Lou Dobbs says churches should not be helping undocumented workers. He writes:
The nation’s religious leaders seem hell-bent on ignoring the separation of church and state when it comes to the politically charged issue of illegal immigration. A new coalition called Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform Wednesday will begin lobbying lawmakers with a new advertising and direct mail campaign on behalf of amnesty for illegal aliens.
But in calling it “political adventurism,” Dobbs conflates how church or state actually keep themselves separate.
On the state side, government cannot be pressured to prefer one religion instead of another or belief over nonbelief. On the church side, faith cannot do the duty of the legislators. But that lies a long way from saying that religious leaders cannot comment on the issues of the day or even act for social change. From child and adult labor rules to Jim Crow laws, it’s clear the human laws do change, in these cases for the better. Note to Lou: religious leaders sometimes had to break those segregation laws to show compassion for the disenfranchised. Again, in a very targeted way, the New Sanctuary Movement helps the American worker, like Rev. Harkins says:
one of the best things that could possibly happen in those realms is comprehensive immigration reform, because it brings out of the shadows those people who are being paid without the benefit of medical coverage, without the benefit of other types of insurance, driving down the wage base and brings them into the light.
And looking back through history, the record stands. When faith leaders work for “comprehensive” solutions to social problems, the average Joe and Jose both win.
Additionally, it’s significant that Dobbs suddenly raises the issue when religious leaders from across the political spectrum unite to douse the flames of “alien” intolerance that he fans each night. The Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine put it this way: “If given the choice on this issue between Jesus and Lou Dobbs, I choose my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.” In defending why it’s good for religious leaders to speak up on this issue, Rev. Harkins notes the New Sanctuary Movement moves beyond the partisanship of public policy because this is foremost about human compassion and “people policy.”
As you may have heard, Pope Benedict had an interesting thing to say to reporters while on his way to Brazil. This from the AP:
Flying to Latin America, Benedict was asked about comments by Mexico City church officials that the lawmakers would be excommunicated for having voted last month for the legislation legalizing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
“It’s nothing new, it’s normal, it wasn’t arbitrary. It is what is foreseen by the church’s doctrine,” Benedict told reporters aboard a plane to Brazil in his first full-fledged news conference since becoming pontiff in 2005.
Reporters flying with the pope took his comments to mean that he endorsed the comments by Mexican churchmen that the lawmakers should be excommunicated.
Vatican officials have acted quickly to tone down the ‘EXCOMMUNICATION!’ headlines, clarifying that:
“Since excommunication hasn’t been declared by the Mexican bishops, the pope has no intention himself of declaring it,” said Lombardi, who was on board the plane. “Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist. … Politicians exclude themselves from Communion.”
It will be interesting to see how this story develops in the days and months ahead. The Pope’s mind was on Mexico and Brazil when he spoke, but as the US Presidential season approaches, such comments will almost certainly be applied to our political environment. With the most prominent Catholic candidate a pro-choice Republican (pace, Dodd supporters), will conservatives rehash their 2004 calls for withholding of communion from pro-choicers? With the US Bishops meeting in November to consider an updated version of ‘Faithful Citizenship,’ what impact will Benedict’s comments have?
Fr. Tom Reese is a friend of ours here at FPL, and always a wise source of comment on matters related to the Church of Rome and politics. He has issued the following statement in response to the day’s excitement:
Pope on Pro-Choice Politicians
While traveling to Brazil, Pope Benedict XVI responded to a question about Mexican politicians who voted to legalize abortion. From his answer, reporters inferred that he endorsed comments by Mexican churchmen that the politicians should be excommunicated. The pope’s press spokesman later issued a statement approved by the pope that said the pope did not intend to excommunicate anyone. In response to questions, AP reports that the spokesman said, “Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist. … Politicians exclude themselves from Communion.”
As Governor Romney eloquently said during the Republican presidential candidates’ debate, each church has the constitutional right to determine its internal policies, for example, who can go to Communion and who cannot. This is not a violation of the separation of church and state. The Quakers, for example, would have every right to excommunicate a member who voted in favor of war. Whether they should or should not is an issue to be debated and decided by the church.
In talking about abortion, it is important to distinguish a person’s position on the morality of abortion from a person’s position on whether the state should criminalize abortion. A person who feels that there is nothing wrong with abortion is clearly taking a position contrary to the position of the Catholic Church. But it is a separate question whether abortions should be criminalized.
