Recently, the GOP held the first debate between Republican Presidential candidates. The stalwart libertarian from Texas, Ron Paul attended and according to the LA Times, won the debate. He may have alienated a few of the more conservative voters however, when he criticized the penalization of the “Catholic Church” for providing care for immigrants.
As a fellow Texan I can admire the common sense rhetoric and rapport that Congressman Paul can develop between himself and the audience, but I can only imagine the amount of eyebrow lifts that came when he approved of Churches taking care of immigrants. Traditionally Paul’s answer to any question tends to sound something like ‘The government shouldn’t be involved at all.’ Some Americans who like a statesman cutting government spending, also support bills such as SB 1070 in Arizona, now in Alabama and Georgia, that have the potential to criminalize basic Church aid for immigrants.
The anger towards churches on the issue of immigration can be found in many places. Judson Phillips blogged that he wanted to see the United Methodist Church “go out of business” for supporting access to education for children of undocumented immigrants through the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would allow children who were brought to the United States by their parents to attend college and eventually become citizens. These young people had nothing to do with their immigration, and punishment via deportation to a strange land that they know nothing about seems unjustified, especially if they follow our laws and make good grades in school. If the UMC Church was led by faith, hope and love to voice their support for these young people, why does Phillips accuse them of crossing the Church/State line?
Ron Paul’s support for what he calls the Church’s “role” is nice to hear. He shows a willingness to recognize that humane treatment of a neighbor should not be criminalized and that the Catholic Church and others share the Christian call to love neighbors as themselves. Yet he also supports state enforcement of immigration law and a Constitutional amendment taking away automatic citizenship of children born on U.S. soil. The Church aiding undocumented workers and their families seems to be permissible, as long as those people are not represented or have rights under federal or state law. So it appears that the Church can help people, while the State effectively cuts them off from making a living. Even to the point of creating a stateless population of children born in this country.
Does the church have a duty to fight for this fragile population’s civil rights? Though this question was not asked during the GOP debate, when asked about the relationship between church and state, Congressman Paul said, “The most important thing is the first amendment… which means Congress should never prohibit the expression of your Christian faith in a public place.” This begs the question what happens when that expression of faith is supporting an immigrant with no home to return to?
Paul’s use of the term “expression” probably corresponds to praying, picketing, evangelizing, and communicating with words the untouchable realization that Christ is Lord. However the physical consequences of that untouchable truth have always driven how Christians treat the stranger among us. Precisely because the truth is untouchable, a Christian can put his or her body between Christian Ramirez and a threat to his education, between the infant Carlos Herrera-Candelario and a corporation’s pesticides that took away his arms and legs, between Congress and the farmworkers with no protection. Such acts are expressions of our Christian faith, and they cannot be separated from giving food and shelter to those in need.
–Keith Gustine, Intern