Conservative Evangelical Leaders Rallying to the Cause of CIR23 May 2010
A recent article on CNN.com reports that growing numbers of conservative evangelical church leaders are rallying to the cause of comprehensive immigration reform, at least partly in response to the passage of Arizona’s controversial new immigration law. (See New Force for Broad Immigration Reform: Conservative Evangelicals, by Dan Gilgoff, CNN, 10.May.2010.) Breaking from their traditional allies in conservative circles, some leading evangelicals are “calling the Arizona law misguided,” according to CNN, and “are attempting to use its passage to push for federal immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.”
CNN reports that prominent evangelicals such as Richard Land, who oversees public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention, and Mathew Staver, dean of Liberty University Law School, plan to lobby top Republicans to support CIR. According to CNN, the coalition also includes the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, whom it describes as “an influential Hispanic evangelical figure,” and Rick Tyler, a former spokesman for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Together, they plan to outline an approach to CIR that comports with the values of evangelical Christians, CNN says, such as respect for others who are different and concern for the vulnerable.
Although some evangelicals have been campaigning for CIR since last year, the Arizona immigration law “gave new urgency” to their efforts, according to CNN, raising concerns about racial profiling and the possibility of being perceived as “unwelcoming” to immigrants.
The question is whether the general membership of the evangelical movement – people known for their conservative political leanings – will follow their leaders and support comprehensive immigration reform. Based on the policy position outlined in the CNN article, chances are better than one might think, at first blush. The path to citizenship they propose would be anything but easy, far removed from the “amnesty” idea that is anathema to so many, particularly on the right. As CNN summarized it, “The conservative evangelicals pushing comprehensive immigration reform say that undocumented workers should have to pay fines, clear background checks, learn English and take a civics class before being granted citizenship.” In fact, the evangelical position sounds remarkably close to the arduous path to citizenship mapped out in the Democratic CIR proposal, recently put forth by Senators Reid, Schumer, and Menendez. Perhaps the gap between the liberals and conservatives is narrowing on this issue – but can they come together in time?