Baptists Call for Amnesty

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on June 20, 2011

The Southern Baptist Convention, which met last week in Phoenix, adopted a resolution endorsing the legalization of virtually all illegal aliens. This action followed the SBC's 2006 passage of a similar pro-amnesty resolution.

The resolution calls for "our governing authorities to implement, with the borders secured, a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country."

Intense debate on the resolution indicated that this pro-amnesty measure wasn't a slam-dunk for its advocates (Revs. Richard Land and Paul Jimenez). Tucson pastor Richard Huff nearly succeeded in erasing the amnesty provision. Huff said, "[T]he principle is that citizenship is a right of people that are here under legal processes, and you do not want to make this something you are rewarding people who are in violation of the law and they have no interest in being here legally." Huff's amendment narrowly lost, 723-766.

Another amendment would have urged illegal aliens to return to their home countries. It, too, was defeated. Proponents did add an "ignore the man behind the curtain" amendment, an Orwellian denial of the obvious: The resolution is "not to be construed as support for amnesty for any undocumented immigrant." Right. It's really full-fledged amnesty for every illegal alien.

The resolution also encourages Baptist churches to evangelize and minister to all people regardless of their immigration status. Further, it proclaims that "any form of nativism, mistreatment, or exploitation is inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

The whole point of this resolution, the reason proponents agitated for it and fought for its adoption, is to move Southern Baptists further and further on record supporting mass amnesty. It seems to covet the praise of men more than that of the Lord. As a document written by amnesty backers, the resolution lacks balance. It tilts entirely toward benefiting illegal aliens. It utterly ignores vulnerable Americans and native-born taxpayers and the harms mass amnesty would compound.

Americans with little education and skills, native-born minorities, convicts who've served their sentence, the disabled – the American natives who face direct job competition with and suffer wage depression in a labor market flooded with 8 million illegal foreign workers who've stolen American jobs – are left entirely exposed to suffering the consequences forced upon them by comfortable Southern Baptist convention messengers. Surely such citizens count among "the least of these." Legalization would reward the lawbreakers, punish citizens who have a right to the protection of their civil government, and encourage other would-be illegal aliens to risk breaching the U.S. border on the prospect of another amnesty. It may be "nativism" in the SBC's book to be more concerned with the welfare of one's fellow countrymen than foreign lawbreakers, but surely that's a form of "nativism" not inconsistent with the Bible and the Christian gospel.

Because the devil is in the details, a lot rides on what is meant by "appropriate restitutionary measures" in the amnesty provision. If it means nothing more than payment of a meaninglessly low fine or fee (as in the various "comprehensive immigration reform" proposals Land has endorsed), not having been convicted of a felony, enrolling in some English course, gaining U.S. citizenship, having equal privileges of sponsoring more immigrants, etc., that hardly amounts to restitution.

Notably, an
SBC white paper about immigration is more thoughtful and nuanced than usual public statements by Baptist (and other religious) officials. Unfortunately, the SBC resolutions don't do much to promote keen, reflective thinking on the subject. And, in fact, the white paper deals far too leniently with illegal aliens rewarded with amnesty.

"This resolution upholds the rule of law," Land baldly asserted. "This resolution upholds the sovereignty of the United States, and this resolution seeks to deal compassionately and fairly and justly with those who are here in an undocumented status, and calls upon us to act as if this is a gospel issue, which it is." In fact, this resolution undermines the rule of law, national sovereignty, and the principles of compassion, fairness, and justice.

Land is correct that immigration is a gospel issue. Christians know that God is sovereign over all things in the City of Man and He calls His people to act prudently, wisely, and purely concerning every matter, public and private. Immigration policy is a public matter. Sharing the gospel with everyone, even illegal aliens, is a private matter. While neither individuals nor the government should mistreat illegal aliens, the SBC resolution's definition of "compassion" towards them fails to square with appropriate biblical standards.