Evangelical Case for Immigration Reform Gaining Support

Tuesday, 09 Apr 2013 10:18 AM

By Courtney Coren

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They’ve been mostly silent until now, but evangelical Christians are coming out publicly in support of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, making the case that immigration reform is a Biblical issue.

According to The Wall Street Journal, a group of 300 evangelical leaders will gather next week in Washington, D.C., to lobby lawmakers on the divisive issue as negotiations in the Senate inch closer to producing a bipartisan reform bill.

“Republican lawmakers take guidance from evangelical America on social policy issues,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “That evangelicals have taken on immigration bodes well for passage of comprehensive reform.”

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There have already been meetings between evangelical leaders and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, who will help craft the House bill as chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

“We have been encouraging of folks like Marco Rubio and provided them with critical cover,” said Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “What really changed the political calculus was the introduction of a religious, spiritual, and compassionate case for immigration reform.”

Not everyone agrees with the new position that evangelicals are taking, however, including GOP Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, who believes evangelical leaders ought to use the Biblical passages they cite with caution.

“The Bible contains numerous passages that do not necessarily support amnesty [for illegal immigrants] and instead support the rule of law,” said Smith. “The Scriptures clearly indicate that God charges civil authorities with preserving order, protecting citizens, and punishing wrongdoers.”

A poll conducted last month by the Pew Research Center shows a shift in the evangelical position on immigration. In 2010, 66 percent of white evangelical Christians saw immigrants as a burden on the United States. Only 55 percent feel that way now.

Attitudes have changed so much that pastors and ministers now address the issue in their churches in terms of what the Bible teaches about the values of welcoming strangers and tolerance.

Last year, a group of conservative and liberal evangelicals created the Evangelical Immigration Table, an organization for the purpose of advancing immigration reform.

As part of next week’s lobbying effort by evangelical leaders, the group has organized what its members call a “Day of Prayer and Action on Capitol Hill” for April 17.

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