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Alabama Churches Argue Immigrant Law Will Harm Ministry E-mail
Written by Don Byrd   
Monday, 11 July 2011

A lawsuit from plaintiffs including Alabama churches and religious organizations is challenging that state's new law placing penalties on those providing aid to undocumented immigrants. The complaint, brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, argues the measure violates many provisions of federal law and will have the effect of interfering with ministry. Here are a few excerpts:

[Greater Birmingham Ministries...]serves approximately 3,000 families per year, which averages 7,000 people, by providing free non-perishable foods and fresh vegetables and fruits; free clothes, including clothes for school-age children; and financial support in the form of rental payments, utility bill payments, bus passes, and prescription drug payments. GBM does not have the need or capacity to ask for immigration status from its clients before offering them services. Under HB 56, GBM fears that this policy may lead them to be prosecuted for encouraging undocumented immigrants to stay in Alabama or for aiding in harboring and transporting them due to paying for their rent, utilities, and bus passes....Additionally, GBM’s members have expressed this fear of prosecution since they often directly provide transportation to undocumented members of their congregations for vacation Bible school for school-age children and for healthcare and childcare.
Plaintiff [Pamela] Long does not ask the immigration status of people she is ministering to or providing assistance to, but they often disclose this information to her. A considerable number of the individuals she has ministered to over the years are undocumented immigrants. She will continue to provide rides, interpretation, and other support to undocumented members as a part of her faith work if HB 56 is implemented....If HB 56 is implemented, Long and the undocumented immigrants whom she serves as a part of her ministry will be subject to criminal prosecution. Plaintiff Long will, however, continue to engage in these activities because doing her ministry work is central to her religious beliefs and part of what she believes it means to act in a humane and Christian manner. She refuses to be forced to act against her Christian morals and religious beliefs.

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