Monday, March 12, 2012

Illegal Aliens and Church Sanctuary Versus The HHS Birth Control Mandate

I noted with some interest an meeting of Baptists with the Obama Administration last week. One of the Pastors that was present is one I follow. See My White House meeting with Baptists (part 1) , Four things learned from my White House meeting (part 2) , TV interview about my White House meeting , and Three ways social media impacted my White House meeting .

In Pastor Rudnick's post Four things learned from my White House meeting (part 2) this link caught my eye
Baptists, White House Officials Discuss Policy Issues

Felicia Escobar, senior policy advisor for the Domestic Policy Council, brought the group's attention again to immigration issues.
Among the issues tweeters mentioned, she talked about efforts to improve the 'Green Card' process and the deportation efforts.
Asked about support for the sanctuary movement, Escobar
responded that "[c]hurches are sacred places" and the Department of Homeland Security is stopping to pursue people in houses of worship.
reported the group would be presenting Escobar with a copy of the new Common English Bible (which uses the word "immigrant" instead of "stranger" or "alien") and a copy of the "Gospel Without Borders" DVD, which was created by

Now that is interesting, and will be by jumping off point to discuss also the HHS birth control mandate. First it should be clear that there is really no Federal Law of Sanctuary. The Police can go in, and arrest people that have a probable cause of being engaged in criminal conduct. In this case being in this country illegally and other associated crimes.

The thing is the STATE on both the Federal and local level is hesitant to do this in practice. I submit it is because of the tradition of Sanctuary combined with a accommodation of religion in practice.

I have a feeling the Administrations view of staying the hand of homeland security is not based in any worries that by not doing so they would be violating the 1st amendment or the Religious Freedom Resotration act.

But what I was interested also was the language "sacred places" and" Houses of Worship". That seemed a tad limited.

So I tweeted the good pastor , and asked him the following question: Was he under the impression the Administration was just talking the 4 walls of the Church , or more broadly to schools. soup kitchens, shelters, and other social services. His response to me was BOTH.

Now that is interesting on many points. Again I highly doubt the administration is basing this on 1st amendment claims, or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act . Rather the good common sense that it is a good thing religion be accommodated. However this is based on lets say the goodwill of the Sovereign here. It could go away tomorrow.

Which leads us to the HHS Mandate problem. Out of the four walls of the Church it appears many Catholic social agencies and other institutions will not be exempt. The law is the law and everyone must follow it. The irony is the Church as to the HHS Mandate has a much stronger legal case under the Freedom of Religion of Restoration Act , than the Sanctuary Christians which involves matters of "criminal conduct" . At least that is my opinion. Not saying santuary Christians do not have a case at all , but I think it's more of a uphill climb.

In several States we have some Laws that are a huge concerns to Bishops and other Christians. That is making Christian assistance to illegal aliens crime!! The Church and others have raised these religious concerns both as to the individual and to the Church itself.

Alabama is the front line on that for a moment. A State which quite interesting has it's own version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. To see the various Church arguments and state counterarguments in their legal brief go this page.

It seems in the HHS mandate even some Catholic voices are saying that the rights of individual Catholics are no big deal. The Diocese is protected ,and that is all that matter. But again let's look at these various laws that could making giving "aid" to illegal aliens a crime. The State it seems to say hey trust us on this. We shall use discretion.

The Bishops, and others are very concerned as to the HHS Mandate precedents are being set where the State will play a more active role in declaring what is religious ,and what is not religious.

Currently in the States we have seen some reluctance to impose this anti immigration laws on the Church. For instance Catholics schools in Alabama do not have the same reporting requirement as Alabama public schools. I would contend this is because currently there is a respect for Accommodation and some quasi sovereignty to the Church.

What happens if the HHS Mandate is allowed to succeed? I would suggest it sets in part a new tone and a new precedent. Other political currents , even those opposed to the mandate, might use that in the future. I would suggest this issue of immigration is but just one where that ax might fall.

Last but not least the HHS mandate does seem to be latest imposition by the State on the Church that does not seem good for accommodation. In the States we have seen this as to adoption agencies in Illinois to activities of Catholic Charities in the District of Columbia.

The Planned Parenthood activist that thinks it's wrong for the Church not to provide Birth Control is very similar to anti illegal alien activist that would like the Catholic School raided to get the 12 years undocumented kid. There last concern is accommodation , or Religious rights but their agenda. A agenda that both can rally some amount of significant support around.

The question is as to the HHS mandate will heads that have a sense of the big picture prevail.


Rick67 said...

This is a typical Obama move. That a thing counts as x when it helps the administration's agenda, but not when it doesn't.

It's a tax when we argue before SCOTUS. But not when we try to sell it to the American people.

All these others things churches do count as "religious" for the purposes of defending them on issue of sanctuary. Invoking Scripture no less. But for purposes of HHS mandate oh no then all these wonderful things churches do and provide, that's not really religious. Even though those are things Scripture even more clearly enjoins.

I participated in a panel discussion on international ministry at Cooperative Baptist Fellowship annual meeting a few years back. One panelist (student at my own seminary) worked with illegal immigrants and was trying to explain why we need to be much more sympathetic toward why people enter the country illegally, and why they should be allowed to stay. I didn't disagree even remotely that we should minister to everyone regardless of immigration status, but had the nerve to say "I think Christians of good will can and do disagree on immigration policy". Got the distinct impression that didn't earn me any points, and I haven't been invited back.

I work with "immigrants". In my congregation we regularly translate ger/xenos as "international". But that doesn't mean I have to support open borders and failure to enforce rational immigration laws.

(I think you make that point in your post.)

James H said...

I think you are very correct that over many points of immigration law and reform Christians can disagree.

I mean goodness the Plan the Bishops backed in the Bush years would have resulted in a good many deportations for those that did not meet the requirements. Some thought that was open borders other thought the Bishops were being too timid

It's like the usue of "illegal Alien" that now is supposed to be bad. As I try to explain I think a good many Christians want to provide a break to those that came here illegally.

But if you go down the " no one illegal path" in your terminology people think

(1) Oh Great well we sill be in this same position 20 years from now


I usually find just using the word "immigrant" is not helpful to persuading those on the fence and just sends up red flags to them

Yet we are spending a lot of time on what to call these folks as we discuss the issue

APOV said...

Reagan already did the "give amnesty to the illegals already here, and we promise to go ahead and enforce our border" number in 1986. Republicans speak with the forked tongue out of both sides of their mouths on their two faces. They had made a big show of passing new laws against the hiring of illegals, but then, shortly after the invasion of Iraq, I was LOL as I drove through a small town in Illinois hearing on the radio that most of the employees at a factory which makes MRE's had not shown up to work because of a rumor that there would be an INS raid. They were begging all of these illegals to go to work and make MRE's for American troops, and promising that they would not be deported. If the government wanted to stop illegal immigration, they are well able to do so, but it would cause economic upheaval in the US as well as Mexico. The Republicans just talk against illegal immigration to deceive gullible people into voting for them, but it is certainly all talk and no action.