Beau Underwood, Faith in Public Life’s Partnership and Outreach Coordinator, holds graduate degrees in religion and public policy and worked on several political campaigns before joining FPL. He blogs about faith in the public square, public theology, and workers’ rights and other economic issues at Bold Faith Type.
Earlier this week, a coalition of faith leaders from across Alabama released a new TV ad calling on the Alabama legislators to end harsh immigration policies that don’t reflect their values. The ad points out how the law goes so far as to even criminalize religious acts of charity.
Instead of listening to the concerns of the religious community and seeking a fresh start, a sponsor of the bill flippantly dismissed them. According to WNCF:
The sponsor of the bill, Representative Mickey Hammond [sic], (R ) District 4, says the group behind the TV ad doesn’t understand the law.
“We are going to come up with clarifications and simplifications that will make the law easier to enforce and easier to understand and we’ll clear up some of the confusion about the intent of the law”
Hammon’s response is not only insulting but misleading. The faith leaders’ interpretation on the provisions and purpose on the law is based on the clearly stated intentions of Alabama legislators like Rep. Hammon himself, who has openly bragged about these provisions as an “Alabama flavor” that makes the law even better than its Arizona counterpart.
The story goes on to quote, Rev. Ron Higey, a conservative pastor in Birmingham and member of the new coalition running the ad, as saying:
“From a Christian faith perspective I cannot comfortably explain why we would treat others the way this law wants us to treat them harshly, impunitively [sic] knowing that we will have to give an account to God.”
Higey’s remarks show a clear understanding of the law’s harsh nature and immoral consequences. Rep. Hammon should spend more time actually listening to the faith community’s concerns and less time defending an extreme law that harms children and hurts the state economically.
At a press conference yesterday announcing the new faith coalition and advertising campaign against the anti-immigrant H.B. 56 law, Rev. J. Stephen Jones, senior pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham who was featured in the ad, explained what’s at stake in Alabama:
We pray together for all God’s children here in Alabama and we urge our legislators to honor the Christian commitment to family, community, and dignity by changing course on immigration. HB 56 violates our most basic values, separating parents from children, criminalizing our ministries to those in need, and opening the door to discriminatory profiling of our fellow Alabamians.
As the legislative debate heats up the faith community in Alabama has sent a clear statement. They want a state that affirms the dignity of all people and allows them to minister to everyone without fear, and they want an end to this artificial crisis created by an extreme political ideology.
Adding to the growing number of faith leaders expressing outrage at the killing of Trayvon Martin, the leaders of the National Council of Churches have said they are “profoundly disturbed” by the incident. As media attention and public pressure mounts, the NCC leaders are praying that a “thorough investigation of the incident will be a ‘first step toward discarding historic structural patterns that have caused us to dehumanize one another, and that have placed millions of our sisters and brothers, persons of color, at risk in our society — in their homes, their neighborhoods and in public places.’”
Noting the pernicious role of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law,” the NCC went on to say:
In this case, the police have said Florida law makes it unnecessary for police to investigate the shooting of Trayvon, resulting in unprecedented demonstrations of anger in the U.S. and around the world. Clearly, this tragedy has been compounded by unexamined stereotypes on both sides, and especially by the systemic racism that is pervasive throughout the very fabric of our society infecting our institutions and individuals alike.
Elected officials often fail to understand the impact of the laws they pass. Exhibit A is Alabama’s harsh anti-immigrant law HB-56, which is costing the state millions, emptying its schools, and criminalizing religious practice. While the state’s political leaders delay in offering solutions to solve this unnecessary crisis, Alabamians continue to suffer.
As faith and community leaders across the state fight to repeal HB 56, they have a clear message for other states considering passing similar laws: “you’ll regret it.” Speaking alongside others who’ve seen the consequences of Alabama’s law first hand on a press call today, Pastor Ron Higey of Birmingham International Church made explicit the anti-Christian nature of the law:
From a Christian faith perspective I cannot comfortably explain why we would treat others this way – harshly and punitively. As Christians – as people of faith, we are called to a higher standard of how we live with and treat others. For these reasons I call on upon Christians and people of faith to stand against this law and call their legislators and voice their objections and concerns.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus famously asks his disciples, “what good is it to gain the whole world, yet lose your soul?” Pastor Higey’s comments should leave Alabama legislators questioning the value of a political triumph that wreaks such havoc and causes such wrenching pain.
In a nod to the historic march of over forty years ago, civil rights activists, prominent religious leaders and working Americans are marching from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest the state’s harsh voter-suppression laws that disenfranchise low-income and minority voters.
“This is about repeating a part of Alabama’s past that does not bear repeating,” Murguia said of the state’s immigration law. “Voter suppression laws and anti-immigration laws are their way of turning back the clock, but we are not going to allow that to happen.”
Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat but Alabama native who was badly beaten during the attack on marchers in 1965, rallied marchers Sunday, telling them that the struggles for human rights in 1965 and in 2012 are the same.
“Forty-seven years ago I spilled a little blood on that bridge but that was nothing compared to those who died so that we could live in a better America,” Lewis told a large crowd in front of Brown Chapel AME Church, the same church marchers used to stage the 1965 march. “We march today for what we did 47 years ago — for what is fair, what is right and for what is just.”