An Open Letter to Governor Robert Bentley, Senator Scott Beason, and Representative Micky Hammon

An Open Letter

As Patsy and I have traveled about the Conference to witness the work of our churches in storm recovery many pastors have told us of their frustration that Spanish-speaking friends in the hard hit areas have been reluctant to take help from the church because they were afraid of possible reprisals from the state.

We thought this sad and hoped their fears were unfounded.

Then our state passed the meanest immigrant legislation bill in the nation.

The bill is an embarrassment to our state and does not represent the spirit of hospitality of our churches.

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.

Many of our clergy plan to sign the following letter that will be sent to the governor, legislators and local newspapers. For clergy to add their signature to the letter, please email Rev. RG Lyons at with your name and church affiliation.  We also invite all United Methodists to attend an ecumenical prayer vigil on June 25 at 6:30PM at Linn Park in downtown Birmingham. At the vigil we will pray for those affected by this new law as well as voice our opposition. In the coming months, we will also call for open dialogue concerning this law, our faith, and its implications.  For information on these opportunities, please check the conference website soon.  



Will Willimon



An Open Letter to Governor Robert Bentley, Senator Scott Beason, and Representative Micky Hammon:

Forty-eight years ago, while sitting in a Birmingham jail cell, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that, just as Christians have a moral duty to obey just laws, they also have a moral duty to disobey unjust ones. We are a group of United Methodist ministers from all across the state of Alabama who believe that HB 56 is an unjust law. Both proponents and opponents of the bill have described HB 56 as the “toughest immigration law in the country.” Among other measures to halt illegal immigration, it gives police the ability to stop anyone they have a “reasonable suspicion” may be here illegally. It requires schools to verify the immigration or citizenship status of students. It denies bail to anyone arrested for being here illegally. And, it makes it a crime for a citizen to associate with someone who is here illegally, whether that be inviting them to one’s home or church or giving them a ride in a car. 

We know that many who support this law are well-meaning individuals who are seeking to find the state's best interest at heart: they are people who are worried about employment in this fragile economy and some feel that the state is strained to pay for services like health care, police and fire protection, and education for those who may be here illegally.   

These are all valid concerns. We believe, however, that many elements of this law are not in the state’s best interest. Teachers and principals are already stretched thin and have suffered tremendous budget cuts. Requiring them to also verify the immigration status of students will, in all likelihood, cost rather than save money and can only distract them from their most important task: preparing our children to succeed. Prohibiting bond to people who are here illegally means that more and more people will be kept in jails that are already overcrowded and understaffed. Finally, this law will most certainly be challenged in court and could cost the state millions of dollars at a time when nearly every state board and agency must accept budget cuts in this economy. 

As Christian ministers, however, we not only believe that this law is not in the state’s best interest, but we also believe it contradicts the essential tenets of the Christian faith. Scripture is filled with examples of God’s people wandering as “aliens and strangers.”  In the Old Testament, God reminds the people, “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Exodus 22:21).” Jesus told parables about people like the Good Samaritan – someone who was not considered a true Jewish citizen – stopping to help a battered and beaten man while the leaders of the people passed him by. And the apostle Paul taught us that in Christ there is “no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, but all are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).” 

We believe that God’s call for the United Methodist church is to be a church for ALL people, to be in ministry to ALL people. HB 56 would define many of our churches and many people in our churches as lawbreakers. United Methodist across the state welcome all people, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, to our churches, activities, and programs. Many of our fastest growing churches are Spanish-speaking, and we do not check people’s immigration status at the door. In response to Jesus’ admonition in the parable of the Last Judgment to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked and welcome the stranger, many churches have ministries to care for those who are poor by providing them with food, shelter, and transportation. Again, we do not check people’s immigration status before inviting them into our church vans and cars. We United Methodist clergy will continue to be in ministry to all people and we call on all United Methodists to do the same. 

