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Sanctuary Churches: Right or Wrong?

Last weeks blog was on the topic of Sanctuary Cities. These are U.S. cities who’ve made the decision to not co-operate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency whose responsibility it is to enforce U.S. immigration laws. If you didn’t read that blog, you may want to because much of my rationale for Sanctuary Churches is based on many of the same premises.

What is a Sanctuary Church? These are churches all over the U.S. who are taking in undocumented (illegal) aliens and their families to protect them from deportation. These churches are viewed by some to be safe havens, where law enforcement officials cannot enter, like mini embassies. That’s a falsehood. Churches have no safe haven privilege for law breakers, legally. However, most presidents from Bush to Obama, have been reluctant to enter churches to arrest and deport families. That’s a political decision, not necessarily a legal one. No politicians want to mess with churches. But since President Trump has taken office, the number of these sanctuary churches has exploded to more than 400.

So, is it wrong for those churches to defy the law and take in illegal aliens? I’m not sure. However, there is no getting around the fact that the churches are breaking the law. The question is, are those laws just and if not, are Christians required to obey them? Let’s keep this in mind, those churches are not interested in harboring felons. Almost all are taking in families. And in almost all of the families, the children are here legally because they have been born here, but the parents (or parent) are not. These churches believe it’s inhumane to break up families and therefore are committing to protect them. Some of these families have lived in these churches for years. I admire their courage and conviction.

Would it be a violation of Jesus’ command to not care for the “least of these?”

They believe it would be. However, we do live in a land of laws. Illegal parents came to this country and knowingly broke the law to do so and knew what the consequences would be to their children if they were deported. These parents are not innocent. They simply care more for their families than fear the laws.

John Adams once famously said, “Power always thinks it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws.”

So here’s my position: I admire these churches and the committed pastors and members who are willing to live by their convictions. However, if we have unjust laws, let’s work to change them. Therefore, I believe the responsible and just response for Christians is this: Put pressure on your congressman to pass reasonable and just immigration laws. And I believe Christians ought to let their congressional members know that they’d like ICE to stay away from Sanctuary Churches. There are plenty of other serious illegal felons, gang members, and drug dealers to go after. Let’s keep our priorities straight!

I think Christians need to pray for wisdom for our leaders, courage for those churches and mercy for illegal families, whose only crime is being here illegally.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7

I invite your comments.

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