New Anti-Immigration Law Opposed by Christian Community

Several Alabama religious leaders are now among the many opposing a controversial anti-immigration law that is scheduled to take effect on September 1.

Members of the Christian community, including the Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church and Roman Catholic Church have filed a law suit against the state of Alabama, arguing that the impending law would make it illegal for Christians to practice their faith and be Good Samaritans as per God's directive.

HB 56 was signed into law by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley in June.

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Once in force, it would require local law enforcement to verify the immigration status of those stopped for traffic violations and public schools to determine the immigration status of students, according to Immigrant Impact. It would also make it a crime to knowingly rent to, transport or harbor undocumented immigrants.

In affidavits, bishops explain that the law would impact their service to God and His people.

“[HB 56] aims to shut the doors of our churches and social ministries, against our wills, to a whole class of people, denying them access to such basic human needs as food, clothing, shelter, and, most importantly, worship of God,” the bishops explain.

The bishops also state that the law would make it illegal for members of congregations to invite people to church services or provide them transportation to and from services. They are concerned it would make performing basic Christian rites like baptisms and marriages a crime.

"In providing or supporting these ministries, we do not -- and would not -- refuse to assist any person in need because he or she lacked legal immigration status," Episcopal Bishop of Alabama Henry Parsley told Christian Century.

In a letter to Governor Bentley, signed by 150 ministers, well-known bishop William H. Willimon noted Alabama's history of segregation, detailing that HB 56 could provoke racial profiling.

“Alabama needs to sit this one out,” he said. “The civil rights memorial in Birmingham is kind of a reminder that we’ve got to watch this sort of thing.”

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