Many canon lawyers and moralists believe that a politician could be against abortions and still oppose criminalizing it for prudential reasons, for example, because he believes such laws would be unenforceable, divisive and politically unrealistic. He may believe that a more realistic approach is to enact programs (healthcare, childcare, welfare, employment) that will reduce the number of abortions by giving women a real choice, by empowering them to say yes to life. These politicians point to the fact that there were fewer abortions during the Clinton Administration than during the Bush Administration. Raising the minimum wage, for example, would reduce more abortions than outlawing partial birth abortions. Such a politician could say, “I am opposed to abortion and will do everything possible to reduce the number of abortions short of putting women and doctors in jail.â€
So far, the vast majority of the U.S. Catholic bishops oppose denying Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians and voters. During the 2004 presidential election, only about 10 to 12 bishops of the approximately 190 diocesan bishops spoke out in favor of denying Communion. When the bishops meet in Baltimore this November, the question of denying Communion to pro-choice politicians will once again be debated when they vote on a new statement on “Faithful Citizenship.â€
Clergy and lay leaders of We Believe Ohio put their prayers into action at the Statehouse earlier this month on the National Day of Prayer to call for passage of a moral state budget. More than 100 clergy and lay people met in Columbus for prayer and preparation before marching to the Statehouse and participating in meetings with 22 State Representatives and Senators — including 8 Democrats and 14 Republicans, most in positions of leadership — as well as Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher and Governor Ted Strickland’s office.
They were extremely well-received by all offices and repeatedly told that We Believe has helped set a civil tone and a spirit of bipartisanship!
We Believe Ohio clergy and lay leaders asked legislators to resolve long-term funding inequalities in public education, because every child in the state of Ohio is entitled to have the opportunity to receive a quality education; lift the cap on the Housing Trust Fund, because We Believe Ohio acknowledges God’s call that we care for the poor, the wayfarer and the stranger; and raise parents’ eligibility for Medicaid and allow uninsured children in families with incomes over 300% of the poverty level to buy into Medicaid/SCHIP, because our Creator desires health and wholeness for all people and quality healthcare is a God-given and constitutional right. For more details on We Believe’s legislative ‘asks’ see the press release here.
We Believe Ohio is a coalition of clergy and lay leaders that Faith in Public Life helped launch in 2006 to provide a positive faithful voice for social justice in the state.
A solidly conservative leader, Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has recently come out in support of comprehensive immigration reform against the majority of the religious Right. Dubbed here by Fox News as the “Power Player” this week, Dr. Land goes through a list of GOP presidential candidates and gives his quick opinion on who he likes and what reservations he has about several of the front runners. In calling himself a conservative, he notes that:
“God may not have a side when it comes to NAFTA and CAFTA, but I believe fervently that God has a side when it comes to the protection of all human life, from conception to natural death and everywhere in between.”
Recently Dr. Land has teamed up with diverse leaders, from George Soros’ Open Society and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism to push for six party talks with North Korea as well as working with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Sojourners’ Jim Wallis, and yes, even Sen. Ted Kennedy during a Capital Hill press conference on solving the immigration issue with compassion. It will be interesting to see how the most powerful official Southern Baptist leader continues to influence American public life and the sixteen million Southern Baptists he serves.
Too often too many conservative Christians assume that God is on their side or they tend to conflate God’s interest with America’s interest. That’s an assumption that no one can make about any country, even the United States. As Lincoln put it so eloquently, our responsibility and obligation is to do our very best to be on God’s side rather than assume that God is on our side. We have to understand that our ultimate allegiance belongs to God, not to the United States. If we make patriotism an ultimate value, then it becomes an idol. As important to me as patriotism is, I was always taught by my parents to love my country, and to respect my heritage, and always to love and to respect God even more.
This morning, Christian faith leaders from across the country gathered for a press conference on Capitol Hill to launch Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, a grassroots and ad campaign calling for comprehensive immigration reform that is consistent with biblical values. Ads announcing the campaign ran in Roll Call and CongressDaily today to coincide with the launch.
Faith in Public Life coordinated the press conference, and has full video of the event available below.
For the rest of the press conference, follow these links: