomery, who is also a senior fellow at People For the American Way, a liberal-progressive advocacy organization. "But Reed's piece seemed to go further, citing the Old Testament and moving directly into a very specific set of policy prescriptions."
What Montgomery is referring to is Reed's statement that: "In Scripture, the obligation to care for the alien carries a corollary responsibility for the immigrant to obey the law and respect national customs. In the Old Testament, immigrants who followed the law shared in the inheritance of Israel. Amnesty violates this principle. Those who have come to the U.S. illegally must reform: Pay fines and back taxes, undergo a criminal check, learn English and wait before they can apply for a green card. Those who entered the country illegally should not be guaranteed a path to citizenship."
Montgomery is adamant in his belief that there are limitations to the ways in which scripture can guide policymaking. "There are plenty of Christians and other people of faith who would not make the connection Reed makes from immigrants in ancient Israel to his assertion that immigration reform being considered in Washington should not include a path to citizenship."
"Reed's parting instruction to politicians – to 'open their Bibles' – seemed to imply that they would find there the answers to all the complicated policy questions about visas, family reunification, penalties, and legal status that are being grappled with. And that seemed overly simplistic to me."
Montgomery added that because The Christian Post called his attention to the Salon headline, which he said he had no role in, he has asked Salon to change it "to more accurately reflect the content of the post."