The Common Good

GOP Convention’s Religious Leaders Agree on Immigration Reform

If you blink, you might miss the fact that the religious luminaries offering prayers at the Republican National Convention agree on a surprising topic: the need to welcome immigrants and pass immigration reform.

The Washington Post/Contributor / Getty Images
Photo: GOP tie worn at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. The Washington Post/Contributor / Getty Images

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The views of these religious leaders differ sharply from the Republicans’ own platform. Guided by the likes of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the brains behind state-level anti-immigrant laws, the GOP draft platform takes a hardline stance on immigration.

But the Episcopal, evangelical Protestant, Greek Orthodox and Catholic leaders chosen to lead the RNC in prayer beg to differ.

Although Tropical Storm Isaac canceled Monday’s official schedule, Rev. Dr. Russell Levenson did offer an invocation.

Dr. Levenson, an Episcopal priest from Houston, called on God to “guide and direct with your wisdom our president, Congress and the courts.” And what kind of direction might they receive regarding immigrants?

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas, to which Levenson belongs, joined Methodists and other faith groups in Texas in opposition to H.B. 12, an Arizona-inspired immigration bill that passed the Texas House of Representatives last year. The groups also called for comprehensive immigration reform.

What about the other handpicked preachers speaking at the convention?

Tuesday evening, Rev. Sam Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, offered the benediction. Rodriguez has spoken forcefully about the need to welcome new Americans and create a new immigration process, and he joined 150 leading evangelicals to launch “Evangelical Principles for Immigration Reform” and the Evangelical Immigration Table.

Wednesday night, His Eminence Methodios, the Metropolitan of Boston in the Greek Orthodox Church, takes to the podium in prayer. Through its membership in the National Council of Churches, the Greek Orthodox Church fights for just immigration policies every day.

On Thursday, Ken and Priscilla Hutchins, two Mormon leaders, will lead the RNC in the invocation. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement of support for the Utah Compact, a statement of principles in support of federal action on immigration reform. The LDS statement calls on legislators to “balance love for neighbors, family cohesion, and the observance of just and enforceable laws.”

The final speaker at the RNC, directly following Mitt Romney, will be Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan. “America’s Pope” has taken a strong position in favor of immigration reform.

Immigration is not the only issue on which these conservative religious leaders agree but it is the only one for which it is impossible to reconcile their preaching with the party’s official position.

One might think the convention planners would trot out a tried-and-true conservative preacher who favors “self-deportation,” state anti-immigrant laws that encourage racial profiling, and other policies that stifle compassion to the stranger in our midst. But they’d have trouble finding one.

A true consensus, especially evident in the faith community, has emerged in support of a practical immigration process in America. With leaders aboard from Focus on the Family to the United Church of Christ, from the Southern Baptist Convention to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the religious right, left, and center in America support immigration reform.

On immigration, the GOP’s preachers get it right, while the platform gets it wrong.

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons is the Assistant for Alliances at the National Immigration Forum

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