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Issue Date:  November 9, 2007

-- CNS

Archbishop Eusebius Beltran
Archbishop, priests resist anti-immigration law

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Archbishop Eusebius Beltran and a council of priests have joined an ecumenical “Pledge of Resistance” against one of the nation’s broadest state laws restricting illegal immigration.

The Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizens Act, which was to take effect Nov. 1, will make it criminal to transport, hire, harbor, house or conceal illegal immigrants. Violating the law could carry a minimum fine of $1,000, a year in prison or both.

“In a broad interpretation, a church delivering groceries or any sort of humanitarian assistance to an undocumented person could be committing a felony,” the Rev. Lance Schmitz, minister of social justice at Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene, said Oct. 26.

Schmitz and Rex Friend, a Quaker leader and immigration attorney, coauthored the pledge, which characterizes the new law as “fiercely anti-immigrant” and “not reflective of values which respect people and families.”

“With the advent of this new law, we are standing together in opposition and defiance of this unjust and immoral law,” the pledge states. “Our various faith traditions instruct us to do good to all peoples. There is no exemption clause for those persons who do not have documentation of their citizenship status. We will not show partiality to those who are in need of humanitarian assistance.”

Beltran and the archdiocesan Council of Priests signed the pledge this week and submitted it to Gov. Brad Henry’s office Oct. 26, archdiocese spokesman Ray Dyer said.

Paul Sund, a spokesman for Henry, acknowledged the clerics’ “concerns” but declined to comment further, citing a pending court challenge against the law.

While the law does not directly affect most parish activities and Catholic schools, the archbishop and priests “felt that a public position should be taken regarding this punitive legislation,” chancellor Tish Eason said.

Opponents of the law, including officials with the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, are circulating the pledge among clergy and lay leaders, Schmitz said. He said he did not know how many had signed it.

-- Religion News Service

National Catholic Reporter, November 9, 2007

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