7:00 A.M. EST June 27, 2011
Participants from many faith communities march June 25 in Birmingham against Alabama’s new immigration law. At right is the Rev. Marcus Singleton, pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church downtown. The orange armband identifies him as a peacekeeper. UMNS photos courtesy of Lyn Cosby.
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The North Alabama (regional) Conference has scheduled discussions in three cities in the state beginning June 28 to talk about the state’s recent immigration law.
“I had seen no issue on which more religious groups were joined than this one, with the lead given by the Catholics and the rest of us joining in,” wrote Bishop Will Willimon on the conference’s website. “It's quite remarkable. A wide array of Alabama Christians have come together to challenge this new immigration law."
According to Bishop Willimon, clergy and church members have expressed concern about Alabama’s new immigration law, HB 56, one of the toughest immigration policies in the nation. He said some of those concerned individuals mentioned encountering immigrants who were hesitant to seek aid from churches after severe storms because they feared reprisals from the government.
The new law would require schools and businesses to use the federal government’s E-Verify system to check the legal status of students and employees, allow police to arrest people suspected of being in the country illegally if they are stopped for another reason and make it illegal to shelter or transport illegal immigrants.
Willimon posted “An Open Letter” on June 13, criticizing the law and encouraging other United Methodist clergy to sign a letter to the governor and other officials.
The Rev. Reagin Brown, a retired pastor from Fort Payne First United Methodist Church, talks during the march in Birmingham.
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“The bill is an embarrassment to our state and does not represent the spirit of hospitality of our churches,” wrote Willimon. “While I'm confident that the bill will be overturned, I am proud that a number of our Methodists - those committed to evangelism and mission - are speaking up in the name of Christ to oppose this ill-conceived bill that does nothing to help our state and does great harm to our sisters and brothers.”
The Rev. Matt Lacey, director of mission and advocacy for the North Alabama Conference, also posted an article about immigration called “In the World, But Not of the World.” On his blog, Lacey invited people with all viewpoints to attend the discussions, which will be led by a moderator.
“This will be a time of worship, discussion and prayer as we seek to discern how we can respond to this law in light of our faith and denomination,” Lacey said. “We hope this will be a civil, prayerful and respectful exploration of the law among those gathered.”
The June 28 discussion will be at 6:30 p.m., at Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham. Other discussions will be Monday, July 18, in Huntsville and Monday, Aug. 22, at Holt United Methodist Church in Tuscaloosa. There also are plans for a location in the Southeast District.
*Snell is a United Methodist Communications intern and a senior at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Maggie Hillery, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.