In Christ’s Peace,

By: William H. Willimon On 6/13/2011
Topics: Weekly Message from the Conference


1. Melanie Lankford wrote on 6/13/2011 11:13:54 AM
Thank you for writing this letter. You have my prayers and support on this issue. My heart hurts over the harshness of the bill.
2. Sandra Gerhardt wrote on 6/13/2011 12:45:00 PM
Thank you, Bishop Willimon. I pray that every pastor in the North Alabama Conference will sign this petition and continue (or begin) to minister to all people in the same manner that Jesus did.
3. Mark Parris wrote on 6/13/2011 12:47:22 PM
Excellent letter, RG! This is an Acts 5:29 law where we must do what is right rather than what is legal.
4. Christy Wadsworth wrote on 6/13/2011 12:48:02 PM
This is a wonderful response to an insidious measure. Our legislature should have spent their time serving the State of Alabama instead of designing a bill that's only intent is to bring the spotlight on the hatred and bigotry that still exists in our state. This bill will cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees before it's overturned by the US Supreme Court.
5. Sharron Muller wrote on 6/13/2011 1:07:57 PM
May God bless you as you so boldly take a stand for what is right! We, as Christians, must show a Christian attitude to others of all races. We are all ONE in the eyes of Christ Jesus!
6. John Alexander wrote on 6/13/2011 1:37:08 PM
Thank you Bishop Willimon for speaking out on this issue. - - "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out" - Luke 19:40
7. Alan Renfroe wrote on 6/13/2011 2:43:33 PM
Are you kidding me? For starters, why is the United Methodist as a denomination taking a stance on this political issue one way or another? HB 56 deals with the very real and relevant problem of using public finances to fund ILLEGALS. (thus the name, illegal.) I am proud of this bill, proud to be an Alabamian, proud to be an American, not so much being a United Methodist at this moment.
8. Melody Hall wrote on 6/13/2011 3:46:13 PM
My prayers are with you!To stand up for what right these day deserves a bow!!!! We are suppose to treat all God's people Godly! not some but ALL!!!!
9. Paul Brooks wrote on 6/13/2011 4:00:36 PM
Bishop, You state, "In the coming months, we will also call for open dialogue concerning this law, our faith, and its implications." Before sending a letter to the governor and the newspapers why not wait until you have had this open dialogue with rank and file members of the United Methodist Church?? What if a substanial percentage of church members disagree with your position and takes issue with your interpretation of some of the key provisions of this law--can we too have a voice and not make it appear because a letter is signed by a few it necessarily represents the views and opinions of all Methodist. There should be no rush to send such a letter--other than for political reasons. Do you think once the Governor receives a letter from the North Alabama Methodist Bishop and signed by a few pastors he will immediately realize he made a mistake and repeal the law?? Wait and get feedback from your flock--is that too much to ask??
10. Carol Gullatt wrote on 6/13/2011 4:11:57 PM
Paul, the United Methodist Church has Social Principals which were established through dialogue drawing on scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. Because of our strong heritage, debating this specific issue is not a needed step. We are United Methodists and have a responsibility to lead in society. Sometimes that means being in a rush to respond. Rest assured, the response has been developing for as long as Methodism has been a movement!
11. RG Lyons wrote on 6/13/2011 4:18:51 PM
Alan: I wrote the letter that we intend to send to the governor and newspapers, so let me explain why many of us believe it absolutely the right thing to do for United Methodist clergy to take a stand on this political issue. First, this is a letter that will be signed by United Methodist clergy -- it does not represent the entire denomination; simply the views of those of us will sign it. Paul, the reason we believe we cannot wait is because many people who are connected to United Methodists are living in fear right now. There is no time to wait, in my opinion. There are several reasons why we believe we need to make this statement. First, as I said earlier, there are many Hispanics (some of them undocumented) who are members of our churches and connected to our ministries. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ and part of the United Methodist church. We believe our connection through Christ transcends our connection as Americans. Secondly, we believe there is a strong theological justification for opposing this law. Scripture speaks consistently about welcoming the alien and stranger. This law does everything it possibly can to make them unwelcome -- even criminalizing those who chose to welcome them. I must say that I have not heard a theological argument to justify support of this law. Every argument I've heard appeals to patriotism or economics. As Christians, we believe we must let our theology come before all other ideologies. Thirdly, we feel compelled to speak because this law would hurt the ministries of many of our churches as it would put many United Methodists in a position to choose between obeying the law of the land and following our call to serve ALL people, whether that be giving them rides in our cars or welcoming them to our churches. If either of you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to email me at
12. Dalton Styes wrote on 6/13/2011 4:50:26 PM
As a minister of the Gospel, I am compelled to stand opposed to HB 56.
13. Frances Moore wrote on 6/13/2011 5:11:06 PM
Beautifully stated and explained. Thank you, Bishop, and all the pastors who sign this petition. I am grateful for your witness to the love of God for ALL people.
14. Sally Rochelle wrote on 6/13/2011 5:15:53 PM
I was pleased to see this letter. New laws are not needed to address immigration; enforcement of existing laws would suffice.
15. Alan Renfroe wrote on 6/13/2011 5:16:39 PM
RG, I really and genuinely disagree with you. You stated, "many of us believe it absolutely the right thing to do for United Methodist clergy to take a stand on this political issue." The UM clergy shouldn't be taking a stand on ANY political issue. As a lifelong Methodist, I do not believe it is the Bishop's place to use our religious denomination to represent me politically. The pulpit is not an appropriate forum to push political ideals or opinions. I am deeply troubled if this is the overall philosophy of the United Methodist Church.
16. Bob Bentley wrote on 6/13/2011 5:17:32 PM
The prophets warned over and over of mistreating "Foreigners" and "women and children". Concordance it. It did not work out well for those who would not hear. Nor did it work out well for the goats in Matthew 25. The legislation in question will make life so hard on the "foreigners" among us that they will die or leave. If you assume that the public good demands that illegal immigration be addressed,surely there is a way that is more consistent with the compassion of Christ. The Gospel is not up for a vote. Praise God for courageous clergy who will speak the truth from the pulpit and in the streets. You are not alone.
17. Tim Tatum wrote on 6/13/2011 5:24:12 PM
RG: Thank you for your voice and action. You have always garnered the deepest respect from me. Alan: While this isn't a very appropriate means for meaningful conversation, I will respond anyways. Before anything else, I believe this is a complicated issue, never as cut and dry as Illegal or legal. Thank you also for your voice. It does two things for me. 1) It calls me to be humble. It reveals how, in my own life, my opinions are not always shaped by my faith. I will be the first to admit that my faith does not always line up with my actions, so please don't feel as if I'm pointing a finger at you. Rather, it is humbling for me to reflect on the many ways I fail to live by the example of Christ. Tough for me to imagine Jesus being concerned about a person's visa or green card before performing an act of kindness. 2) It confirms to me the truth that we as United Methodist ministers have failed to teach and instruct about the Kingdom of God and the breadth of Scripture. I would remind you and myself that we (people of the Methodist heritage) were also frontrunners in the abolitionist movement ... until economics and patriotism to certain states caused us to forsake our identity. Wesley prohibited a Methodist from owning slaves, but the teachings were disregarded. Tough for me to imagine the Wesleys checking a visa or green card before handing out a meal at the Foundry. The illegals may be illegal, but they are still deserving of our Christian character. If we lose this, then what have we left? If indeed I have the correct Alan Renfroe (Please forgive me if I'm wrong), I encourage you to heed the words of scripture on your Facebook page, "Love your neighbor as yourself. Judge not lest ye be judged. Be excellent to each other." I fail to see how the disposition of your heart reflects these statements of faith. If you'd like to contact me as well, feel free to email: Peace, Tim
18. Roger McCrary wrote on 6/13/2011 6:21:54 PM
Everyone is called to aid without garnering status, whether it be rich or poor, "legal" or not, etc. As more and more of these restrictions come into play, more and more of us become the perpetrator of a crime by doing as Jesus told us. But then was he not condemned for the same thing? What good company we keep!
19. Mac Buttram wrote on 6/13/2011 6:48:53 PM
As a retired ordained United Methodist minister and as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives I read this “Weekly Message” with great interest. Interestingly, in the three months the House was in session I heard from only one United Methodist pastor regarding my stance on this bill. He is a long-time friend for whom I have great respect—especially since ministry to the Hispanic community is vital to his call. And, I never received a call from Bishop Willimon. I campaigned in 2010 to address illegal immigration. For me the key here is the word “illegal.” If something is illegal then we need to take necessary steps to stop it. I strongly support House Bill 56 which we passed and has been signed into law by Governor Bentley. Here are some facts about HB 56 that I think are important for us to know. They come from a summary prepared as informational regarding the bill and its impact. (It and the actual bill may be viewed at I have also used the summary to clarify four specifics in the letter written by Bishop Willimon. I am under no illusion that opinions will be changed—this is intended to be informational. • In every circumstance, a person’s immigration status shall be determined solely and exclusively by the federal government; no state or local official may make an independent verification of someone's status. • Law enforcement officers may not use race, color, or national origin in enforcing this act. • Records related to the employment authorization of a person are admissible in court, i.e., not hearsay. 1. “It gives police the ability to stop anyone they have a “reasonable suspicion” may be here illegally.” • Upon any lawful stop, detention, or arrest made by a state, county, or municipal law enforcement officer of this state in the enforcement of any state law or ordinance, where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the citizenship and immigration status of the person, except if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation. 2. “It requires schools to verify the immigration or citizenship status of students.” • Public elementary and secondary schools shall determine whether an enrollee was born outside the US. In making this determination, the school shall rely upon the enrollee’s birth certificate. • School districts will be required to obtain data, to be aggregated and disseminated by the State Board of Education, regarding the numbers of United States citizens believed to be enrolled in the public schools of the state. Additionally, the report shall identify the effects upon the standard or quality of education provided to students that may have occurred as a consequence of the enrollment of students who are aliens not lawfully present in the United States. 3. “It denies bail to anyone arrested for being here illegally.” • Any alien who is arrested and booked into custody shall have his or her immigration status determined within 24 hours of the alien’s arrest. • Persons charged with a crime for which bail or confinement is required must have their immigration status verified within 48 hours. • If a person is determined to be an unlawfully present alien, then they shall be considered a flight risk and shall be detained until prosecution or until handed over to federal immigration authorities. 4. “It makes it a crime for a citizen to associate with someone who is here illegally, whether that be inviting them to one’s home or church or giving them a ride in a car.” • It is unlawful to (or to attempt or conspire to): conceal, harbor, or shield an alien from detection; transport an alien in furtherance of their unlawful presence; encourage or induce entry or residency in the state of a person known to be illegal immigrant.
20. Doreen Duley wrote on 6/13/2011 7:38:50 PM
I am thankful that UM clergy are being asked to sign this letter. I will do so in accordance with my conscience and my call. Thank you R.G. and others for demonstrating true leadership.
21. Lynn Douglas wrote on 6/13/2011 7:45:55 PM
Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18 mandate that we are called "to bring good news to the oppressed/poor" and "let the oppressed and broken hearted go free." Thank you, Bishop Willimon and the pastors of the North Alabama Conference, who have taking a stand for justice and mercy.
22. sheree robinson wrote on 6/13/2011 8:18:17 PM
I want to know & report undocumented folks who seek help at the govt. "hand-out" place I work. These folks have told me "what ever works best for the children" when I ask questions. What? All I wanted was "Yes" or "No". That may sound nice to you, but note, if a documented family did the same thing it would be called lying/fraud. I am also concerned about id theft but am not allowed to currently check and cannot tell the employer that the person working is illegal. If we do catch fraud & an over-issuance occured it will be the owner of the social security num. who's income tax refund is pulled. Also undocumented households are given a card to use for the Am. children but the adult's name is listed. No problem? Except this card can be used as voter id. We used to verify legal status at work and it only took about 2 min. However, while I oppose gov't help for any family where the parents are here without documentation I do understand that they are children of God and part of my family. As the Body of Christ/Church I do believe we are called to help in the name /prayer of our Father. I have no problem with the church helping with food and to help our brothers and sisters gain legal entry into this country. I understand the fear of gov't action due to association (more than most of you posting on this site) but I believe the church will have it's usual exception to rules in AL. Note: these are my own thoughts, which I am allowed to express but I, in no way, represent where I work.
23. Alan Renfroe wrote on 6/13/2011 9:14:25 PM
I am terribly sorry that many of you do not know I have deep compassion for ALL people. I think Mac Buttram and Sheree Robinson have done a great job of articulating my point. Bro Tim, I do agree that everyone is deserving of our Christian character. That's not the point I was trying to make at all. The only point I was making is this: as an American citizen, if I am pulled over by the police I must show a license. When registering my children for school, I must prove citizenship and residency in my geographic area. Why should less be acceptable from those who are here illegally? Are we to disregard the 10 commandments lest we offend the adulterers or murderers? The rules are the rules - and they are fair for everyone. Love the sinner - hate the sin. Look, as I am writing this I realize that I will not be able to change a single person's mind about this I will stop trying. The point is that the law is the law, and I don't like being represented as a United Methodist in political arguments, even as RG stated, if one feels "theologically justified." May the love of Christ be with you all!
24. R.G. Lyons wrote on 6/13/2011 9:21:08 PM
Alan, I think we must respectfully disagree. Mac, I don't see how any of your comments "clarify" our letter. 1. Giving police the authority to stop anyone with "reasonable suspicion" will most certainly lead to racial profiling. 2. Requiring schools to verify the citizenship or immigration status only adds another job for school administrators at a time when they are suffering budget cuts and may be understaffed as it is. 3. Denying bail again means more people will be in overcrowded and understaffed prisons. 4. Criminalizing people who associate with people here illegally would put many of our ministries in jeopardy. I do hear your comment that only one UM minister contacted you while this bill was being debated. I am ashamed to say that I waited too long to begin speaking about this.
25. Joe DeWitte wrote on 6/13/2011 10:31:17 PM
Folks, while I don't wish to sway you one way or another, I must clearly state: these 'illegals' as many people call them, are Children of God, made in the very Image of God, and, as Christian people, our sisters and brothers in Christ. So, legality here has little to do with who people are and how we respond. Our outlook on the world is one of the Kingdom, not the Union. I love this country, I love this state (even though I am only a recent transplant), but we ourselves are nothing more than 'resident aliens', people living in a land that is not our true land, our documentation is the book of Life. I feel that all this supersedes any particular designation that humanity places on people. Further, I am a pastor, and my name is on this letter. You all continue to be sisters and brother's in our Lord, Christ Jesus. May God bless you all.
26. Lewis Archer wrote on 6/14/2011 8:42:35 AM
I am most uneasy with this law as it regards association with illegal immigrants. I remember a time in our state when the INS raided a church "dinner on the grounds" in the old Roanoke District and I found that offensive. I know people who are probably doing illegal drugs yet the law does not prohibit my being in church with them. I need to hear a clarification of what this law actually means. The government does not have the right, in my understanding to tell me who can talk to me or who I can witness to. I understand that I can't be a Coyote (someone who facilitates illegal immigration) but I don't think the State can tell us whether to be in ministry with undocumented people or not. I fear that this law does just that. In an age that is strongly resistant to increased government intrusion into our lives I find it peculiar that we in Alabama are welcoming this expansion into our personal space and our churches. My question is what does this law actually mean in this regard? Also, I hear nothing here about the law's sanctions of those who employ illegal aliens. I don't see an actual increase in consequences for them. Instead of approaching this problem by crushing those at the bottom; why not attack it at its source, money? It seem to me that those who knowingly hire undocumented workers are guiltier than the workers and their consequences need to be more severe. Undocumented workers come because Americans employ them. We want cheap labor here just like we can get it overseas.
27. Mac Buttram wrote on 6/14/2011 9:14:44 AM
R.G., Perhaps I can clarify my clarification. 1. “Upon any lawful stop, detention, or arrest” is the operative phrase here rather than "reasonable suspicion." 2. It merely requires a birth certificate for students to enroll in school, something that I have had to produce when my children enrolled in school. Schools will then report statistically those born in the U.S. and those born elsewhere. 3. Bail is only denied to criminals who are a flight risk, which already applies to anyone arrested for a crime. 4. This does not criminalize association with immigrants unless you are aiding them in their “unlawful presence.”
28. Mac Buttram wrote on 6/14/2011 9:43:38 AM
Lewis, I think you may get answers to your questions at this website:
29. Phil Kirk wrote on 6/14/2011 10:18:04 AM
Thank You to all of the Clergys who sign this letter. You have my support.
30. Matt Lacey wrote on 6/14/2011 10:21:40 AM
I think I can say that my comments would speak for many in opposition to this bill: This bill is a political solution to illegal immigration. Will it help? Possibly. Will it create jobs? Maybe, but I have some doubts. But all of this doesn't matter. Regardless if it helps the state, it does so by vilifying other sisters and brothers in Christ. This isn't a political or economic issue for us, regardless of the outcome: it's a religious one. I'm sure many politicians and economists have worked hard on this bill to come up with (what they feel is) a solution for the state of Alabama. But again: that doesn't matter. It's a religious issue. America, money, jobs don't matter here: this extremely harsh law does not fit (in any sense) with the message of the Gospel. This is the point the Bishop, RG, myself, and others are trying to make. I know I am currently breaking the law by feeding, on a regular basis, those who I suspect are in the country illegally, as well as folks who are here legally, in my neighborhood, and will continue to do so.
