A very long line of religious leaders have assembled to speak out against the Trump administration’s policy on separating children from the parents of immigrants detained at the U.S. border.
Religious leaders speaking out against presidential administrations is nothing new. But to see such a varied group coalesce around a singular issue is worth noting. (You will find a list with links below.) Immigration enforcement policies by the United States of America have always been difficult. They are difficult to reconcile to being a “nation of immigrants,” with the public concern for those seeking asylum, protecting the nation from those who would do harm to the nation, and the varying social and religious ethics of its citizenship.
The Trump administration is enforcing a policy to provide a severe deterrent to illegal entrance to the country. Our nation’s history is littered with various immigration policies. Pew Research Center has an informative timeline assembled by D’Vera Cohn that you should check out. No matter their reason for arriving across the border, with bad intentions or seeking asylum in a peaceful land, the policy is causing great concern. It is difficult to deny that we have a wing of vitriolic media that dislikes everything about President Trump. Additionally, social media allows for the immediate dissemination of any reporting (true or false) and any photograph meant to elicit a range of emotions. Pile on to those ideas that people of faith in America have increased their care for “the least of these” who arrive at our border.
A tempest is brewing in our culture.
The Department for Homeland Security is enforcing a policy regarding the prosecution of those illegally entering the country. Part of that policy is separating of children from their parents. The DHS has provided a Next Step for Families on what will happen with their children and how to find a their child’s status.
Time magazine reported regarding the position of Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President: Conway rejected the idea that Trump was using the kids as leverage to force Democrats to negotiate on immigration and his long-promised border wall, even after Trump tweeted Saturday: “Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change!” Asked whether the president was willing to end the policy, she said: “The president is ready to get meaningful immigration reform across the board.” Meanwhile, former first lady Laura Bush described the policy as cruel, immoral, and reminiscent of internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
At this point, approximately 2,000 children are separated from their families under the “zero-tolerance” policy because U.S. law prohibits detaining children with parents because the parents are the individuals being prosecuted.
And here begins a place of friction for people of faith. Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered up Romans 13:1-3 to remind people of the government’s power. He is apparently forgot to quote the rest of the chapter; specifically Romans 13:10 that states “Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.” It is unsurprising that the administration is not cross-referencing the myriad of scripture passages that encourage people of faith to care for the aliens/immigrants to arrive in their land. The overall ethic of the Bible is to welcome the foreigner. By doing so, it reminds us that we were once foreigners to the Kingdom of God but are now citizens by God’s grace. As to whether these passages apply solely to the church or also to a geopolitical nation, I’ll let your own interpretive process decide.
In response to the current policy enforcement of separating children from parents in such a fashion, a wide array of religious groups and leaders are speaking out. I’ve cobbled together from various news sources. (Special shoutout to Jack Jenkins of the Religious News Service for his good work. Check out his Twitter thread on it as well.) Here is my list as best as I can see from across the religious spectrum in the U.S.A.
The Southern Baptist Convention passed a Resolution (#5) calling for immigration reform with an emphasis on maintaining family unity.
Evangelical Immigration Table released a statement on the issue. The group includes leaders from Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Korean Churches for Community Development/Faith and Community Empowerment, National Association of Evangelicals, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, The Wesleyan Church World Relief, and World Vision.
Tony Suarez, executive vice president of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference tweeted: “God have mercy on those that seem so nonchalant to the plight of children being separated from their parents.”
The African Methodist Episcopal Church condemned AG Sessions’ use of scripture to justify the policy with a statement.
The Presbyterian Church USA released a statement.
President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rebuked the policy.
The Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers) tweeted about it: “Don’t buy into the taking points. #FamilySeparation isn’t upholding the law – it’s a choice that the administration is making. A cruel, unnecessary choice. Congress has to speak out now. #FamiliesBelongTogether.”
Leaders across religious lines have joined together to call on the United States government to rethink the current immigration policy and stop separating families with a statement posted at the UCC website. The signees include:
- His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Legate and Director of the Ecumenical Office, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America
- Mr. Azhar Azeez, President, Islamic Society of North America
- The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Chair, Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
- Senior Bishop George E. Battle, Jr., Presiding Prelate, Piedmont Episcopal District,African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
- The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church (United States)
- The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
- The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
- The Rev. David Guthrie, President, Provincial Elders’ Conference, Moravian Church Southern Province
- Mr. Glen Guyton, Executive Director, Mennonite Church USA
- The Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
- Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, Union for Reform Judaism
- Mr. Anwar Khan, President, Islamic Relief USA
- The Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller, President, Provincial Elders’ Conference, Moravian Church Northern Province
- The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA)
- Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
- The Rev. Don Poest, Interim General Secretary & The Rev. Eddy Alemán, Candidate for General Secretary, Reformed Church in America
- Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick III, Presiding Bishop, The Eighth Episcopal District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
- The Rev. Phil Tom, Executive Director, International Council of Community Churches
- Senior Bishop McKinley Young, Presiding Prelate, Third Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church
The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church released a statement
The General Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church released a statement
Church World Service, which regularly advocates for immigrants released a statement
Over 2,500 women faith leaders have reportedly signed this open letter demanding the policy be brought to an end
The Unitarian Universalist Association released a statement
Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition was quoted in the Washington Post opposing the policy.
Randy Hollerith, dean of the Washington National Cathedral tweeted: If this administration is looking to Scripture to justify policy, perhaps they should also consider what Jesus said: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
Jewish Orthodox Union released a statement
World Vision, which cares for children throughout the world, released a statement
The American Baptist Churches of New Jersey released a statement
Evangelical Covenant Church released a statement
The Church of the Nazarene released a statement
As a Christian, I hold firmly that my primary citizenship is with the Kingdom of God and not on the earth. While in this mortal life, I will side with the ethic of the Scriptures to call for just treatment of all people as image-bearers of God. To my best understanding, the current policies are cruel tactics. Even with the need to enforce border security and regulate immigration, our country’s leaders can do better. As people of faith, let us call for justice, honor those in authority, and seek to care for “the least of these.” We can do all of these things while holding up the hope we have in Christ, which is for all people.