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Beau Underwood
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.

Faith Community Unites Behind Need for Action on HB 56

February 29, 2012, 11:35 am | By Beau Underwood

The faith community’s effort to overturn Alabama’s anti-immigrant HB 56 law continues to pick up steam. Last week, evangelicals met in Alabama to talk about immigration reform that adheres to biblical, human principles, a meeting that has obvious implications for the legislature’s reconsideration of HB 56.

Then, dozens of faith leaders rallied at the state capitol yesterday to pray and lobby for repeal of the law. Rev. Bart Thau, a Methodist pastor who spoke at the event, said:

”We are all children of God, and today I call upon our legislators and I call upon the people of this state who elected them to live up to that higher calling and call for the repeal of a law that brings only hate, fear and separation.”

Faithful Alabamians have sent the legislature a clear message. They oppose the effort to degrade an entire group of people that has had severe economic consequences and troubled the conscience of the nation. They expect their legislators to act in compassionate ways that puts the welfare of the entire state above political calculations and an extreme anti-immigrant ideology.

UPDATE: Small tweak was made to the first sentence for clarity.

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Evangelicals Gather in Alabama to Talk about Biblical, Humane Immigration Policy

February 24, 2012, 4:04 pm | By Beau Underwood

Supporters of Alabama’s harsh anti-immigrant law are looking increasingly isolated and extreme. Thousands of Alabamians, including dozens of faith leaders, have rallied in support of repealing the legislation. A Republican Party leader admitted Jesus likely wouldn’t have voted for the law and a report has shown the law’s severe economic consequences.

Yesterday, evangelical leaders gathered in Birmingham at the G92 South Immigration Conference to talk about this issue, emphasizing biblical teachings around immigration and hospitality. The conference’s name itself “is derived from the 92 references in the Old Testament to “ger,” Hebrew for stranger or immigrant.”

Rev. Gabriel Salguero, a pastor and president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition
spoke at the event, saying:

Because I’m a Christian I believe in comprehensive, common-sense, humane immigration policy…Hospitality is not at the margins of scripture. Jesus wasn’t kidding around when he said, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’

The implications of Salguero’s remarks are clear. The inhumane, harsh, and inhospitable nature of HB 56 contradicts one of the core messages of the Gospel.

Lawmakers are taking notice of these efforts too. Here’s State Representative Joe Hubbard talking about the importance of faith leaders’ continued advocacy on this issue:

 

The elected officials in Alabama need to have the courage of their convictions and fix the unnecessary crisis they’ve created.

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NYPD’s Targeting of Muslims Extends to College Campuses and Beyond NYC

February 22, 2012, 1:41 pm | By Beau Underwood

Another week, another outrageous story about the NYPD targeting Muslim Americans based solely on their religious identity. The latest revelation comes from an Associated Press story detailing NYPD efforts to monitor Muslim student groups far beyond New York City, and without basis in credible intelligence:

Police trawled daily through student websites run by Muslim student groups at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers and 13 other colleges in the Northeast. They talked with local authorities about professors in Buffalo and even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students’ names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed.

This follows earlier reports that the NYPD has conducted massive surveillance on the city’s Muslim community and regularly shown an Islamophobic video as part of its training regimen for new police recruits.

As Rep. Keith Ellison wrote last week, these tactics fray relations between the Muslim community and the police, making the city and its residents less safe — not to mention the civil rights questions and privacy issues raised by the NYPD’s profiling and intrusiveness.

Given everything that has come to light, perhaps the most disturbing questions are why hasn’t Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly been held responsible for these abuses and why does Mayor Michael Bloomberg continue to defend these ethically questionable activities?

Photo Credit: Luke Roberts/Flickr

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Rep. Keith Ellison: NYPD’s Anti-Muslim Training Videos Make us Less Safe

February 17, 2012, 12:36 pm | By Beau Underwood

The news that the NYPD showed an extremely Islamophobic film as part of its training and then tried to cover up the extent of its use remains alarming. Faith leaders have called for an investigation to ensure such mistakes won’t be repeated. Today, Rep. Keith Ellison weighed in with the important reminder these episodes actually make us less safe. The Congressman writes:

The NYPD’s use of “The Third Jihad” is disturbing because it leaves officers with the impression that American Muslims are the enemy, not an ally against terrorism. This notion hurts the ability of law enforcement to do its job. No one knows this better than the brave officers who have stood up to such bigotry – it was NYPD officers who objected to the screening of the film, just as it was FBI agents who recently objected to using equally harmful training materials at the bureau.

Now more than ever, it is critical that law enforcement build relationships with the Muslim community to better fight against terrorism. In my hometown of Minneapolis, the relationship between law enforcement and the Muslim community is so strong that international dignitaries have visited to learn about our model. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has said he was able to solve several high-profile crimes only because Muslim community members voluntarily came forward to share information with the police.

The whole piece well is worth a read.

Photo Credit: Rep. Keith Ellison’s Congressional Website

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Bank Deal Benefits Wall Street, Not Homeowners

February 13, 2012, 12:13 pm | By Beau Underwood

Last week, attorneys general of forty-nine states agreed to a $26 billion settlement with five of the country’s biggest banks over their shocking practices of foreclosing on and evicting homeowners without having the documentation or authority to do so. While the size of the agreement sounds stunning, the actual compensation and relief it will bring those harmed by the banks is quite small.

As part of the deal the New York Times reports, “750,000 people who lost their homes to foreclosure from September 2008 to the end of 2011 will receive checks for about $2,000.” You read that correctly. Americans who were thrown out of their homes by the Big Banks pushing risky loans will be compensated a whopping $2,000 for the pain, suffering, and upheaval in their lives. Put in perspective, the $26 billion looks rather paltry.

Contrasting the agreement with all the bailouts Wall Street has received, which one report believes is over $29 trillion, provides further perspective. When the banks drove themselves and the economy to the brink of collapse because of their own poor choices and insatiable greed, the bailout spigot flowed freely. Now, suffering homeowners are finally promised relief only to discover the banks have again been the main beneficiaries of a gift from the government.

Adding to the disappointment, many homeowners who suffered because of the financial crisis caused by the irresponsible activity of Wall Street Banks won’t benefit at all, as borrowers whose mortgages are owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are excluded.

The havoc wreaked on our economy by Wall Street’s reckless behavior has cost our nation trillions of dollars, but the personal costs to American families runs even deeper. The banks may view the houses as assets, but for families a home is where children are raised, memories are made, and celebrations happen. Both the government officials and banks involved in this deal need to understand this isn’t just about the cost of a house or the terms of a loan. It is a debate about the type of society we want to be and the values we hold in common. This deal fails to adequately punish the greed and selfishness of Wall Street and fails to sufficiently compensate the homeowners who saw their retirements evaporate and their families upended because of foreclosure and eviction. America deserves better.

Photo Credit: The New Bottom Line

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