31. Ted Peterson wrote on 6/14/2011 12:06:05 PM
Sign my name. My ancestors were all immigrants -- for economic, political, and religious reasons. As both Christians and Americans we are still in the business.
32. Earl Freeman wrote on 6/14/2011 12:38:43 PM
Wow! I'm used to reading these articles and seeing no comments at the bottom! This is the first time I have responded. Mac - thank you for your responses, I'm printing the whole thing to read more closely later. Most of us either don't hear about upcoming legislation or it "goes in one ear and out the other" until something like this gets our attention. My fear is this - I don't want the state telling me who I can be in ministry to. Half my church (and my wife's church) could be arrested for work they are doing in regards to the April 27 tornado! Can anyone address the enforcement of this law on ministry? Will we have INS raids on Hispanic worship services? Will I be arrested for giving food to an "illegal"? If so, go ahead and bring the "squad car" and lock me up!
33. rob etheridge wrote on 6/14/2011 12:46:26 PM
Ted Peterson wrote that you could sign him up bc his ancestors 'were all immigrants.' Ok, everyone's ancestors were immigrants - even the American Indians came from Asia. I am a Christian and support this immigration law. There is nowhere that Christ says we are to disobey any law - just or unjust. We have laws set up whereby people can become citizens of this great land. Is it a long, arduous process? Yes. Is it unreasonable? Maybe. However, these things does not make it right for people to 'skirt' the law and cause any undue hardship on those here legally.
34. Michael Edmondson wrote on 6/14/2011 2:33:38 PM
While I am grateful to the state of Alabama for all the services that it provides for citizens to use; my strongest objection is with the point in the law dealing with "association" of illegals. I am reminded of the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan who helped someone while passing through a country not of his own. As a former Army Officer who served for 9 years to defend the rights and freedoms of this nations people, it is a very dangerous slope for any government entity in this country to begin to restrict the rights of legal citizens in who they can help or not help.
35. Kathryn Coltrane, lay member, Bluff Park UMC wrote on 6/14/2011 3:58:03 PM
Thank you for sending and signing this letter!! I may not understand everything about the Bible and following Christ's example, but Jesus sure seemed to mention "the least of these" a lot - the poor, the alien, the oppressed. Seems to be a major theme of living the Gospel. Lots of 'mercy' talk too. This is a human, neighbor issue, not just a 'political' issue. Peace and Blessings.
36. Bart Styes wrote on 6/14/2011 4:20:50 PM
Last night I tried to find a biblical basis for the more egregious sections of HB 56. The best I came up with is that we are to obey the laws of whatever country we live in (Romans 13), which could include: Don't break the law to get into a country. As well, there are specific and high expectations in the OT regarding resident aliens and some level of assimilation. Great advice for a foreigner in a strange land but what about my responsibility as a Christian and an American citizen? I have found little to no scriptural references or bases in the arguments made by those in favor of HB 56. That leads me to believe there never was one. Time and time again, in the Old and New Testaments, I found much more consistent and compelling scripture that would point to the Christian's responsibility to love others, scandalously so. HB 56 is flawed and appears incompatible with the call to live a life of Christian discipleship as understood by United Methodists. As Methodists we stand convicted of not educating our laity on our Social Principles, our peculiar position as advocates of the least of these, and of not being more engaged on this bill before it passed.
37. John Alexander wrote on 6/14/2011 7:18:02 PM
You know - there are laws and then there are laws. I'm just thinking about those who are desperate to feed, house and clothe their families who run in to the bureaucracy of the entering our country to work. They might not want to stay. They might not want to abandon their country. They might not want to be one of us. But they are trapped in a cycle of poverty, violence and injustice. The only thing they know for sure is that they want something better for their families and are willing to work for a wage that we Americans would consider illegal considering we have a minimum wage law. Even considering the option of working for a Drug Lord they follow the righteous path of earning a legitimate salary. These are the people who we are calling illegals. Yes, they are manipulating our system but do they manipulate any more than Wall Street or the oil companies. I fear my rejection of these folks as if I were rejecting and angel or perhaps Jesus himself. MATHEW 25:31-46
38. Bob Murray wrote on 6/14/2011 8:04:09 PM
Although I do not support HB 56, I still want to know who is going to pay the already astronomical and still rapidly increasing costs of supporting illegal immigrants. The number of persons living on incomes below the poverty level is growing every day. We are still in an extreme economic recession that is not going to end any time soon (regardless of what politicians are saying). Many United Methodists are living on significant lower incomes than they had a few years ago and are continually berated because we have a difficult time paying apportionments. All of these opinions are compelling to one degree or another but I do not see any suggested option for dealing with this major problem. We need solutions, not opposition.
39. Billy brown wrote on 6/14/2011 8:53:56 PM
Bob makes a great point. I haven't seen a solution offered yet.
40. Tim Cook wrote on 6/14/2011 9:21:57 PM
Illegal immigrants are simply following the carrots laid out by illegal employers to come and stay in this country. I might have had respect for HB 56 if it went after these employers instead of further victimizing the powerless who in most cases are simply trying to feed their families. We'll never solve this problem if we victimize the immigrants instead of address the cause for their immigrating here in the first place. And as long as the illegals (the employers, that is) bankroll the politicians that make these laws, it will always be easier to just victimize the immigrants.
41. Melanie Lankford wrote on 6/14/2011 9:48:17 PM
The young people who were brought here illegally by their parents when they were children know this as home. The Dream Act would have been one of the solutions for them if it had passed. To qualify for The Dream Act, they had to live here for at least 5 years, be under 30, graduated from one of our high schools, have good moral character, and join the military or pursue a college degree at their own expense. They could have applied for a loan but not a grant. They would have been here legally during that time but could not become a citizen for several years. If they were to get into any trouble with the law, they would have been deported. This act would have helped the innocent who went to school with our children. But it was voted down.
42. Mac Buttram wrote on 6/14/2011 10:20:23 PM
Tim Cook, HB 56 does go after the employers. Section 15 (you may read at • No business shall knowingly employ, hire, or continue to employ an unauthorized alien. • Effective 4/1/12, every employer shall enroll in E-verify and, thereafter, shall verify the employment eligibility of the employee through E-verify. • This section contains an E-verify "safe harbor" provision. • Penalties for violating this section: o First violation: termination of unauthorized employment, three year state-wide probationary period, business license suspension of up to 10 days (location of business only). Suspensions of licenses or permits as a result of a first violation shall terminate one business day after a representative of the business signs an affidavit stating that the offending entity is in compliance with the provisions of this act. o Second violation: permanent revocation of licenses in business location only. o Subsequent violation: permanent revocation of licensees throughout the state. • Any resident of this state may petition the Attorney General to bring an enforcement action against a specific business entity. Additionally, the Attorney General or the district attorney of the relevant county may bring an action to enforce the requirements of this section in any court wherein the entity or employer does business.
43. Stephen G. Mann wrote on 6/14/2011 10:49:59 PM
I pastored a small church in southwest Huntsville for 5 years. Gradually the congregation began to realize that a decision needed to be made to close the doors and board the windows; or to embrace the Latino community in the neighborhood. To my surprise, this aging congregation chose to honor its 150 year heritage by renovating the sanctuary, restoring the fellowship hall, updating the children's classrooms and passing along its remaining financial resources to this new Latino ministry. The pastor, a U.S. citizen, has baptized numerous joyful believers. He consistently gives away a significant portion of his meager salary to help the poor under his care. He is a diligent, passionate, grace-filled man who is far more Christ-like than I. How unfortunate that most of us will never get to know our Latino brothers and sisters and their beautiful children. Thankfully, I know them well. Their gracious and humble spirits; their devotion to Christ; and their love of God and neighbor are exemplary--the sort of disciples Jesus would be proud of. I pray that God will soften our hearts. Surely we can agree that in Christ there is no male nor female, no Jew nor Greek, no black nor white, no Asian nor Latino. Bill Coffin once said, "it is better not to live than not to love."
44. John Adkins wrote on 6/15/2011 1:01:58 AM
I believe as any lawful citizen of these United States that I expect the laws of our country to be enforced and upheld. Too long have we allowed illegals to work and exist in our county unchecked and unchallenged. My wife was hit by a drunk driver (illegal alien) He nearly killed her. What was done to him? He was put in clean, dry jail cell, given food and the best of care at tax payor's expense for 2 days then allowed to go free and was never identified for seen again. Even the police report did not identify the owner of the vehicle involved in the hit and run incident. He just disappeared into the community. We were told immigration will not come to remove just one person so they let him go. I know many hard working Alabamians that can not qualify for any public assistance and yet every time I get in line at the grocery store or fill presciptions at my pharmacy (I am a pharmacist) the illegals have food stamps and medicaide. Their lifestyle is supported by you and I the American tax payor. They get help where regular working Alabamians can get no help. Through the policy of lies. An illegal man decided he is going to take a wife, but he can't because he or she is illegal. The man has insurance where he works and could get coverage for his family if they were legal or could legally be married but since they can't the woman gets pregnant and she goes on medicaide and when the child comes it goes on medicaide when by all circumstances they should be on the man's insurance. But no he is an illegal and should not be able to get a job in this state. The burden on the state and society is enormous while good legal citizen go hungry and without health care and the local hospital emergency room become a way for illegals to get free health care. I think it is high time for our government to enforce our laws or change them. If I were doing the same things in their country I would be dealt with. Illegals should not expect a free ride any longer. I feel it is way pasted time for this bill to be introduced and passed in Alabama. I live in one of the highest hispanic areas in the state, also the highest drug abuse and trafficing in drug and human flesh. It is a sin sit and allow this culture to change the fabric of rural Alabama. If an employer must use e-verify in order to hire then there will be no jobs for illegal and returning home may look much more appealing. My brother in law Kerry Rich campaigned on doing something about illegal imigrants and he is a good methodist and a man with Alabama at heart and I am proud of him as one of the sponsors of this bill. I have disagreed with Bishop Willimon before and I will again. His policy to creat new mega churchs instead of supporting and building existing congreations is one of the most ill conceived ideas I have ever heard of. Chosing numbers over lives lived for Christ is just a numbers game that ignores the possibilities of one man brought to Christ. In a 7 mile radius of my home there were 10 United Methodist Churches and so a new mega church was planted, it took 25 young couples from our church eager to help launch this new project. Totally crippling our church for several years and desimating many others. Has this mega church flourished, NO! This was in an area with a population of less than 50,000. So I agree with Paul Brooks, Alan Renfroe and Mac Buttram. Treat me with the same laws, I'll show you my license, my SS card and any thing else. Put the burden of proof on the employer not on the tax payor. Find out the opinion of Methodist before you speak for all of them, or speak for your self only.
45. Mac Buttram wrote on 6/15/2011 8:02:40 AM
Steve, Well said. That is the letter state leaders and legislators need to receive. I might even sign that one myself. Thank you for this insight and your witness.
46. billy brown wrote on 6/15/2011 8:45:11 AM
3 strikes your out law was a huge costly over correction from politicians. I wouldn't be surprised if this law produces similar results. Open borders with quicker assimilation into our system seems like a better idea to me. We that are opposed also could voice our views through Face Book, Twitter or any other social network at our disposal. I want to emphasize that open borders with quicker assimlation IMHO would be more Christ like, cheaper in the long run, and would not be a decision that 20 years from now we are regretting like 3 strikes your out.
47. RG Lyons wrote on 6/15/2011 9:03:23 AM
John, in response to your asking us to find out the opinions of Methodists before speaking: the United Methodist Church has stated its position on immigration that was adopted by the General Conference in 2004. You can read it at Every annual conference sends delegates to the General Conference, so our letter simply applies the opinion of the United Methodist Church to this particular issue.
48. Joe Elmore wrote on 6/15/2011 11:18:07 AM
I'm deeply grateful for the witness of our bishop and many other United Methodists in opposition to Alabama's recently adopted immigration bill. At the heart of who we are is a welcoming spirit of compassion and inclusiveness.
49. Lewis Archer wrote on 6/15/2011 11:36:33 AM
Mac, I have looked at the web page you suggest. Firstly, I am still not at all sure what would be "legal" in terms of association with our undocumented neighbors. Would the Salvation Army be violating this law by aiding the undocumented neighbors staying in their homeless shelter? Would a church feeding center be found to be aiding and abetting the lives of the undocumented neighbors they feed? I can't see any exceptions at all in the law as written so I feel that it will have the effect of really hurting ministry. I hope I'm wrong. Also, in the sanctions for employers there is loss of business license. This is not proportional. The consequence to the undocumented neighbor is much more severe than that to our documented employer neighbors. Jail time or exile would be more equitable. I know we don't do exile but there is a symmetry between that and deportation. The other problem I see in this is that legal immigration is very fouled up nationally. Good, law abiding, hard working people can't come legally without years of waiting. This aspect is not a state issue but a federal one. I fear that one state or several states piecing legislation together leads to inequity rather than an improvement of the situation. I hope the law can be changed to be more just to all concerned. I also hope our churches will in no way hesitate to extend the hands of Christ to all our neighbors in both word and deeds of mercy.
50. Jake Barrett wrote on 6/15/2011 12:14:18 PM
What would happen if as United Methodists we focused on those who are illegal bringing the Power of the Kingdom to them where they are? What if we prayed for them, helped them (in any way we could) with their physical needs? What would happen if day after day as Christian's in the Wesleyan tradition, we declared God's goodness into the lives of these folks? My point is I would like to see our church start actually operating in the life giving power to which we have been given access rather than continuing to make statements in a political arena. Cause "we've" made statements about war while there are people around us who need Jesus who still needed Jesus after the statement was made. "We've made" statements about this social issue and that social issue and in the same way lives weren't changed and the issues are still there. As Christian's we are called to change lives through the power of Jesus not through picket signs. Fact remains if people are in front of us we are supposed to minister to them. How many of us conservative or liberal do that?
51. Matt Lacey wrote on 6/15/2011 12:35:46 PM
I feel we are losing some perspective on this: I'm sure many American Christians would be supportive of evangelists in a country such as China, and would deplore the treatment they receive by the government for being a witness of Christ. However, they break the laws of China. Those evangelists, while being detained by the government cost the taxpayers of that country money, and they are there "illegally" as well. However, we view this as an unjust law, and therefore breakable in order for the greater Kingdom of God. In much the same way, this is an unjust law. There are less-harsh ways to enforce immigration, and I will continue to break this law because Christ calls me to minister to sisters and brothers, regardless of where they came from, or look like. We simply can't pick which laws we call just or unjust, the witness of the Gospel does it for us.
52. rob etheridge wrote on 6/15/2011 1:00:35 PM
John Alexander said he feels that his 'rejection of (illegals) is as if (he) were refecting an angel or Jesus Himself.' Well, there is the problem, John. You think that people are rejecting them. Others have said they haven't seen a solution. I gave a solution in which my Baptist church helped an illegal get back to his country and find work to support his family. Maybe, the church should be about helping them find a way to live in their country in a way in which they can help their family as well as the Kingdom.
53. Melanie Lankford wrote on 6/15/2011 1:00:53 PM
Thank you Matt Lacey for clarifying "The Truth."
54. RG Lyons wrote on 6/15/2011 1:40:36 PM
One of the arguments for this law is that illegal immigrants are a drain on taxpayers. Several people have made that argument on here. First, let me say I agree with Matt that the argument of a drain on taxpayers has nothing to do with our faith or the gospel -- it is an economic argument; not a theological one. However, I understand that many people are struggling financially and it is tempting to blame people who are perceived to be leaches on the system. However, this claims are actually not very factual. According to the Montgomery Advertiser, illegal immigrants costs Alabama about 112 million in social services but they pay Alabama about 130 million in taxes -- actually paying in more money than they take out. The article can be found at,, a non-partisan group that holds politicians and other political players (both conservative and liberal) accountable for the half-truths and flat out lies they tell. Fact Check states that the non-partisan congressional budget office says that the costs of illegal immigrants is "most likely modest." You can read their report at Finally, the Washington Post has an article stating that illegal immigrants cost taxpayers less now than in the early 1900s when many Irish and Italian immigrants were coming into the U.S. and that also there are fewer illegal immigrants coming into the country now than there were 10 years ago. It can be found at
55. Billy brown wrote on 6/15/2011 2:34:30 PM
So Alabama tax payers are making money off of illeagles? That's going to be a tuff sell.
56. Bob Murray wrote on 6/15/2011 2:35:07 PM
RG, The numbers you report from the Mongomery Advertiser article regarding cost of social services for illegal immigrants of $112 million was for 2005 and the estimated $130 million in taxes paid was for 2010. Also, to quote the Immigration Policy Center, "it is difficult to know precisely how much these families pay in taxes, because the spending and income behavior of these families is not as well documented as is the case for U.S. citizens."
57. Larry Wright wrote on 6/15/2011 4:31:50 PM
