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Churches Sue to Minister to Illegal Immigrants

August 25, 2011

A growing group of Alabama church leaders are fighting a new bold immigration law taking effect September 1 that they say criminalizes support and contact with illegal undocumented residents. Alabama’s United Methodist, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic churches are suing the state, saying being a Good Samaritan to the needy in their community could become illegal under the new law. Rev. Robert Lancaster of Elkmont United Methodist Church told National Public Radio, “You cannot tell a church that if there’s a man hungry out there, a family hungry out there, that they can’t feed them just because they don’t have a green card. That’s not Christian.” Methodist minister Melissa Self Patrick commented, “This new legislation goes against the tenets of our Christian faith—to welcome the stranger, to offer hospitality to anyone.”

But supporters of the law say it’s about citizen rights, not racism. State senator Scott Beason says the law does not hinder Christian ministry: “You can’t do things to help people remain in the state illegally…that’s a little different than going out and picking some kids up for vacation Bible school.” A hearing will take place Wednesday in a Birmingham federal court which may provide clarification to everyone involved.

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Toni Ridgaway is a content editor for the Outreach Web Network, including churchleaders.com and SermonCentral.com.