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Faith Leaders Side with Administration in Court Challenge to Arizona Anti-Immigrant Law

March 28, 2012, 9:53 am | By Kristin Ford

Supreme CourtReligious leaders from across the theological and ideological spectrum have been outspoken in their support for comprehensive federal immigration reform and their condemnation of state legislation that deputizes teachers and local law enforcement as immigration agents, drives hard-working people further into the shadows, and creates a climate of hostility and suspicion.  When the first-of-its-kind anti-immigrant billed SB 1070 was signed into law in Arizona, the faith community immediately denounced the legislation for dividing communities and unfairly targeting Latinos.

The Supreme Court is slated to hear legal challenges to SB 1070 this year, and dozens of religious groups have signed onto an amicus curiae brief urging the court to reject the law because of the host of legal problems and humanitarian issues it has caused.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, longtime advocates for humane comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act, are also weighing in with their own separate brief.

In a letter announcing the brief, the USCCB’s Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Gomez said:

State laws in Alabama, Arizona, and other States have created environments in which immigrants, regardless of their legal status, and law enforcement personnel are pitted against each other, eroding long-held trust between immigrant neighborhoods and local authorities.  … ….Unless Congress acts in the near future, we are deeply concerned that these new laws will continue to tear at the social fabric of our nation.

The prelates also point out the negative impact these state laws have had on church ministries and continue to urge Congress to pass comprehensive reform.

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Faith Leaders Denounce GOP Budget as Immoral

March 20, 2012, 12:14 pm | By Kristin Ford

Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), chair of the Budget Committee in the House of Representatives, just released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2013.  Just like his proposed budget from last year, the plan would gut the safety net and jeopardize health care for seniors, unemployment insurance for job-seekers, and food stamps for families.

Faith leaders, who rallied last year to urge Congress to reject Ryan’s budget, are springing back into action to denounce the proposed budget for its cuts to programs that protect the poor.

We worked with Half-in-Ten (a project of the Center for American Progress) and Sojourners to compile quotes from prominent faith leaders reacting to the budget.  Check out the full list of quotes here.  Some of my favorites:

Father Thomas Kelly, Catholic priest and constituent of Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI):
“As a constituent of Congressman Ryan and a Catholic priest, I’m disappointed by his cruel budget plan and outraged that he defends it on moral grounds.  Ryan is Catholic,  and he knows that justice for the poor and economic fairness are core elements of our  church’s social teaching. It’s shameful that he disregarded these principles in his budget.”
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby:
“The federal budget is, and always has been, an indication of the priorities of our
nation. The Ryan budget, if enacted, would say that we are a nation that favors the
super-wealthy by lowering their tax rates while we harm those most in need through
deeper spending cuts in safety net programs. We are a caring, compassionate people. To deliberately target struggling families while enriching the wealthiest is both  immoral and not reflective of our nation’s values.”
Rev. Michael Livingston, director of the National Council of Churches’ Poverty Initiative:
“Rep. Ryan’s budget uses the deficit as an excuse to pursue an ideological agenda that punishes poor people who can’t find a job. If Rep. Ryan wants us to take his moralizing  about the national debt seriously, he should have the courage to ask for shared sacrifice from his millionaire donors instead of kicking poor families while they’re down.”

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American Leaders Travel to Seoul to Call on Hyundai to Take a Stand Against Alabama Immigration Law

March 16, 2012, 12:50 pm | By Kristin Ford

HyundaiToday, South Korean car company Hyundai is holding a shareholder meeting in Seoul, and prominent U.S. labor and civil-rights leaders will be there to voice their concerns about the company’s neutrality on Alabama’s anti-immigrant law HB-56.

According to Adam Luna of America’s Voicea spokesperson from Hyundai told CNN that “the company does not take a position on the immigration law one way or the other.”  America’s Voice, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, SEIU, and other American organizations are putting pressure on Hyundai and other automotive companies because of their significant presence in Alabama.

Here’s more info via The Birmingham News:

U.S. civil rights and labor leaders from several organizations are taking their concerns about Alabama’s immigration law to executives and investors of international auto industry companies in the state, starting with a Hyundai shareholder meeting today in Seoul South Korea.

… Civil rights and labor groups say it will be a compaign of progressive engagement. Representatives of the groups will address Hyundai’s shareholders today, along with those at Dailmer AG in April and Honda in June. Leaders of South Korea’s largest labor unions will co-host the event today in Seoul.

Automakers insist that the law doesn’t affect their companies, but a recent high-profile case indicates that this law is not only causing widespread profiling of Latino Alabamians but also impacting automakers’ employees from other parts of the world.  In the fall, a German manager with Mercedes-Benz in Alabama was arrested for not having proper immigration documentation (he only had his German driver’s license with him).

You can sign America’s Voice petition calling on Hyundai and Honda to “put the brakes on hate,” here.

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Rick Warren Under Fire for Partnering with Muslims

March 13, 2012, 3:06 pm | By Kristin Ford

Rick WarrenThere’s been a bit of a brouhaha in the evangelical world about Saddleback Church’s outreach to Muslims and whether or not Rick Warren, Saddleback’s nationally prominent  pastor, is watering down evangelical theology to build these partnerships.

An Orange County Register story precipitated the controversy, covering Warren’s friendship with a Muslim neighbor and his church’s initiative to combat misunderstanding and division among Christians and Muslims. According to the article, Warren proposed “a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.”

Terry Mattingly, religious columnist and writer, explained the controversy in this week’s column:

The Saddleback leader also denied that King’s Way efforts to build a “bridge” of understanding and tolerance represents a change in his Southern Baptist congregation’s commitment to evangelism.

… Contacted by email, Warren insisted that public discussions of an official King’s Way doctrinal statement — as opposed to a program by that name that promotes interfaith understanding — caught him by surprise.

While some evangelicals are criticizing Warren for building bridges with Muslims rather than proselytizing to them, Larry Ross, well-known evangelical communications consultant and Saddleback spokesperson, wrote a spirited defense of Warren:

Neither the Christmas dinner nor the broader Saddleback local outreach represents a ministry partnership between church and mosque, but rather an opportunity to foster individual relationships.  Though both communities agreed to not proselytize or force their respective faiths on each other, Christians are continuously called to evangelism, which means sharing the Good News of Jesus, through both word and deed.  That stems from the Great Commandment, the Great Commission and our commitment to love.

If sharing a meal or service project with Muslim neighbors to learn about each other’s faith represents a bridge too far, then interfaith outreach is rendered essentially impossible.

Rick Warren isn’t always a paragon of helpful political commentary,  but I hope we can give credit where credit is due. He should continue to build bridges with Muslims as an important example in a country beset by anti-Muslim sentiments and increasing polarization.

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Rev. Jim Evans calls for compassion, repeal of Alabama’s immigration law

March 6, 2012, 3:00 pm | By Kristin Ford

Rev. Jim Evans, a Baptist pastor in Auburn, Alabama and syndicated columnist, has a great column this week on Alabama’s harsh and counterproductive anti-immigrant law, HB-56.  Evans, who spoke at a recent prayer service and press conference at the Alabama statehouse, writes:

Passed as HB56, the law has been variously identified and vilified as one of the toughest, if not the toughest, state immigration law in the country.

Almost immediately, state legislators became aware of many unintended consequences in the law that affected local business and licensing practices. But beyond these bureaucratic inconveniences, there exists a host of other problems — not the least of which is a total lack of compassion built into the bill.

This is where religious leaders felt compelled to speak. For a state as overtly religious as Alabama, it doesn’t make sense for us to support and defend such a regressive approach to immigration. One poll from a few years back suggests that something like 95 percent of Alabamians subscribe to some form of Christianity or Judaism. If that number is correct, the Scriptures of our faith ought to have some bearing on the sort of laws we pass and the way those laws treat certain groups of human beings in our midst.

Faith leaders have been part of the chorus of voices challenging Alabama’s law and Rev. Evans’ column continues to build on the momentum the faith community is gaining in their fight to overturn a law that criminalizes their ministries and fosters a climate of fear and suspicion.

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