OK, I've been away from the NA website for a few days, and have just now seen/read this whole post with all the comments. Someone clarify the following for me: Did Bishop Willimon write the letter being sent to Gov. Bently, et al, and thus asks for clergy under his authority to show support by signing it, or did R.G. Lyons write the letter for which Bishop Willimon is showing his support of its content and encourages other like-minded clergy to do the same?
58. Matt Lacey wrote on 6/15/2011 4:49:47 PM
Larry, This is a letter drafted by Rev. RG Lyons, myself, and others which the Bishop is endorsing. Thanks for your comments.
59. Karen wrote on 6/15/2011 7:39:43 PM
Thank you for writing this letter to Gov. Bently. I am a american citizen I was born in alabama and have lived here 35 years. I am married to a illegal immigrant, we have been married 5 years. We have two little boys and i never thought one day I would have to choose between my husband and my family. I know we will have to leave Alabama and this is really hard for me because my father has cancer from being exposed to agent orange while he fought for this country. It is so sad because his son-in-law and grandchildren are hispanic and there not even welcome in the country he fought for. It's really hard to face the fact that one day we will have to raise our kids in mexico where there are no jobs, education, and their are so many drug related murders. People ask why don't they just apply for a visa here but they do not understand tat it cost anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 dollars to get one. I ask everyone who reads this to understand this effects more then just the hispanic people it affects American citizens to. Thank you again for trying to help all of these familys .
60. German Gomez wrote on 6/15/2011 8:12:43 PM
Thank you, Bishop. I am grateful to you for standing up for the weak an the less fortunate people in our state. God bless you.
61. Billy brown wrote on 6/15/2011 9:50:49 PM
1. Reform welfare (jettison the lazy) 2. Open borders (reasonably) 3. Streamline citizenship
62. John Alexander wrote on 6/15/2011 9:56:19 PM
Can someone get me off the "Notify me of follow-up comments" list. I think everything has been said and "every church has been challenged and equipped to grow more disciples of Jesus Christ by taking risks and changing lives." Mail the letter, thanks to those ministers who signed. Fellow Methodists - lets move on.
63. Eric Bagwell wrote on 6/15/2011 11:17:03 PM
A few have commented that "UM clergy should not be involved in politics." One reason I feel differently is that I regularly lead others to say the Lord's Prayer in which we offer "...thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." I would be a hypocrite to pray this and not offer my hands and voice to help the kingdom be realized on earth. Specifically regarding this immigration bill, perhaps the Lord's prayer also has bearing when we say, "and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."
64. Delbert Freeman wrote on 6/15/2011 11:21:35 PM
There are many non citizens who are in America who are honest, hard working and are here within the law and are becoming legal citizens. I have met many of them and enjoy their love of America. Much of this new law is necessary to deal with the illegal acts that are counterproductive to our state. Many Alabama citizens who agree with this bill only want people to follow the laws of immigration and citizenship. Mac Buttram should be commended for his careful consideration of this law. I feel that Bishop Will Willimon will find that many Methodists do not share his views. It might be wise to evaluate and value the opinion of other Methodists before speaking for all of them. There is a way to become a legal United States citizen. The web site, has an application for citizenship. Anyone who wants to be a law abiding citizen can follow these steps and become a citizen. They will be rendering unto the government and to the Lord by following these instructions in this website. These steps should satisfy both the government and the church.
65. Melanie Lankford wrote on 6/15/2011 11:47:01 PM
Karen, I am sorry you are going through this heartbreaking situation. You are right that it affect American Citizens too. I know some young people that I asked why they did not become legal. After some research and asking questions to some Immigration Lawyers, I found out that once they turned 18, they became adults and even though they grew up here, they could not become legal. Once they turned 18, they were labeled as criminals. Criminals cannot get visas or green cards. It is against the law in the U.S. If they go back to Mexico to try to legally come back, they are banned from here for at least 10 years because they are criminals. There is no forgiveness. They are not allowed to make a wrong right. They have the choice of hiding out here, or going to the dangerous country they were born in but do not know. Most choose to stay here and lay low. They live in fear daily of deportation. These young people I know were honor students in high school with dreams of going to college, but they are not allowed to do that in Alabama. I hope and pray that somehow, the broken Immigration System will be fixed and you can get your husband here legally and these young people can get here legally so they can work toward making their dreams come true. Many who come here are only here to work for a little while and plan to go back to their country. But there are some who have strong connections here and they need to have a chance to be forgiven and become legal.
66. RG Lyons wrote on 6/16/2011 7:23:14 AM
Thanks for clarifying Bob. I think my point still stands which is that people here illegally do not end up costing tax payers tremendous sums of money as many assume.
67. Billy brown wrote on 6/16/2011 8:17:46 AM
If our country had half of the work ethic these folks have then there would be plenty of money/help for those who truly need it. It might not cost so much to have them here but for a nanny state system that's already broke because of excuse making, i desrve a handout, abuse it becomes to much of a strain. Reform welfare and a lot of this will go away.
68. sheree robinson wrote on 6/16/2011 8:39:48 AM
I have prayed Rom. 8: 26. I suggest that everyone do the same. My postition seems so clear to me and your postition seems so clear to you and each of us believes the other to be wrong or misdirected. However, I believe that somewhere between the positions we will find God's solution to this. And I've always found God when I seek Him and He always has the answer.
69. Marjorie E. Palmer wrote on 6/16/2011 12:58:46 PM
Brothers and Sisters: The road to genocide is a slippery slope that begins with bad legislation, allowing citizens to treat others with unkindness. This legislation reeks of unkindness. I am happy to sign this letter.
70. rene wrote on 6/16/2011 1:45:53 PM
"I keep thinking that our governor, it's almost like he doesn't know the history of Alabama and he does not know the reputation our state struggles with," Willimon said. "I am concerned, and I do want the world to know that this does not typify Alabama." First of all, I'm wondering what's the real agenda behind the support of the Methodist Church since for centuries Alabama has proposed and passed laws that stripped Blacks of their dignity and rights and I've never seen their churches step out to protest any of them. This law is the same as "Racial Profiling", just given a different title. Where were all the Methodist Churches and you supporters then? And as far as the governor is concerned, he's very well informed on the history of Alabama and is only following in the footsteps of his forefathers. And contrary to the statement that "this does not typify Alabama". This behavior is very typical of Alabama. Alabama is known for creating and passing laws that affect only minority races. The reputation that this state struggles with will not stop until the "Racism" stops....And that will be when Jesus comes back!
71. Carol Gullatt wrote on 6/16/2011 2:08:23 PM
Rene, the "real agenda" is the same agenda that served as a call for many of our clergy to join in the march from Selma to Montgomery and to sit in solidarity with those at the Woolworth lunch counter. The Methodist movement has always stood for justice. We all need to brush up on our history! Jesus took up the scroll of Isaiah in the temple - looking back to the prophets. Isaiah 61 is a good place to start. The Kingdom of God is at hand!
72. Paul Brooks wrote on 6/16/2011 2:37:52 PM
Bishop Willimon, I don't know if you are monitoring these comments or not---but if you aren't hopefully someone will pass along this suggestion, Nothing being said in these comments are changing anyone's personal opinion of this matter If you and others are serious about the ramifications of this new law on pastors and churches-- before making it even more political--why don't you pick up the phone, call the Governor and ask for a one on one meeting to discuss this issue. I believe Gov. Bentley is also a man of faith (even though Baptist) and would meet with you. Then after getting all the facts decide your next step.
73. Jeff wrote on 6/16/2011 4:57:47 PM
Will this news affect the argument?
74. Larry Jones wrote on 6/16/2011 5:33:38 PM
Everyone should realize that just because the Bishop and a few pastors take a position, it does not represent the feelings of the thousands of Methodist in the North Alabama conference who believe that we should not be supporting law breakers. You should also read where UMCOR is supporting illegals by providing funds for the water stations along the border for illegals as they come across.
75. Richard Grooms wrote on 6/16/2011 6:25:03 PM
The Methodists here in this letter are displaying true Christian values. It's too bad the other large denominations in the state aren't.
76. sheree robinson wrote on 6/16/2011 9:50:39 PM
I have been praying that God will give me the words to pray about this situation. And today I believe I was offered the suggestion that we should find what unites us and then list what divides, but in a postitive way. If I might offer the 1st two: 1. We are all Christains seeking after God through Jesus. (Each year beginning Disciple Bible Study we are cautioned not to overreact to what might be said but to listen in love and trust God to correct). 2. We all want clarification on how the Church will be treated when they do God's work of serving undocumented people. Blessed be the peacemakers!
77. mary wrote on 6/16/2011 10:15:41 PM
I am not a member of the clergy, but a life-long member of the United Methodist Church. At this time I am very concerned about the position of the Bishop and the intimation that his views represent the body of the United Methodist Church. I believe that all people are children of God and are entitled to fair and compassionate treatment. I also believe that the Constitution of the United States defines citizenship and the rights and protections afforded to citizens. If a person chooses to reside in a country illegally there are consequences which must be borne by those who have made the choice. Those who choose to provide aid to those who are in violation of the law are also libel to the consequences of providing such assistance (it is called aiding and abetting). I am also a retired school teacher and over my many years in the classroom I never heard anyone express too much concerned about how overburdened with non-teaching tasks to which I or my fellow teachers were subjected. Before this law is hacked to pieces it needs to be given a chance. If there is to be a prayer vigil, let us meet to pray for a world beset with war and fear, let us pray for the victims of the storms which ravaged our country this spring, let us pray for the many people who are facing losing their homes or feeding their families when jobs have been lost, let us pray for those people who reside along the border in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas who now live in fear for their very lives as the drug wars in Mexico spill over into United States lands. Yes, we need to pray and we need to be in constant prayer that God guide and protect the United States of America.
78. Lance Moore wrote on 6/17/2011 10:56:16 AM
We already had plenty of laws on the books dealing with illegal immigration... that's why it is called "illegal immigration"! The problem is with lack of enforcement, both at the border and in our state of Alabama. This bill is a smokescreen to cover the failure of enforcement, but worse, it is political pandering to racial fears. While I am clergy, I don't pretend to have a monopoly on understanding Scripture, but I think there are aspects of this bill, and attitudes shown by our governor, that are so clearly against the teachings of Christ, we have a conscience-duty to speak against it.
79. rob etheridge wrote on 6/17/2011 1:11:04 PM
Dear Marjorie, it is pathetic that you liken this legislation to legislation that came from the NAZIS leading to GENOCIDE. RICHARD GROOMS. You statement infering that those (like me) opposed to this letter are not showing 'true Christian values' is out of line. Just because I think we should control our borders and what goes on within them does not mean that I am mean-spirited or that I do not have the spiritual well-being of others in mind.
80. Ed Foy wrote on 6/17/2011 2:02:53 PM
Thos that oopose the new iimigration law and speak out from their position in the Methodist Church would do well to listen to their congregations, many of who are businessmen that face moral and legal dilemmas in competing with those that knowingly use illegal immigrant labor. If the Bishop and the pastors of the Methodist Church wish to be involved in politics then they should do so as private citizens, not as leaders of congregations that they purport to represent. The assertion that they are not representing the views of the Church but rather as individual members is laughable. If that is the case why do they use the pulpit and the titles to put forth their views and use the resources of their office (phone, fax, email, and this website)to put forth those views? Of cource immigrants are our "brothers in Christ", that does not negate the fact that illegal immigration is illegal and that the rule of law in this country is what provides the basis for the continued safeguard of our right to practice religion freely. What many have against this new law is it is designed to strengthen enforcement of existing law, law that they doi not want to see enforced. Taken to the logical conclusion many of the viewpoints expressed above would likely lead to a call for "open borders". IS that what you would like? The USA, with its rule of law and largely free-market economy has been the greatest source of freedom and prosperity the world has ever known. But that is increasingly being threatened by those who seek to ignore the law or oppose its enforcement. I read with interest R.G. Lyons assertion that the "facts" show that the "costs" to society of illegal immigrants are less than the taxes paid by those immigrants. I checked the sources listed above: an editorial written by an immigration lawyer who quoted two pro-immigrant sources. The "facts" they quote cerainly don't square with those from a number of other sources, including a variety of private and governmental agencies. My personal experience has involved preparing income tax returns for a number of illegal immigrants and I can tell you that most do not pay their legal share of income tax. In many cases they qualify for benefits that result in "refunds" that greatly exceed the combined amount of income and payroll taxes they pay --- and that is before even considering the myriad and far more substantial costs of other benefits they receive --- the cost of which is part of the deficit that is driving our country broke and for which my children will tiol to repay. For goodness saker, on average teh costs of goverment benfits provided to LEGAL citizens exceeds the total of taxes paid by EVERYBODY. We have $1.4 trillion Federal deficit for that reason. So don't insult my intelligence by asserting that taxes paid by illegal immigraments comes anywhere near the amount spent to provide all of the local, state and governmental benefits they receive directly and indirectly. If the Bishop does not think that my family is paying enough to provide "compassion" for those who broke the law to get here ahead of my many friends from overseas who have been trying to do so legally, then perhaps he should donate his salary, rather than imply that those of us who believe there are economic and legal limits to generosity are less Christian than he. Ed Foy
81. Bob Reed wrote on 6/17/2011 2:51:37 PM
Bro Lyons, you say "there are many Hispanics (some of them undocumented) who are members of our churches and connected to our ministries. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ and part of the United Methodist church." But if we knowingly harbor a rapist or murderer in our midst simply because he is a fellow United Methodist, would we not be guilty of crime? You are allowing yourselves to be blinded to the fact that these people are ILLIGAL. You and the Bishop are being blinded by leftist thinking. Illegal is illegal, whether it is a murderer or alien. Are you suggesting some form of civil disobedience? I hope not.
82. Herb Williamson wrote on 6/17/2011 3:29:36 PM
Ed Foy: Did I misread your comments about your being involved in preparing income tax returns for a number of ILLEGAL immigrants? If I read that correctly then I find your entire remarks a bit conflicted. However, I write mainly as a retired clergy. To your comment about clergy needing to listen to their congregations I simply remind you that I was called by God to the ministry, certainly to be in ministry with laity. But my first obligation to to listen to God and do that through prayer and the scriptures. I remember the same things being said by some laity when we were struggling with God's will in the 60's about segregation. Many of those people who were angry with me for speaking what I believed then was wrong in our state have now come to see how wrong segregation was. I believe the same will be true on this issue. But as a called of God person, I do not decide to keep quite about politics, I decide to speak God's truth where ever it is needed. I consider you like some of my good laity years ago. You really believe what you are saying but you are more influenced by the culture and your politics than you may even know. God bless you as you struggle with what is right and I encourage your to be supportive of your pastor even when he/she is not in agreement with you.
83. Carol Gullatt wrote on 6/17/2011 5:38:59 PM
Rob Etheridge, (I am assuming you are my old college friend Rob - who is a Southern Baptist serving in TN or MT.) I would like to remind you of the context of this forum. This discussion is being held in the context of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church. The persons who are posting in this discussion are primarily members of this this conference and many, including Marjorie, are Ordained Elders in the UMC and have studied and upheld the doctrine and polity of the UMC for many years. As you participate in this open conversation, I would like to urge you to keep these factors in mind as you engage in this conversation among co-workers and parishoners. We welcome you as "the stranger in our midst." If I am incorrect about your identity, affiliation, and location - please fill me in!
84. Ed Foy wrote on 6/17/2011 6:23:57 PM
Herb (post 62): You did not misread me when I said that I have prepared many returns for illegal immigrants. That is precisely what the IRS and the government encourages me to do, help these immigrants comply with the law regarding filing requirements. I am not sure what it is about this that you think is conflicted. The IRS does not communicate with ICE and wants everyone legally required to file to do so, regardless of their immigration status. And to the extent that these immigrants of whom I speak are legally entitled to benefits made available to them through the tax system I assist them in that manner. In fact I have done this pro bono more times than I care to remember. And I treat every individual with the same respect with which I hope they will treat me. With rsspect to paying taxes, my experience has been that most ilegal immigrants do not file, mostly because they deliberately underpay through withholding and end up owing taxes beyond their means, or willingness to pay. This is largely because they do not legally qualify for Earned Income Credit. Comparing illegal immigration to racial segregation is a canard in my opinion. I am in favor of increased LEGAL immigration. When I call for pastors to listen to their congregations I understand that you must listen to God. And I hope God will lead you to take into consideration what members of your congregation have to offer as a result of their own experiences, education and yes, listening to God. And you are absolutely right in how influenced I am by Politics and culture. It is this country and its politics and culture that with the help of God, has been the driving force of improvements in the general well being of mankind in such a way that all of these immigrants now seek to join us here. It is this country and its culture that was the first in the history of mankind to recognize that our rights are God-given. Of course I am conflicted, my desire for the improvement of the human condition is conflicted with the reality of constrained resources, essentially unlimited economic needs of man and the responsibility of good stewardship for those of us blessed to be here as citizens of this country. And I am supportive of my pastor -- but that does not mean that I support him in every position he takes. Reasonable people can disagree, as can people of faith.
