Ariz. Pastor's Worry: Criminalization of Ministry Work

A Phoenix-based youth pastor is worried that his ministry could face legal troubles under Arizona's new immigration law.

"We don't ask people for their documents to come hear about Jesus," said Ian Danley, youth pastor at Neighborhood Ministries, during a conference call with immigration reform advocates Wednesday afternoon.

The evangelical pastor said regular ministry work, such as driving teens to worship events, could be "criminalized" under the new Arizona law if a church worker knowingly transports youths who are illegally residing in the United States.

"The local community here feels under attack," Danley said. "Recent high school graduates in my youth group are looking at what should be a bright future with little hope."

Danley was among a group of Christian leaders, businessman, researcher, and policy experts that spoke during the Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform conference call. The leaders updated participants on how the Arizona immigration law has affected local residents and the national public opinion about comprehensive immigration reform, and how members of Congress feel about taking up the issue.

In April, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB1070 – an immigration bill seeking the toughest laws against illegal immigrants in the nation.

Under the legislation, immigrants in Arizona are required to carry their alien registration documents at all times or face possible arrest. State police are given the power to interrogate, arrest and charge people suspected of illegally entering the country. And people are prohibited from knowingly transporting illegal immigrants.

Christian groups and leaders across the political and theological spectrum have strongly denounced the new Arizona law.

Earlier in May, conservative evangelical leaders – including Southern Baptist leader Richard Land, National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson, and Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver – endorsed an ad published in "Roll Call" urging Congress to pass immigration reform.

Faith communities throughout the nation – soon after Arizona passed its new immigration law – held prayer vigils to call on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Presently, as many as 17 states are considering to pass Arizona-type immigration law.

"We sympathize with so many who are frustrated in Arizona. But the solution is not piecemeal enforcement that targets Latino," said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. "We need a better solution to make us all safe."

To Republican lawmakers, Rodriguez said true conservatism is not preserving the white majority but propagating the ideas of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

According to a recent national survey by Public Religion Research Institute, 56 percent of the American public oppose efforts to deport illegal immigrants back to their home countries. The survey also found that three-quarters of Americans agree that, given the opportunity, illegal immigrants would work hard to earn a chance at citizenship.

Free CP Newsletters

Join over 250,000 others to get the top stories curated daily, plus special offers!


Most Popular

More In Politics