Although there is a wide array of opinions regarding the recently passed Arizona immigration bill, there is little question that it has become one of the most polarizing issues in some time.
The law, which makes failure to carry immigration documentation a crime and allows police to bypass what was previously considered due process, has caused a political firestorm. Critics have strongly criticized the statute as violating civil rights, while supporters say it is necessary for security.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a key player in passing the law, has cited faith as guidance throughout her political career.
“With past challenges, tragedies or problems that I’ve had to confront, I first and foremost relied on my faith to guide me through,” she said to a group of Lutheran pastors in September of 2009. “I firmly believe that God has placed me in this powerful position of Arizona’s governor.”
Considering the impact of Brewer’s religion on her decisions, the Indianapolis Recorder asked local faith leaders their thoughts on this controversial law.
Tony McGee, Senior Pastor, Zion Hope Baptist Church – I understand that there are arguments on both sides, but I think that we really need to get back to biblical principles. We need to make sure that God would be pleased with the decisions being made. As the Bible states, we should love our neighbors as ourselves and a man is created in the likeness of God, so we should not discriminate against anyone and should look to bridge the gap between different people.
Unfortunately, at times, we can create laws that intensify these divisions between people. It’s a very unfortunate situation that we have arrived at this point. I believe we have to analyze ourselves and ask ourselves “Are we really discriminating against a group of people?”
There are so many issues across the world that people are dealing with because of their race, gender, their culture; it isn’t just Arizona. We need to combat these issues across the U.S. and across the world. We need to get back to God and find reconciliation.
Jon Adland, Senior Rabbi, Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation – I am very uncomfortable with this law, as I think, on a civil level, it is going to violate a number of people’s civil rights. As a Jewish person, I could probably take this a little further. During the holocaust, Jews were singled out because they looked a certain way and acted a certain way, and were required to carry identification, and it was obviously negative.
Nothing about this feels like the way that God would want us to act towards other people. I don’t understand all of the issues on immigration except for the fact that people are trying to get into this country and they are doing that illegally, but we need to look for ways to fix the problem, not to punish people.
Greg A. Dixon, Reverend, Indianapolis Baptist Temple – From a strict legal standpoint, I believe that if America is a nation of laws, then the laws should be followed. I believe that the border should be secured. Based on what is going on around the world – terrorism, militants, violence – to allow an open border seems ridiculous. It is a sad situation that our federal government has put Arizona in this situation. It’s a war zone and I don’t blame Arizona or any other state for taking matters into their own hands.
From a religious standpoint, we have 11 churches around Indianapolis. One has many Hispanic members, and some don’t have papers. As a pastor, my responsibility is to reach people with the gospel. It is not my responsibility to be an informant for the government, so I am not going to report those people. I am going to try to reach people in any way I can, and if they get deported they get deported, but I am going to continue to reach out to whoever they may be. Hopefully, if they are deported, they will remember Jesus Christ as their savior, that’s our goal. We try to build a trust with them for the Gospel’s sake. Our elected politicians are doing our country a disservice by making this a political issue and using people, whether Black, white or brown, for their insidious political purposes.
Mikal Saahir, Imam, Nur-Allah Islamic Center – I think it is a very dangerous law because it opens doors we don’t want to open. It gives license or permission to detain someone based on an assumption. It is really bad for Arizona because they were one of the last states to pass MLK day.
It makes you wonder what they are thinking, how open are they to “other” people? Arizona is not the only state with an illegal immigrant problem, so why are they taking these drastic steps? It is a reminder of the old days of segregation. Just being an African American, we can relate, because we are profiled every single day.
It may not be by the police, but it happens when you are shopping or just going around your everyday life – people make judgments based on skin color. America should have a lot more going on than just that.
Many people will decide whether or not they want to live in a place based on their perception of the people there, and this is not giving a very good perception of Arizona.