85. JIM PECK wrote on 6/17/2011 6:27:35 PM
It sickens my heart to once again see our church get embroiled in a controversy that is politically motivated. Jesus Christ gave us a commission to spread the gospel. And I understand that living though Christian principles is the best way to show our Savior. But he also told us to render under Caesar what is Caesar's and under God what is God. The situation with illegal immigrants is any problem that belongs to Caesar. Caesar has refused to solve the problem and now the state has stepped in to try to rectify this. These illegals are problem and good Christian Representatives in Montgomery have tried to solve this problem. I think it should be the position of our church to support these Christian representatives and not start undermining the good work they have done. I started attending the Methodist Church in 1933 and have been a member ever since then. I am now approaching 81 years old. I'm not the wisest man in this world but I am a dedicated Christian, I have supported mission work, I will continue to support mission work but to suggest that everyone involved in mission works supports the bishops position is false. I too will pray not only for the illegal immigrants, but also those that are put out of work by the accepting lower pay, for those that are hindered in proper healthcare by the ER's being so crowded with the illegals immigrants. I only voice my opinion but I suggest that they are others that agree with me. I pray that God will direct the right path for each of us. May God bless each and everyone of you.
86. Melanie Lankford wrote on 6/18/2011 1:38:00 AM
I would like to point out that this law does not "solve" the problem. It just causes the illegals heartache along with the people they have bonded with while here. This law is like running off stray dogs. Some of the illegals did not have a choice about coming here. They were carried across the border as a child. They grew up here and this is their home. I disagree that the good Christian Representatives in Montgomery have tried to solve the problem. They just want to get rid of it and don't care how it is done. What would Jesus do?
87. Joe DeWitte wrote on 6/18/2011 12:52:26 PM
@Jim Peck: I've seen the phrase (used drastically out of context) repeatedly in this thread, "render unto caesar what is caesar's and unto God what is God's. I will overlook that this is not a blanket statement on 'following the law of the land,' and pose this argument: these people (whom many are calling illegal) are not caesar's, they are God's. Another prominent argument is that these pastors (of which I am one) should not speak for the UMC. Let me be clear: We are not speaking for the UMC. I am speaking as a private citizen, who just so happens to be trained in theology, Biblical study, and ethics. I am not even speaking for my local church. Each and every pastor who signed this letter is speaking for themselves. We do not need to speak for the UMC. The Book of Discipline and the Book of Resolutions do that for us. We are not even speaking for all Christians; the Bible does that for us. I will admit there are plenty of logical, temporal reasons for removing all non-citizens from our borders. But our God is illogical. It makes no sense, when you have the power of creation and complete annihilation simply by speaking it that you would defile yourself and sacrifice yourself as God did in the person of Jesus Christ. Here, it might make absolutely no sense to care for the alien among us and, as scripture commands, to treat them as a native; but that is what we are called to do.
88. sheree robinson wrote on 6/18/2011 3:59:31 PM
I've been praying Rom 8:26 and today I awoke with a fresh thought. In "Experiencing God" we learned that something might be of God but not God's time. I urge the leadership to reconsider if they have fully prayed over the timeing aspect of their actions. I, for one, believe much more prayer is needed so as to allow God to move in His own way and in His own time -- and thus bringing both sides to agreement. Please do not doubt that our "illogical" God, who created us, could not move those He wants in what ever way He wants. I fully believe both sides of this issue are seeking God and somewhere in the middle we will find God's answer. Blessed be our God and may we pray the words of Soloman who sought wisdom enough to lead his peope.
89. Ed Cater wrote on 6/18/2011 4:05:12 PM
Dr. King in his letter from the Birmingham jail stated the clergy requested that he WAIT and not march in Birmingham. Waiting to take action is not the way to address our disdain for HR 56. I will be there in Linn Park Saturday. If you feel the same way, I will see you there.
90. Ed Cater wrote on 6/18/2011 5:24:26 PM
Correction HB
91. jim peck wrote on 6/18/2011 5:54:35 PM
@ Joe DeWitte My statement regarding,"The situation with illegal immigrants is any(a) problem that belongs to Caesar", was misunderstood by Joe. It referred to the situation regarding illegal immigrants not the immigrants themselves. We all belong to God and I am truly sorry I did not make that clear. A recent devotional in " My Utmost for His Highest" stated "Criticism is one of the ordinary activities of people, but in the spiritual realm nothing is accomplished by it. The effect of criticism is the dividing up of the strengths of the one being criticized. The Holy Spirit is the only one in the proper position to criticize, and He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding. It is impossible to enter into fellowship with God when you are in a critical mood. Criticism serves to make you harsh, vindictive, and cruel, and leaves you with the soothing and flattering idea that you are somehow superior to others." I am a firm believer in this statement and try to practice it in my daily life. As all of us forgiven sinners know, we do sometimes fall short of this standard. May God bless and guide us all as we look at this serious problem.
92. Roy Adair wrote on 6/18/2011 6:22:03 PM
I would respectfully request that no action is taken by any clergy to be pro or con for this bill. Please think of your churches. Even if you think you are not speaking for them you will be portrayed as speaking for them, just as the bishop will be portrayed as speaking for all in the conference. Reading the letter I find many mis-representations of the law as it is written. Max B. even spelled it out by many on this comment page still do not understand the law as it is written. THIS is why waiting is best in this instance. Many of you are quickly making a judgment call as to what the law says without really reading it. Your hurry to condemn this law may will cause splits in churches. Be careful here and I encourage all to speak to there pastor about signing this letter.
93. Ed Cater wrote on 6/18/2011 7:35:19 PM
Roy, It is now a LAW that is effective September 1, 2011. Laymen cannot sign the letter as we are not UMC clergy. State enforcement of this law is the key. Adultery is a class B misdemeanor in the state of Alabama, however, I have never known anyone to be arrested for this crime! My only hope is that this law is all "bark and no bite!"
94. Bart Thau wrote on 6/19/2011 10:26:08 AM
These undocumented persons are my family, my parishioners, my friends, and my brothers and sisters in Christ. While this issue is terribly personal to me, it is also one that convicts my soul by scripture and by the Holy Spirit to stand opposed to it. It criminalizes my ministry and my calling. What is new about that. Maybe that puts me in some good company. Whatever you believe about the politics of this bill, please realize that the methodology of it is spreading fear in the hearts of our fellow man. I cannot support that tactic. I have seen my friends and family deported, and it is like loosing a loved one. The trauma is unbelievable. Families are split between undocumented parents and citizen children. We lured them here with our need for cheap labor, now we cut off their hands and feet when they are no longer wanted. I pray that our hearts and our faith guide each of us in our personal and pastoral response to this situation. Remember, it is not a bill from the legislature that we are called to serve, but rather it is the people that God has put in our path. May God's love prevail.
95. Ramey Channell wrote on 6/19/2011 1:04:51 PM
Thank you, Brother Will, for writing this letter, and for standing up for what is right. “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Exodus 22:21).” Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. (Dt 24:10-15) When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself. (Lev 19:33-34)
96. Dee Dowdy wrote on 6/19/2011 6:17:47 PM
As I have read different responses to this law, two things come to mind: many are saying it's the law and so Christians should obey it. Well what about the old Jim Crowe laws? I am sure glad many of my Methodist brothers and sisters went against that law and took a stand. Secondly-why do "illegal ailens" even want to com here? Could it be because they can find employment in jobs that many Amercians don't want? Could it be that their employers benefit by hiring them and then avoiding wage and hour laws? Could it be that these employers,by hiring them, can avoid paying their part of Social security taxes, etc. I understand that something needs to be done. But it seems to me that this law makes it easy to pull a person over just because they look a certain way and that really bothers me. Therefore, I must stand against this law.
97. Tom Salter wrote on 6/19/2011 6:36:08 PM
No one has mentioned that Jesus himself broke religious and civil laws and suffered the death penalty for it. I am saddened by the passing of H.B. 56.
98. lISA yOUNG wrote on 6/20/2011 5:18:41 PM
I am amazed at how people can make such authoritative statements about issues they do actually know very little about. Issues that they don’t fully understand and have a very limited, tunnel vision perspective. Even more astounding to me is that we give our lawmakers the charge of shaping our lives and they use paltry, uninformed statements as the basis for making critical decisions that can have profound effects our lives, our economy and our future. I once worked as a corporate buyer for a fortune 500 company. The company was relocating their corporate headquarters to a sprawling new building. A number of the engineers had requested an ice machine and I was charged with purchasing one. I spent a week learning everything there was to know about ice. How they work, the energy and water they used, how much ice various machines made, the differences between the various types of cubes, how to determine the amount of use we would need, maintenance requirements and warranty information, etc.. By the end of the week I was an ice expert. My ultimate recommendation was that the company would be better off buying an ice bin and have a company contracted to fill it weekly. Ultimately, it saved the company thousands of dollars and everyone was happy. One thing is for sure, I know more about ice than our lawmakers know about immigration. It is obvious that they haven’t done any research of the subject and don’t really understand anything about it. Instead, they have established a law that will effect us all based of virtually no education of the subject. Which is really quite frightening. You would think they would have taken their responsibilities more seriously. So as someone who is a little more familiar with the closer issue I would like to take a moment to introduce our lawmakers and others to some things they probably didn’t realize, didn’t consider or were unaware of:. First of all, one thing I hear all the time is that “immigrants need to get in line and come here legally”. At one time, a long time ago when Ellis Island existed, this may have been possible. But the fact is that for many immigrants (and most from Mexico and Latin America), that line is just a myth, it doesn’t exist. You have to understand the immigration process and that the process differs and the rules change depending on the country of origin. I am by no means an expert, but I have had some experience dealing with immigration from Mexico and I am faily familiar with the process. The very first to immigrate from Mexico is to have an American sponsor. You have to have an immediate family member (spouse, parent or child) in America who is willing to petition INS for the right to file an application on your behalf. And that American sponsor has to make 125% over the poverty line, that’s approximately $18,000.00 yr and it increases the larger your family is. The only other way to come into the country is to have some extraordinary talent or skill, education or job connection that we cannot duplicate in the USA. The second thing you need is MONEY. Lots and lots of money. You’ll need thousands in Immigration and Naturalization Services fees, National Visa Center fees and attorney fees. You will need money to pay Mexican officials just to get them to work with you and respond to the INS requests. And your sponsor will have to have enough money and the means to take off of work for what could be up to a month in order to travel to Juarez, Mexico for your final interview. Yes Juarez, the most dangerous place in Mexico. Nothing negates these things. The fact that you’re spouse happens to be a white American citizen doesn’t change any of this. . Lastly, you need to patience because it will likely take anywhere between 3 and 15 years to complete the process and finally get to the USA. So essentially, unless you are a wealthy Mexican AND well connected, there IS NO LINE to get into. The second generalization I hear all the time is that illegal immigrants are taking American jobs. To many business owners this is hysterical. The fact is that businesses cannot find Americans willing to do some of the more unpleasant entry level jobs such as: dishwasher, day laborer, poultry workers, field workers ,etc.’. for a reasonable rate. Americans want $15.00 an hour to wash dishes plus vacation pay, benefits and weekends off. If a restaurant is paying $15.00 and hour for a dishwasher, how much do they have to pay a cook? How are they supposed to cover these costs? They have to pass them along to the customer. How much can you charge a customer for a meal? And believe me, even if they are able to pay an American $15.00/hr to wash dishes, as soon as that person can find a better job (sitting on a stool, in an A/C building, in front of a cash register, perhaps…) they are gone. Then there is the fallacy that illegal immigrants are a drain on our resources such as education and medical services. In reality probably just the opposite is true. Sure, there are some illegal immigrants working under the table. Typically, maids and household employees. Just as there are Americans working under the table. But the fact is that most employers require immigrants to provide the appropriate documents to satisfy federal I-9 requirements to avoid INS fines. Namely a Resident Alien Card and a Social Security Card. . Once these documents are provided they employer will consider that employ no different than any other employee. They fill out W4s and state tax forms and are given payroll checks on which the employer will deduct taxes and FICA. The difference is most of them will never file a tax return to get those payments returned & they will never file for Social Security or Medicare benefits. Our payroll taxes are used to pay for benefits like education and medical care. So I don’t understand how its costing Americans. It seems to me that they are contributing to those services as much as any American and in fact are probalby paying in a lot more than what they will ever collect. The Supreme Court has upheld the E-Verify part of the AZ immigration law. Imagine what that means? E-Verify will create a system where illegal immigrants are working without paying taxes. It will push their employment under the table. It will create the exact situation people believe is happening now. Another thing no one has seemed to consider is that 100,000 plus people leaving the state means 100,000 less customers for businesses. Less business doesn’t equal more jobs, it equals lay offs. Businesses will close or leave the state because they will not want to deal with the bureacracy of doing business here. It is also the kiss of death for enticing new businesses to the area. Just as Porche has just pulled out of GA because of their immigration law, no businesses will be willing to to Alabama. Finally, Alabama’s new immigration law will legalize discrimination towards anyone with brown skin legal or not, American or not. No one with brown skin will be considered for a job, no one with brown skin will be considered for an apartment or even given a ride or picked up by a taxi. Brown skinned Americans will legally become second class citizens in their own country. Imagine having to tell you kids that they cannot have any classmates with brown skin in their car for unless they KNOW they are legal. Imagine having to tell a child they cannot have a ride to school, or to church or to the team party….simply because their skin is brown and you don’t know their immigration status. Is that the world you want to live in? Is this the legacy you want to leave? Is this the reputation you want for this state? Hasn’t Alabama lived through this once before. Perhaps, it would do everyone a bit of good (ESPECIALLY OUR LAW MAKERS) to do the research and understand the issue before making sweeping general and false statements that our future will be based upon.
99. Billy brown wrote on 6/20/2011 6:02:08 PM
The Hispanics that I live next door to and work around on my job are very hard working and friendly. We need more like them in this country. Stop goverment wasteful spending and there will be plenty of money to help those who really need it. And I totally believe the poster who said getting into this country legally is ridiculous and anyone that's ever been to the tag office should know that. OPEN BORDERS BABY!
100. sheree robinson wrote on 6/20/2011 8:20:39 PM
I've worked at a "gov't hand out" place for 20 1/2 yrs. Trust me when I say the rules are not written for the undocumented. In most situations an undocumented family receives more benefits than legal families and those legal res. aliens(with sponsors). This needs corrected so that the gov't is truely blind and treats all fairly. Most of my undocumented clients work for cash and if they give their boss a social security num. they do not give me one. This needs to change so their employment can be tracked just like it is for those here legally. If an undocumented person work with a social security num. they have had a fake card made. I worry about id theft -- I would feel so much better if I could just report the num. to the but I'm not allowed. This needs to change. I was so happy that the st. had taken a step to correct the problems the undocumented have created in the legal realm of gov't justice. Maybe you've never had to deny people on tech. rules and then not be able to do the same for people with the exact same income & num. of people in the family -- but I have. I see this law as a 1st step and not the last one. I don't agree with the "open borders" statement but I'm happy that someone sees that there is a problem and has offered a solution. I've asked us many times in this blog to try to find what we agree upon so that we can find the God words and way to fix the law. In the Civil Rights Movement of the past the UMC righly stood on the side of "changing" the laws that prevented one group of Am.from receiving benefits because of the color of their skin. I, humbly, ask that you consider/pray about things that need fixed, including this law. However, I believe it will be wrong for the UMC leadership to stand for the "status quo", which existed before this law. I don't know how to fix it all but I know the One who does. Please pray for unity and clarification.
101. Billy brow wrote on 6/20/2011 9:56:28 PM
Open borders or at least a streamlined citizenship process. But ONLY along with welfare reform.
102. Frank wrote on 6/22/2011 3:00:46 PM
