By Brian Clark
Something is about to happen in Georgia that violates the Golden Rule, the greatest commandments and everything Judeo-Christian scripture teaches about the treatment of others. A special legislative committee in the Georgia General Assembly is discussing an Arizona-style immigration law that targets undocumented persons and is due to come before the House and Senate in February or March.
The proposed legislation is gaining strength and likely will pass with little opposition unless the religious community speaks on behalf of our neighbors in great number and with great clarity. The reasons behind the proposed legislation are economic in nature. The committee would have every Georgian believe that their lives would be better and their economic futures more secure without undocumented persons living in their neighborhoods, attending their schools and working in their businesses.
Despite the fact that undocumented persons contribute to the state tax base, bolster the agricultural economy and keep local businesses alive, the real issue before the committee isn't economic. The real issue is that Arizona-style legislation is both immoral and unscriptural.
The legislation is immoral because it threatens to tear families apart, destroy the lives of countless children and youth already living productive lives in our communities, and does nothing to advocate for a fair earned pathway to citizenship. The legislation is unscriptural because it ignores the biblical mandates to love our neighbors, to offer forgiveness, and to treat others the way we desire to be treated.
God loves the undocumented persons living among us as much as God loves every natural born citizen and calls us to treat them with love and respect. Leviticus 19:34 says, "The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." (NRSV)
I would ask every person of faith to answer these questions:
• Ddo we want our state representatives passing legislation that does not represent our Judeo-Christian heritage and values?
• Do we ignore the mandates of Scripture?
• Do we quietly turn a deaf-ear and a blind-eye while our neighbors are treated unjustly?
I believe we do so at our own peril. At this critical moment, persons of faith need to say loudly and clearly what many of our denominations have already said in official formats. The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, the denomination in which I serve, passed a resolution on June 14, 2007, advocating for a "just, humane and intelligent immigration reform" that aims to "provide a path to citizenship, protect workers, reunite families, and restore the rule of law and enhance security." Together, we need to inform our representatives of the type of immigration reform for which persons of faith are advocating.
Brian Clark is senior pastor at the Calhoun (Ga.) First United Methodist Church.