Interesting Comments. Illegal Aliens (are or are not) illegal. I assume we are talking about Mexican Christians. (Elephant in the room) Would there be a different discussion if we included Illegal alien Muslims, Radical Muslims, Buddhists, Satan Worshippers, and Atheists etc. that left their country for economic reasons or is this open letter only for the support of the illegals that we personally come into contact with as United Methodist through the Church doors? Are we so focused on this group that we forget to look at the big picture and all the ramifications of opening our borders to the world? As I have followed the reaction to this law I am amazed at the number of people that have reacted with generalities rather than with specifics. This reaction reminds me of current day politics where proponents of the opposing views are called names and proposed legislation is demonized rather than addressing the problems and coming together with a common solution. The quotes I have seen in writing including those of the Bishop have called those of the opposing view as mean spirited and unchristian. Does this mean I have to agree with those of the opposing view of this Law or I am unchristian and mean spirited? When the Bishop speaks and The Office Titles of the North Alabama Conference are used in writing it appears as if I am being represented with an official position I do not agree with and am not sure most people in the North Alabama Conference agrees with. I think before I am represented in something this serious a formal committee should be formed, at the Conference level the Law dissected with the minutes available to the Conference. The findings would then be a basis to recommend an amendment to the Law rather than just state flatly that it is unchristian and mean spirited. I have seen a few opposing points that I agree with but that alone does not mean the Law is mean spirited and unchristian and bad for the state of Alabama and should be scraped. I challenge a person of opposing views to write a point by point acceptable alternative bill or amendment. Unless this discussion is point by point no modification will be forth coming and calling Alabama citizens names will only add fuel to the fire. If this is the case the only hope for modification would be if it were overturned by the court. I do not believe the Law was meant to be unchristian nor inhumane and I do not think it was the intention to prevent churches from ministering to illegal aliens; however I do believe it was the intention to prevent the harboring of illegal aliens from the prosecution of breaking LEGAL laws. I would like to ask everyone that comments on the Law to state whether they have read the bill or did they rely on others to read and understand it for them. Most reviews I have read on the internet and the other news media I believe have a vested interest in a negative review. I resent being called mean spirited and unchristian because I support this law. I have a copy of the Law and have read it. Frank
103. Ed Cater wrote on 6/22/2011 7:09:56 PM
Jesus the Christ broke many laws. Frank, ask yourself what Jesus would do.
104. Frank wrote on 6/22/2011 9:14:24 PM
Ed I have asked the same Question. Rather than being vague and posting a vague post why not just say what it is about the law you don't like and quote the part of the law that generates the comment. Without posting a direct quote from the law I have to assume either you have not read the law and are using someone else's interpretation or you just have an agenda to push. How can we as Christians have a discussion without discussing the issues. Frank
105. Billy brown wrote on 6/22/2011 10:10:26 PM
I know this is off topic but I'm gonna go out on a limb and say Jesus broke tradition or interpretation but not law.
106. Matt Lacey wrote on 6/23/2011 1:00:55 PM
I again, want to thank all who have commented, and recognize that we are all well-meaning individuals who are seeking an answer from our faith (hopefully). My concern still stands that no one has, yet, offered a scriptural justification for the harshness of this particular law. The only semi-defense of this bill comes from an out-of-context reading of Romans 13:1-7 (Paul answering a question about how new Christians are to interact with government), and without recognizing that Paul was put to death by Rome when he broke the law, and with a consideration for how Christians respond to unjust laws (and the harshness of this bill is unjust). Again, we believe that legislation can be passed to address this issue that does not lead to racial profiling and vilifying other children of God. I urge you to pray about how this bill stacks up against scripture, and to then vocalize how you feel referencing scripture.
107. Frank wrote on 6/23/2011 2:17:49 PM
Matt as I have requested before, what within the Alabama Law Point by Point is unjust and harsh. Vague statements cannot be replied to and are just bullets being thrown out in all directions”under the guise of if you don’t agree with me then you are mean spirited and un Christian”. If I am ever to change my mind and support a change to this LAW I will need to know what you are talking about not an interpretation of some unknown part of the law. Calling someone mean spirited and unchristian is sometimes necessary but if I did I would surely tell them in a direct way why I thought so. You request referencing scripture but you refuse to reference the law you are denouncing.
108. Billy brown wrote on 6/23/2011 7:00:54 PM
Matt the OT is full of harshness but as you and I well know the NT is all about turning the other cheek. So one would be hard pressed to look for NT clairification on illeagle immigration, death penalty, abortion, homsexuality, war, etc. For example, Jesus doesn't teach self defense either but I'm sure that most all Christians would defend themselves with harshness if need be. All penalties for law breakers are harsh but we need laws to protect us.
109. Matt Lacey wrote on 6/23/2011 7:32:23 PM
Frank, Thanks for your comments. Forgive me, but I do not recall calling anyone mean spirited or unchristian in my responses. First of all, we are concerned that, after a lawful stop, while an officer can't use race to verify immigration status, race can be used to question immigration status. If someone does not have proper ID on them, they can be held in jail until their status is confirmed. This is no less than racial profiling and an affront to the gospel. Secondly, as a pastor my concern is first and foremost for other children of God, as they are, and not their immigration status. Under HB 56, if I were to give food from a food pantry to a self-professed illegal immigrant, I could be held liable. If I were to transport an injured or sick illegal immigrant (and knowing they were here illegally) I would also be liable. Supporters of this bill have confirmed these facts for me and I find them to be antithetical to what Jesus would do. We recognize there is a problem with immigration, but this bill is far too harsh and not the answer. Illegal immigrants have broken the law. However in order to enforce this law many others (particularly Hispanics) will be oppressed and stereotyped to find those that have broken the law. I want us also to remember that Christ calls us to love even those that have broken the law. It also concerns me that the authors of this bill have stereotyped race such as Mr. Hammon, who confused "illegal immigrant" with "Hispanic" this week to defend the bill (see: ) and Mr. Beason's comments at the bingo trial referring to Black gamblers as "Aborigines".
110. Frank wrote on 6/23/2011 11:00:29 PM
Matt, Points to ponder: There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance–that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” –Herbert Spencer Am I to understand that you have not studied the law? 1. Your point of not having proper ID when properly stopped is well taken but what is the difference if I were stopped and had no ID. I can’t conceive this being racial profiling. 2 “Under HB 56, if I were to give food from a food pantry to a self-professed illegal immigrant” The law: (Exempt – my text) (5) For programs, services, or assistance, such as 17 soup kitchens, crisis counseling and intervention, and 18 short-term shelter specified by federal law or regulation that 19 satisfy all of the following: 20 a. Deliver in-kind services at the community level, 21 including services through public or private nonprofit 22 agencies. 23 b. Do not condition the provision of assistance, the 24 amount of assistance provided, or the cost of assistance Page 19 1 provided on the income or resources of the individual 2 recipient. 3” If I were to transport an injured or sick illegal immigrant (and knowing they were here illegally) I would also be liable. Supporters of this bill have confirmed these facts for me and I find them to be antithetical to what Jesus would do.” The Law: (Note There is separate provisions for emergency medical - my text)(Note the words in furtherance of the 25 unlawful presence of – my text) (3) Transport, or attempt to transport, or conspire 24 to transport in this state an alien in furtherance of the 25 unlawful presence of the alien in the United States, Page 34 HB56 1 knowingly, or in reckless disregard of the fact, that the 2 alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States 3 in violation of federal law. Conspiracy to be so transported 4 shall be a violation of this subdivision. 3.” this bill is far too harsh and not the answer” I disagree but these are personal issues not the LAW. I believe your open letter is full of misrepresentations and innuendos. I think you should have checked it with an attorney prior to going public. I think you and your supporters have an issue with the Federal Law and not with the Alabama State Law. I feel within your heart you feel you are right and I think you should follow your heart but not at the cost of honesty. Lay ALL the Cards on the table, discuss them kick them around and come up with an amendment for the law. This cannot be done by calling the Alabama Citizens names and I don’t say that you have but the open letter is being used as an excuse for others to do it. This open letter is an embarrassment for the UMC and should be corrected. I believe my interpretation of this law is MORE correct than your interpretation. The State Law Makers are not inhumane and UN Christian but they have a job to do. I support you in your ministry to all God’s Children and I believe you have the best intentions that have become misguided. This is my last post I pray people read the law from end to end and understand it prior to yelling and screaming at each other. I think you have created a lot of tensions within our Conference.
111. Carol Gullatt wrote on 6/24/2011 12:59:33 AM
Jesus created tension. ;)
112. Dr. Tom Camp wrote on 6/24/2011 8:23:35 AM
I know this is a complex problem, but I am worried about the kids that will not be treated for medical problems for fear of reprisals to the parents, the youth will be not be allowed to go to college even thought they have lived all of their life in Alabama, and the children who will not have food to eat because their dads cannot get work event thought the are some of the best workers in Alabama, I am proud to be part of a church that stands up against this travesty of justice. I ask our Governor to reconsider his decision on this bill. Thank you Bishop Willimon, L.G. Lyons, and Matt Lacey for your comments.
113. Frank wrote on 6/24/2011 9:58:27 AM
Carol, I know I said I had made my last post but can not let this slide--- Jesus created tension with the TRUTH!!!
114. Frank wrote on 6/24/2011 10:39:28 AM
A copy of the law can be viewed and printed at:
115. Charlie Gagne wrote on 6/24/2011 1:11:40 PM
Finally, some passion!
116. George Gravitte wrote on 6/24/2011 5:04:11 PM
As a student at Phil Campbell High School, I promised Mr.Simeon Creel, my history teacher, that I would,(1) live a moral, ethical, and upright life and (2) that I would work for social justice. By social justice I mean I will treat everyone honestly, fairly, and equally without regard to their standing in the community, because the world does not need another Hitler, not even a little Hitler. At Berry College I made the two promises a part of my requirements before I would write anyone a letter of recommendation. At age 71, these two statements are still valid in my life.
117. mary phillips wrote on 6/24/2011 6:17:13 PM
What I would like to see is the Mexican people strive towards making their own country more responsible in taking care of the needs of its own citizens. Let's help the mexican people demonstrate their demands for social justice, socio-economic programs and better employment opportunities in Mexico. But as long as our borders remain wide open we are enabling the Mexican government to continue to ignore its responsibility towards its own native population.
118. candi g. wrote on 6/25/2011 1:04:42 AM
119. Matt Lacey wrote on 6/25/2011 9:55:36 AM
Frank, Actually I have read the law several times. The emergency response waiver is for EMT staff only, not citizens (lawmakers have confirmed this for me). The soup kitchen exemption is for kitchens that do not know the immigration status (ie, it states that soup kitchens do not have to check status at the door). As for not having ID, and you being punished, you are correct. However, if an officer stopped a car, and a passenger was suspected of being in the country illegally, they could be jailed if they didn't have ID (even if they weren't driving). Where as if you were pulled over for driving and didn't have ID, you wouldn't likely be jailed. Again, lawmakers that support this law have confirmed these harsh elements of the law, and they are true.
120. CL Holley wrote on 6/25/2011 5:29:36 PM
Peace & Grace unto you all. I am not a United Methodist but I would like to join the conversation. I have read the entire HB56 law and think its not the best way to handle the immigration situation. I'm preparing a letter to Governor Bentley sharing some ideas on what could been done and asking him to consider amending the law to include a temporary path to citizenship for SOME illegal immigrants. In my opinion, that would be the best solution for all involved. It would generate additional revenue, free up jobs for legals, allow some immigrants to stay, recover some of the lost funds of hospitals and other entities. I would like your opinion on my line of thought. Would you support such an amendment? Why or why not? We must all come together to help give our leaders solutions and ideas to consider. Standing up for what we think is wrong is great, but we must also be a part of the solution. Here is the letter. ---------------------------------- Dear Governor Bentley, A few months ago, I wrote an article entitled, Bentley: Off to a Good Start in the Speakin Out News paper. In that article, I praised you for doing what was right concerning the gambling issues. I’m not one to want any leader to fail. Therefore, I continue to pray for your success because success brings benefits to others. I believe you are a good Christian man. That’s why I’m writing this letter and addressing it to you. I recently downloaded the entire Immigration law, HB56, and read all 34 sections. As a writer, I’m taught to carefully evaluate words, sentences, and phrases. After finishing HB56, I came away with a sickening feeling deep down in the pit of my soul. I searched the legislation for indications of Jesus such as humility, mercy, grace, compassion, and wisdom, but found none of these. Instead, I only found punishment with the ultimate goal of the removal of all illegal immigrants from the state of Alabama. Allow me to be clear concerning the issues. I know illegal immigration is wrong and I believe we need immigration reform. But I also believe we need reform that addresses the major problems of illegal immigration, not reform that merely targets a group of people with the sole aim of, “getting rid of them.” There are major differences in legislation that targets people and legislation that targets problems. Please allow me to demonstrate in the following sections. In order to write legislation that targets problems, we must first identify the problems of illegal immigration: (1) Jobs may be taken from legal citizens, (2) Use of resources without payment (hospital, schools, state resources, etc.), (3) Payroll and other taxes aren’t being collected, and (4) the immigration law is broken. Now that we have identified the major problems, let’s draft legislation to address and correct the problems, but not to target people. So then, the goals of the legislation should be to (1) Free-up jobs for legal citizens, (2) Recover some of the lost state resources, (3) Start collecting payroll and other taxes, (4), Discourage and prevent people from breaking the law. But this legislation should also have shades of Christ in it such as mercy, grace, compassion, wisdom, and humility. So it stands to reason that if the goal is merely to run illegal immigrants off, then the legislation you have now will suffice. In fact, Congressman Mo Brooks was quoted on as supporting any measure “short of shooting them,” that would force illegal immigrants back to their home Countries. There is nothing Christian about that line of thinking. But if the goal is to do what’s best for all involved, including businesses, the state, the citizens, and immigrants, then a much broader goal must be set. And that goal, at least in my opinion, should be a temporary path to citizenship for some, not all, illegal immigrants. Here is how it could work: 1.) Set a time frame for the temporary path to citizenship, a start and stop date. 2.) Determine those who would be eligible for the path. - i.e. Those who have been living in Alabama for five years or more. - i.e. Those who have not committed crimes, etc. - Etc. 3.) Require those eligible to register for citizenship or work permits to be issued after others who are already registered. Their legal status must not precede others who did it the right way. 4.) Require those eligible to pay a penalty for coming illegally. This could also be an annual charge until proper status is received. These funds could be distributed among entities like hospitals, schools, etc, to recover some of the funds they lost while serving illegal immigrants. 5.) Now that they are registered and awaiting approval for citizenship or work permits, they can now pay payroll taxes and purchase health and other insurance. The state would benefit from the additional tax revenue, insurance companies should see a boost in sales, and hospitals should see an increase in revenue and decrease in unpaid services. 6.) Not all illegal immigrants would quality for this type of path, therefore it would free up some jobs for legal citizens. Your current HB56 legislation only addresses freeing up jobs and breaking the law. It doesn’t address recovering lost funds and collecting payroll taxes due. In my opinion, a solution similar to this would be the best solution for all involved. It would also demonstrate the mercy, compassion, and grace of Jesus Christ. It may not be the Republican thing to do, but it is the right thing to do. I, being an Alabamian, don’t want to merely copy another state’s immigration law. I want to copy Christ. For it is written, “Be holy even as I am holy.” And I think a state that prides itself on its Christian faith should at least demonstrate that very faith in its legislation. I’m asking you to do the right thing and consider amending HB56 to include a temporary path to citizenship. I was returning to Alabama one day and saw a sign that had the words, “Welcome to Alabama the beautiful.” Alabama is beautiful not just because of its awesome landscapes or breath-taking views. Alabama is beautiful because she has within her borders a mixture of immigrants from places all over the world. Some came legally, others came illegally, but they all came hoping for something better than what they left behind. In fact Mr. Governor, your ancestors came to the shores of this place we now call America, looking for a better life. I’m convinced that’s all most illegal immigrants are here to do--provide a better life for their families. That doesn’t excuse illegal immigration, but it should cause us all, especially those of us who claim to be saved, to treat all immigrants, legal or illegal, with the love, compassion, decency, and value that God requires of His people. Do you really think the current legislation does that? Thank you for serving, and thank you for your consideration to my request. God Bless; Minister Charlie L. Holley
121. Roy Adair wrote on 6/28/2011 10:02:50 AM
Matt: Would you care to reveal the lawmakers you speak of that have told you of the harsh consequences of the law as it is written? Also will these same lawmakers be at the meeting tonight Tuesday 28th? Thanks
122. Melanie Lankford wrote on 6/28/2011 10:54:18 AM
Thank you Minister Holley for writing the governor and offering suggestions for a better solution. I can tell that you spent time and prayer before writing your letter. It makes good sense to me.
123. Rev. Angela Gilreath-Rivers wrote on 6/28/2011 5:02:16 PM
As a pastor of a multicultural congregation in N. GA I want to say Thank You! Gracias! to Bishop Willimon. As United Methodists in North Georgia we have been left to combat the fear and injustice of HB 87 here with no support from our bishop. Thank you for putting people first and being willing to take a stand.
124. John Alexander wrote on 6/28/2011 11:58:53 PM
Great meeting tonight at Highlands UMC in 5 Points South. I was relieved and happy that Methodists stood firmly united AGAINST HB56 and and WITH our social principles and pray that Governor Bentley,Scott Beason and others who supported this unjust bill will listen to our pleas.
125. Mike Payne wrote on 6/29/2011 12:07:38 PM
I support this bill. The idea of illegally harboring criminals being wrong is nothing new. We have many United Methodist members in prisons today that we would not dream of harboring. For illegal immigrants to take public assistance is simply stealing from the taxpayers (and aiding them to steal is just as wrong as doing it). If our ministries are concerned, we should change our focus to helping the illegal immigrants to return to their country of origin. It is odd that we require our membership to be trained before helping tornado victims, but not to help illegal aliens! If you look at Section 27 of HB56, you will see that it is NOT illegal to house (for one night), feed, provide health care, or transport (as long as the intent is to aid them to return to their country of origin) illegal aliens (If your argument is that this relates to contracts, that is exactly what you enter into when you offer to help someone). If we love our neighbors, then we should have no problem helping them to comply with the immigration laws.
126. Roy Adair wrote on 6/29/2011 5:24:51 PM
Mike good points made. John some of us in attendance were for the law. We were just few and with the overwhelming numbers did not get to speak as much as we would have liked to. Allowing others to have a voice even though it was the same words every time with very few differences, it would have been nice to hear the leaders present speak to other questions I had or some of the group that like or see no problem with the Church continuing their mission of love, help, attending to others needs, and not worrying about a law that will never have an effect on them unless they intentionally hide an illegal for the purpose of them not being deported. So even if I was the lone person that likes the law, am I not to be heard as well? The leaders of the conference have spoken and those outside the Methodist church have taken their words as words spoken by all North Alabama Conference Methodist. It does not matter what Matt, R.G. and the Bishop had intended for this letter to represent, it was perceived as them speaking for all. Except my voice was not included in the letter, my pastor did not seek my voice before signing this letter. Why would you require a pastor to place their Church affiliation with their signature for this letter,if not to represent the Church they pastor. As I said last night, the Birmingham News took the Bishop's letter as "The Methodist Bishop for the North Alabama Conference". They did not print Will Willimon, or just Matt Lacey, or just R.G. Lyons. But, no amount of talking will change the minds of either side. That was truly evident last night. All Christians should continue to provide help, food, shelter, even if this law exist after all is said and done. What I took away from the meeting is that Methodist must make a noise, not just do the Lord's work.
127. David Ward wrote on 6/30/2011 5:52:39 PM
As a life-long Methodist who supports the basic tenets of HB56, I do not appreciate the Bishop or anyone else purporting to speak for me on this issue. The weekly Bulletin at my church last week contained an invitation to participate in the June 25 protest march, along with instructions on what to wear and what to bring. In a sermon a couple of weeks ago one of our ministers stated that she would go to jail if necessary, as she would not obey this law. Contrary to Mr. Alexander's comment above, Methodists are NOT "firmly united" on this issue, and now the Church is being divided into various factions through the actions of its leaders. This is not healthy, either for a particular congregation or the denomination itself. I don't like seeing the Church take sides in inflammatory political debates such as HB 56 and Obamacare because, in the long run, with the diversity of opinion which it encourages among its membership, there will be no winners.
128. CL Holley wrote on 7/5/2011 1:38:06 PM
Hello All. It's great to see so much discussion, both for and against HB56. There are times when the church must become involved in political decision making, and this is one such time. When political laws greatly affect the work of the ministry, we must become involved respectfully but prayerfully. Afterall, we must ask ourselves what would be Jesus' major concern? Would it be stopping immigration laws from being broken? Would it be stopping Alabama resources from being misused? I tend to answer this question with one scripture from the very mouth of Jesus Himself, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mat 16:26) I believe the most important issue to Jesus is the salvation of souls and the demonstrating of Jesus, through various acts of kindness, to those who do not know Him. Does Jesus approve of breaking laws? No. Jesus demonstrated this throughout the gospels. Yet Jesus had a way of correcting individuals through compassion, grace, and mercy, without overlooking justice. This is how all christians should approach decision making. I call it the "top-down" approach that asks, "what's the spiritual implications of this decision, then, whats the earthly implications." Now, lets develop a solution that addresses them both. Most law makers use what I call the "bottom-up" approach, which asks,"Whats the earthly implications and how do we solve them?" In other words, they set out to solve earthly problems, which they should do, but they don't consider the spiritual damage of that law. What are the spiritual implications of HB56? Soul salvation will be interrupted because people will be driven away from the message of the Gospel and from those doing the work of the ministry. I don't think Jesus is in Heaven saying, "Do whatever you need to do to protect your borders and save your resources, even if it means some souls will be lost." I'm thinking of a verse that says, "I was young and now I'm old, and I've never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed (offspring) begging bread." (PS 37:25) I'm convinced, that if we do right first in the site of God, not forsaking justice, but seeking that which is wise and right, that God will not allow Alabama to crumble under financial strain. In times like these, the church must play the role of Joseph. That is, we must not only understand the problem, but we must also provide and suggest solutions, the same way Joseph did for Pharaoh. I'm proposing that we come together to hear all concerns from those for and against the law. Then we should develop some changes we would like to see in the law, along with solid data that would support the feasibility of those changes, join together in prayer, and present those requests for changes to the Alabama legislature. I think we all agree that we need reform, but the type of reform should not be determined by a small group of people. This affects us all, therefore we all should have some input. What do you think about this? I still believe God can touch hearts and change minds, especially when it comes to doing His work.
129. T.E. Long wrote on 7/15/2011 11:52:01 AM
As a Duke University Divinity School graduate (Th.M., class of 1990), and ordained U.M. minister, I highly commend Bishop Willimon for his courageous stance on a political as well as a deeply moral and theological question. Well done, Bishop (and my former Dean).
130. T.E. Long wrote on 7/15/2011 11:52:32 AM
As a Duke University Divinity School graduate (Th.M., class of 1990), and ordained U.M. minister, I highly commend Bishop Willimon for his courageous stance on a political as well as a deeply moral and theological question. Well done, Bishop (and my former Dean).
131. David Ward wrote on 7/17/2011 8:13:50 PM
What Bishop Willimon says in his own name and on his own time is of no concern to me. However, when he or anyone else purports to speak for an entire denomination, many of whose members disagree with him, I must take exception. Additionally, while a church taking a political stance might be termed courageous, it can also be foolish, as it can cause needless friction between well-meaning people on both sides of the issue in the same congregation. Once a church starts down this slippery political slope, what’s next? Endorsing candidates from the pulpit?
132. Dee Dowdy wrote on 7/17/2011 9:02:51 PM
I remember in seminary having an entire class on Christian ethics where we discussed the role of the Church in society. We all discussed various views but I found the view that I agreed with the most was the idea that the Church is the body of Christ on Earth called to not only lead the world to Christ, but to also transform society. Thus, while the state should not have the ability to silence the church, the church is still called to address what the state does. Therefore, I think the church has an obligation to speak up when it sees things that Jesus would not agree with. If the Bishop does not have the right to speak his mind, then pastors don’t either. If a bishop or pastor can only say what the entire church agrees with, then where would we be today on the issue of racial relations? Thank God there were church leaders who were bold enough to speak out so many years ago when many in their own churches disagreed with them.
133. david ward wrote on 7/19/2011 8:18:01 PM
Rev. Dowdy: Since it is likely that there are members of your congregation who support HB56, would you consider it appropriate to publicly state or imply that your church opposes the bill? By virtue of his position, this is what the bishop is doing by purporting to speak for all Methodists even though he knows that a large number of us, possibly even a majority, disagree with him. Certainly no one objects to his taking a stand as Will Willimon, but I do not believe that, as Bishop of the Church, he should disregard the diverse opinions (which the denomination encourages) of his membership.
134. Carol Gullatt wrote on 7/20/2011 12:34:24 AM
I'm fairly certain that this will fall on deaf ears (again), but I will say it (again) anyway! United Methodists, get you a copy of the Social Principles! See what the church has already said on so many issues. The values expressed in the letter are not new ideas! The church has been speaking to such issues for a long time! You can pick up a copy of this at the Cokesbury store in Birmingham or online. We, as United Methodists, take stands on issues. It's the prophetic work of our spiritual leaders to speak to us and to society on issues. They are not here to represent our human views but to express the heart of God, the reign of God - for the sake of the whole world! This week, I have heard more than one person say, "I'm a Christian, but...". We have a serious crisis in discipleship. If we fail to have a prophetic voice, we are the "dead sect" that John Wesley feared we might become.
135. David Ward wrote on 7/20/2011 2:10:31 PM
The concerns of those of us who support HB56 are just as moral and just as legitimate as the ones of those who oppose it. Unfortunately, neither side is really listening to the other and, until we start doing so, we will remain polarized on the issue. This is my last post, as to continue this debate would be pointless. I will leave that to others.
136. Dorsey Walker wrote on 7/21/2011 8:11:43 PM
Gladly, I join with RG, Bishop Willimon and the other prophetic voices across North Alabama in declaring that there are no boundaries to the call that we have to declare God's will (as we see it)in regard to recent legislation intended to deal with illegal immigration into Alabama. As the people of God we are pushed "beyond borders" to welcome strangers/aliens and to provide compassion/justice/"a new way" for people who have been pushed aside or pressed down. Thus, as we continue to fulfill the mandate given us, we pray for our governmental leaders and call on them to seek better ways of dealing with difficult issues that affect so many people. The solution cannot be one that inflict hardship on those who, like our forebearers, seek a better live for themselves and their families. As Christian leaders we are called, and sent to declare and live, God's will so as to transform the ways of this world into the kingdom of God.
137. Tanory McBee wrote on 7/22/2011 10:11:02 PM
Thank you so much for writing this letter!!!!
138. Dick Stanford wrote on 7/24/2011 8:09:21 PM
I posted a few comments on the Immigration Law issue a few weeks ago at another location on the conference website, and was disappointed at what I felt was the absence of any opposition to the conference’s continued assault on the law, a law which I support. A friend of mine told me about the extensive comments at this blog -- pro and con --- and I am encouraged that at least a few people have had the courage to protest the use of conference resources to further a particular political viewpoint, a viewpoint which is always distinguished by its proponents, of course, as not being political at all. To them, their position is the only true Christian position, one that Jesus undoubtedly would have taken. I see no reason that on divisive political issues which have equally committed Christians on both sides, someone feels that “The Church” should speak with one voice. One usually will find that anyone who feels this way, also feels that this voice must be in agreement with theirs. Otherwise, they are not too excited about the One Voice. I personally do not seek nor expect the Church, the conference, or my individual church to speak for me on any political issue, and I only wish that others in our conference felt the same way, including those who run it. Matt Lacey responded to my earlier post that it was the media’s fault that the letter responses that he was coordinating had been branded the “Methodist response”, and that he had meant for it to be communicated simply as the response of individual United Methodist clergy. I see in today’s (7/24) Birmingham News, however, that a lead anti-Immigration Law opinion piece states that “many predominantly white churches are taking part in the protests”, and Rev. Lacey is the only minister cited in the whole article. Rev. Lacey is quoted as saying, “I would like to think that the church wants to do what’s right” (notice the use of "churches" and "church", not "individuals". Shall we assume, Matt, that you have been misquoted once again, or do you acknowledge that you are now “speaking for us all” on this issue? (By the way, the above Birmingham News opinion piece today quotes a section of Dr. King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”. One of the ministers to whom this letter was addressed was another of our conference’s Methodist Bishops. I wonder if he was “speaking for the Church”, when he ended up on the wrong side of history?)
139. Herb Williamson wrote on 7/25/2011 1:48:40 PM
It has been some time since I made a comment on this blog but feel the need to respond to what I keep seeing posted by those who oppose us Methodist Clergy taking this position because we are "speak for the whole church". I do not know any clergy who claim that we speak for the whole church. Our church already speaks clearly about the immigration issue in our Social Principles. What does concern me is those who oppose clergy speaking out because we are clergy. Do we as clergy give up our right to speak our convictions when we become clergy? I only ask those who disagree with me to simply state why but not use the lame excuse we should not speak for the church. Just simply say you disagree with me and why. I have no need to accuse anyone of speaking for anyone other than themselves. I am however, proud to be a clergy person in a church that does take a stand on social issues which are spelled out very clearly in our Social Principles.
140. Dick Stanford wrote on 7/25/2011 3:30:24 PM
Herb, where exactly do I say that clergy do not have a right to speak their own opinions, political or otherwise? I respect anyone’s honestly held political opinions, as well as their right to express them AS THEIR OWN OPINIONS. Where we disagree, I suspect, is in our opinions of the “Church taking a stand”. You see infallibility, I see politics.
141. Herb Williamson wrote on 7/25/2011 4:40:21 PM
Dick, first let me say my comments were not directed at your comments personally. Yours was not as much a disapproval of clergy having the right to speak on this issue as some others have been. However, yours does imply that when a clergy speaks he is speaking for the church (that certainly was the case with your first comments concerning the Bishop and the letter many of signed. Of course, when any of us as Christians speak we are speaking as a member of the church. Your shouting "as their own opinions" above is also suggestive that we are speaking not for ourselves but for the church. There is no question we disagree on this immigration issue but I don't get your accusation that "I see infallibility". And if you believe you can separate politics and life as well as religion then that is another point on which we disagree. I gather that you do not agree with the Social Principles of the United Methodist church since you say our difference is in on the "Church taking a stand". That is your privilege which I respect, but I stand with the position of the Social Principles of the church. And my signature on the letter was my personal opinion that also agrees with the Social Principles that deals with the Immigration issue. I was not my signing a letter for the Sumiton United Methodist Church where I am co-pastor. It is important to say no one in the Sumiton Church has expressed to me that they disagree with my signing the letter, nor accused me of speaking for them.
142. Dick Stanford wrote on 7/25/2011 5:32:54 PM
My Senior Minister also signed the letter, and I personally expressed to him my support of his right to sign the letter. My complaint is not with my Senior Minister.
143. David Ward wrote on 7/26/2011 7:13:53 PM
Although I said that last week would be my last post, I must weigh in again. Instead of writing letters and demonstrating against a law that is nothing but an attempt to do what our politicians in Washington don’t have the courage to do, why doesn’t the Church do something positive and establish a ministry aimed at helping these immigrants become legal? This type of constructive approach would be looked upon more favorably and would more accurately reflect what the Church’s Social Principles call us to do.
144. Herbert Williamson wrote on 7/27/2011 1:22:50 PM
David, what is wrong with doing both? In fact, some might argue that writing letters and demonstrating is the way to do something construction toward helping immigrants become legal. That certainly was a major piece of the Civil Right movement.
145. David Ward wrote on 7/28/2011 10:04:13 AM
Herb: Letter writing and demonstrations were necessary during the Civil Rights movement because the leaders had no other recourse. There were no laws to protect them. That’s not the issue in this case. We already have legal ways to enter and remain in this country which, for whatever reason, these immigrants chose to ignore. No changes in the law are necessary. The only proper way to help is to assist them in becoming legal residents. The position taken by the bishop and other church leaders not only condones illegal activity but does nothing to prevent their being further exploited and marginalized. I do not believe that is the goal of our Social Principles or the outcome desired by those who truly want to help them.
146. Herbert Williamson wrote on 7/28/2011 11:06:07 AM
David: Are you suggesting the civil rights leaders did not violate any laws when they demonstrated during the civil rights movement? On what basis were then then jailed? There were laws they disobeyed, wrong laws they were seeking to get changed. That is what those writing letters and demonstrating are trying to do with this law. And yes we have legal ways to enter this country which is a federal law, not state. Show me where the bishop and leaders in the church by writing a letter have condoned Illegal activity? The protest is against a state law that makes it difficult for the church to be the church. O course, there are differences of opinions in the church community about what being the church really means.
147. David Ward wrote on 7/28/2011 2:52:15 PM
OK, Herb. You're right and I'm wrong. Just Forget it.
148. DAVID wrote on 8/1/2011 2:28:43 PM
Was the letter in question sent on North Alabama Conference letter head and was the letter signed listing the titles of each person signing. If they were then the letter would indicate the they were representing the church and conference not just themselves.
149. Roy Adair wrote on 8/2/2011 9:48:55 PM
Since the Bishop and other clergy have no quam about speaking for The Methodist Church, then may the lay people, clergy, associate pastors, that approve of the law (HB56), have the weight of the conference, The Methodist Church, to make a reply to those the letter was sent? Can we speak for the Church? Can we use the conference web site to request these same supporters of the law send their names, and request them, as the original writers of the bishops letter, to sign there church affiliation? If we send a copy to the news outlets, and they print, or say in televised air time, that the Methodist Church supports the law will this be ok? Never saw Matt, R.G. or the bishop ask for a correction of the print news stating that individuals, wrote the letter. Has the conference signed off on the law suit that the news print says The Methodist Bishop has filed? Or did they again misquote? Will there be a request for a correction of exactly "who" wrote the letter and signed it? Can I speak for thre church? Please answer these questions. Is the social principles of the Church for everything that is being done in churches around the country make it ok? For myself I do have a problem with anyone speaking for me, my church, and my denomination, without seeking my council in some fashion. Actions always produce some type of consequences. If my name, my church, my denomination is involved, yes I want to have input. It is shameful the way this has played out. I ask the Bishop to poll the entire conference membership to just see where the majority stand. It will not happen though, as well can be seen from everyone's actions, and writtings. The why here is I do not think for one instant that the churches will be kept from ministering to anyone. No minister, their ley people will be kept from attending to peoples needs. But you very well may if your are doing so to protect them from being detected by any authority over our immigration laws.
150. Frank wrote on 8/3/2011 10:41:51 AM
I have suggested that the folks that are vocal are representing themselves to the press as The North Alabama Conference not as an individual! These individual all dance around the issue and behind the scenes away from the press they say they are entitled to have their own opinion. Have any of these folks told the press this fact? I agree in most part with the law. I suggested in an earlier post ways to lower the anxiety about this issue. My ire with the Leadership within our Conference has continued to grow to the point that I have to reconcile my continued membership within it. Matt why have you not answered whether you wrote the Letter on Conference Letterhead? Are you willing to tell the press that you work for the Conference but do not represent the Conference on this issue? There is much dissention within the ranks! Frank
151. Melanie Lankford wrote on 8/3/2011 4:44:22 PM
I thank God for Bishop Willimon, Rev. RG Lyons, and Rev. Matt Lacey for their leadership against this bill. If you don't agree with them, I ask that you pray for understanding. If you do agree with them, please show them and take a STRONG stand of support AGAINST the bill. I have been involved in personal research regarding illegal immigration issues for about a year now. I am shocked at the horrible things people say. It is like a verbal war. If you believe this law is wrong, get ready. You will see what I mean. Racism is showing loud and clear. Instead of trying to fix the problem, this law just wants to get rid of it. Think about it. Why not rally to fix the broken immigration system? That is the root of the real problem. I believe in all of my heart that taking a stand against this harsh law is the right thing to do. Matt, if the letter was on conference letterhead, I am so happy to be a member of Holt United Methodist Church in the North Alabama Conference and you can certainly represent me.
152. Frank wrote on 8/5/2011 1:13:54 PM
Melanie, you have stated your opinion and I don’t have a problem with that. I do have a problem with you suggesting that if I don’t agree with you I should pray for understanding. Is that an attitude of “if you don’t agree with me you are wrong?”. I happen to disagree with you just as strongly and have not thrown darts. I happen to believe that you are well intentioned but wrong. I also have no problem with anyone representing you. I do have a problem with a pastor representing a church, either overtly or covertly without the approval of the governing body of the church. I do have a problem with Matt, RG Lyons or the Bishop representing the North Alabama Conference on this issue, either overtly or covertly. Several folks signed the letter without listing their church. That tells me that is their personal opinion and I have absolutely no problem with that. I have a problem with the press being misled into believing that these individual churches and the entire North Alabama Conference of United Methodist Churches are against this Alabama Law. I and many many other members of this conference are in favor of this law. A FAIR representation of beliefs about this law by all members of this conference is not being placed before the press. Why was this issue not discussed during Annual Conference? Many scholars have studied this issue much longer than a year and more in-depth disagree with you, what makes your research so much superior that you can state so strongly that I and others are so wrong. What I am hearing is a disagreement with the Federal Immigration Law. You can disagree without being disagreeable.
153. Carol Gullatt wrote on 8/5/2011 2:30:02 PM
Frank, my understanding of United Methodist discipline and polity is that those who have been ordained are called by God as a prophetic (not representational) voice. I'm really interested in getting a grasp of the basis for your argument. Could you offer some citations from the Book of Discipline to help substantiate your view? Southern Baptists call their preachers, so I would understand parishoners of SBC's feeling like they had the right to override their pastors in such an event. I think we are functioning very differently than they! Peace to you. See if you can help me out with some citations, please!
154. Herb Williamson wrote on 8/5/2011 6:49:14 PM
Thank you Carol for stating clearly the difference between a connectional church and a congregational church. You are on target about those of us who are ministers in the UMC. We are not representatives of the local congregation, in fact my membership is in the North Alabama Conference, not the church I serve. And we are ordained into a prophetic ministry.
155. rob etheridge wrote on 8/7/2011 9:29:20 AM
Melanie, you are so way off base. You need to think about the words you are using in this argument. Your words basically called those who disagree with you racist. It is pathetic to think that those who do not want illegal immigrants to have open access are racist. I disagree with my friend, Carol G (a friend from the Auburn Wesley Foundation) but I can bare with the way she presents her position bc it is not with barbed words.
156. Herb wrote on 8/8/2011 9:32:17 AM
Instead of reacting to comments others make about our position and implying they have called us names it would be good to hear some responses with some answers to facts. Like the questions Carol asked in her comment. Give her the citations she asked for.
157. rob etheridge wrote on 8/8/2011 9:53:28 AM
Herb, I do not need you to give me lessons on how to post a comment. I have stated my position to this matter on this forum and have not made a comment in a while. I made this one in response to Melanie because I'm so tired of hearing that I am a racist because I disagree with her or anyone else. If you would like to restate a logical position in response, go for it - it seems to go nowhere, so, I am through.
158. Herb wrote on 8/8/2011 11:22:33 AM
Rob, sorry you felt the need to react to a general comment I made that was not directed directly to you. My comment was directed to people who are reacting rather than responding. I had made a logical comment without making any judgmental statement. But then you come back accusing me of lecturing you and implying that I am illogical. This kind of reaction is not a response but a reaction which appears to be of anger which does not help people discuss this issue at all. I am still waiting for someone to respond to Carol's request for some citations to help her understand. Sorry you decided that you are through because it seems to go nowhere. Leaves us wondering where you wanted it to go.
159. ron watson wrote on 8/8/2011 3:42:01 PM
Herb, your comment did not seem general when you said 'reacting to others...implying they have called us names'. That was posted after I said anyone who disagreed with the NAUMC position are considered racists. So,if I was incorrect for thinking that you were responding to my post, forgive me. You did read my post incorrect thinking that I implied you were illogical. In reading your post, I thought you were against the stand the NAUMC took and the 'logical restatement' to which I referred was what opponents have stated in this entire feed. The place I wanted to go was to have both sides understand what the other was saying. I even gave a logical response saying that I understand wanting to help people in need but that I thought there was a better way. I gave an example of a SBC church which helped an illegal get back to his home of Mexico City and procure a job that would benefit him and his family as well as follow the law set before us by our country. My response was not out of anger but frustration.
160. Herbert Williamson wrote on 8/8/2011 6:09:20 PM
Ron, or Rob, I am not sure who I am responding to now. Someone named Rob Etheridge responded to Melanie after which I wrote my comment that was suggestive to all us would be better to respond to facts rather than reacting to what we believe to be name calling. Yes, Rob was one of those but it was not directed at him alone. I have seen it several times in this long blog. Rob reacted to my comments and I responded to that. Now a ron watson shows up responding to me. I am confused. It is Rob or Ron? It seems the two are the same however when I go back and read all the comments Rob has made. On 6/14 Rob responded to Ted Peterson, on 6/15 Rob responded to John Alexander and made reference to an example about a SBC he belonged to. I assume ron is the same as Rob since ron references the SBC church again in response to my last comment. I never saw the actual example Rob referenced in any blog, maybe I missed it. I did see where Carol asked if rob was a friend who is a Baptist Minister in Tn, but never saw his response to her asking for clarification. Ron (Rob), I have no idea what you are referring to when you say "logical restatement". You were certainly wrong about me be against the position of the Bishop and others. I am a clergy whose name is on the letter opposing the state law. One final thing, I am a little amazed that you immediately assumed I was responding directly to you earlier when I used the word "us" in relation to people calling us names. Yet, you do not see any implication with the use of the word logical. Why suggest I make a logical response if you already believe I am logical? I do think we all need to find a way to understand each other. That was what I was trying to get at in my suggestion we not react to what we think is name calling. Yes, I agree Melanie could have worded her comments better. So could you in your response to her. It would have set an entirely different tone had you omitted the comment "you are way off base" and just simply said "you need to think about the words you use in this argument". Let's keep trying to communicate as Christians.
161. rob etheridge wrote on 8/9/2011 10:48:58 AM
Herb, that was me (rob). I am not sure why it has the moniker Ron Watson. I am sorry that I did not respond to Carol on this post - but I don't think that made a difference (I thought I did and that is why I referenced her in my response as 'my friend, carol'). The reference I made was to a story that I had posted on this feed. I went back and tried to find it but it is not there and I am not sure why that is so. However, having written that and thinking that it was there, I referenced it again in post #52. However, with my previous post about it, I did give an overview of it. So, there are ways to be 'Christ' to those around us and follow the law that is placed before us (in order to assure proper assimilation into our country -which is a process that could be changed to make it a less tedious process. I have a Romanian friend who was deported along with his wife and daughter although they had done everything they were told by their Immigration lawyer when they were here doing ministry - so, I know how tough it can be.) The reason I said 'logical restatement' (which I thought I explained it previously) is that I had assumed that you were on the same side as me. I felt that the side against the bill had a logical statement in this feed. So, you responding to it would be a 'logical restatement' and I felt that it was just going nowhere. I feel that 99% of the comments only take the authors position into account and belittles the other side. I feel that it is like the liberal/conservative stand on any political issue - both sides want to help others but they have different means to their end. As for my use of 'you are way off base', that is not communicating like a non-Christian. Her comment does imply that if you disagree with this letter, that you helped pen, that you are racist. I believe that 'way off base' is a good characterization of that implication. I will tell you that I am coming from a place of frustration with this issue but not one of anger. The frustration is from the point that it seems that if you are for this letter which was penned, then you are in the right and there is no need for understanding any other view. As far as this being a NAUMC issue, I don't understand, although I have been in a Methodist congregation throughout parts of my life, that this letter is not 'speaking for all Methodists' in the conference or area. Thanks for your time.
162. Melanie Lankford wrote on 8/9/2011 3:46:58 PM
Frank and Rob, I did not mean to call either of you a racist. I am sorry I was not more clear about that. My research on this issue does lead to racism,even though I am not a scholar. Also, if you speak against the law on Facebook, you will encounter racism. Been there, done that. I have come to think of this law as the Hate Law. Alabama has more hate groups than the state of Texas. It is definitely loud and clear. As far as my knowledge on this subject, I am very involved and close to it. I know the hearts and cries of several of these people and how this law will rip their families apart. They came here to feed their families. Would you break the law to feed yours if you could not provide for them any other way? I just want our BROKEN Immigration System to be fixed. Mistreating innocent people should not be an option. Yes, there are some who use us and some who are true chrimals, but there are many who are wonderful people with good morals and Christian values. These things I know for a fact. Do you agree with ripping families apart? Do you agree with punishing young people like they are criminals when they were innocently brought here as a child? Do you care what happens to these people when they are deported?
163. rob etheridge wrote on 8/9/2011 6:06:11 PM
yes, I care about people and families. You cannot label this a hate law - I mean, I guess if you label our federal law the same way, then you are at least giving equal time. This law is much like Arizona in that it wants to do what the federal law says but the federal agents aren't doing. When our church helped the Mexican citizen get back to his country we did it in such a way as to better his and his family's life. We didn't just get him deported. I can't talk much now but will later.
164. Melanie Lankford wrote on 8/9/2011 8:20:10 PM
This law is much more complicated than just enforcing it. There are so many innocent people involved. Yes, it is a hate law because it stirs hate and gives the hate groups more power. How do you know the Mexican that was helped back to Mexico has a better life? Are you sure? Have you kept up with the news of what is going on in Mexico? Do you stay in touch with him? I know we have a problem, but there is a better way to work it out. Some should be allowed to stay. If they have lived here without any problems for several years and are connectded to American citizens, why can't they stay? This law separates parents from their children, husbands from their wives, and some who are deported don't even know the language of their birthplace. They know this as their home. They are afraid of the strange land they were born in. Do you think they should be deported? We educated them here. They were raised here. They went to school with our children. They fell in love here. The got married here. They have childen here. They can't get legal because of our laws. Marriage to an American Citizen DOES NOT make them legal. So is the answer to Deport Them?
165. Herbert Williamson wrote on 8/9/2011 9:01:47 PM
Rob, thank you for the clarification response. My only further response to your comments are that I did not say or imply that your comments were unchristian, just that the tone would have been better set without them, even though you felt she had called you a racist. I still maintain it would have been a better tone without the comments because it does sound somewhat accusatory. My final sentence in that comment was suggestive we continue to communicate as Christians The reason you find the majority of the comments against the bill is because many United Methodist do not have a problem with their pastor or Bishop taking a stand on issues like this. A final comment about your last response to Melanie. I again wish you had used a different word from "cannot" when you stated " you cannot label this a hate law." I believe it would have been better to say "I don't believe you should label ...." There are many who do believe this law, if not a hate law, certainly encourages hate. And even the writers of this law admit it goes far beyond the Arizona law. In fact, the sponsors of it brag about it. They literally want the bill to drive people out of the state. That would be okay if they were all criminals. But it is not even a good economic move at this time of our bad economy. These people pay taxes on items they buy as well as those trying to become legal residents pay income taxes which is required of them to be eligible in the future for that possibility. And the more items they purchase has the potential of helping create jobs for our jobless. And I am not happy with my state driving even criminals off to another state in the "united" states.
166. Zach Wilson wrote on 8/13/2011 9:22:34 PM
Many Americans seem to be under the illusion that undocumented residents of the U.S. cost the taxpayers a great deal of money. Nothing could be further from the case. The net cost of undocumented residents, according the Congressional Budget office under both Presidents Bush and Obama and under majority Democrat and Republican congressional leadership is "modest." Attempts to be more specific about the actual cost of government services used by undocumented residents of the United States have never led to widespread agreement by government officials or economists of any political stripe. When people are afraid they find reasons to justify their fear. The supporters of this law use a false but compelling fiscal arguments to justify the xenophobia codified in such statues. This passage of this law is not about money or the rule of law it is about fear. The only fiscally responsible move in relation to our 12 million undocumented immigrants is to pass comprehensive immigration reform that allows law abiding undocumented residents of the U.S. a path to citizenship (this is the solution that was supported by G.W. Bush, to his credit). The costs of actually enforcing current Federal immigration statutes and state statutes such as the Alabama bill would far outweigh current expenditures for undocumented residents of the United States. The link takes you to the Congressional Budget Office's assessment referenced in the above comments.
167. rob etheridge wrote on 8/16/2011 10:06:01 AM
Herb, I responded to Melanie's curt remarks asking how I knew that the Mexican was better off and that comment is not there. You chide me for using wording that is not necessary but not her. She throws around the word hate like it is candy and you say nothing of it. This is not about hate; this issue is about two sides wanting much of the same thing but with very different means. You can reach me directly at my email.
168. Herb wrote on 8/16/2011 7:59:54 PM
Rob, I do not know what your e-mail is. I would love to respond to you by that means as well. I think I did mention that Melanie could have chosen much better wording in her comments and since then she did apologize to you and Frank for implying that you were racist. I do not remember her accusing you of hating but accused the law of being hateful. And the discussion is not about nor should it be about hate but it is about a law that some on one side believes is hateful and the those supporting the law do not believe that. I would strongly reprimand anyone who called another person hateful, without real facts to prove such.
169. rob etheridge wrote on 8/16/2011 10:57:48 PM
So, the law is a hate law and encourages hate and those who support the law, according to Zach, 'justify (thereby, support) xenophobia'. This has turned into name-calling from the side that is against this law. I have not seen any solution from the support side to how we handle a real problem with illegal immigration and open borders. Herb, what is your church. I will find you and email you that way. I thought, bc you co-penned this letter, that you may have access to the emails.
170. Melanie Lankford wrote on 8/18/2011 3:59:42 PM
Rob, I am sorry that I upset you. None of my comments are meant to imply that you have any part of hatred or racism. In general, I still believe this is a hate law because it encourages hate and makes it stronger. I have witnessed this in many discussions and it is shocking the way so many people (who claim to be Christians) talk. I have heard some talk of wanting to kill Mexicans who are here to get rid of them. They don't care what happens to them. They don't want to know why they really came here illegally. This law gives them more fuel. Even Scott Beason, who helped write the law, made a comment "Empty the Clip" about this issue. Yes, I see and hear the hate coming out as a result of this law. It is my opinion that HB 56 is a Hate Law. Again, I am sorry I offended you.
171. Herb wrote on 8/18/2011 6:59:41 PM
Rob, my e-mail is
172. Diana wrote on 10/2/2011 3:28:44 AM
For all of you who support this immigration law, I ask you that what would Christ do? Would Christ be worried about people's visa's or green cards? Also for people to mentioned , well we should all be following the law, well not all laws are just. There was a time where slavery was legal but did that mean it was OK? You people that are for this immigration law reminds me of the same people long ago who thought slavery was OK and went to church with your slaves and the ones who oppose this immigration law were probably the ones who went to church and didn't own slaves because it was just plain wrong and against humanity.