Beau Underwood formerly served as senior director of advocacy for Sojourners. A graduate of Eureka College and the University of Chicago, Beau is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) currently serving a church in Jefferson City, Mo.

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Christians Deliver Petition to Repeal Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's Executive Order

by Beau Underwood 08-23-2012
Photo: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

Today, two Christian leaders in Arizona delivered a petition signed by thousands of Christians to Gov. Jan Brewer calling on her to retract her controversial executive order denying driver’s licenses and other benefits to undocumented young people who qualify for deferred action. The petition was signed by members of the Sojourners community and reads:

We believe every person, regardless of immigration status, is created in God's image. Your recent executive order denying driver's licenses and other benefits to undocumented young people who qualify for deferred action is harsh and short-sighted. As people of faith, we urge you to reconsider your position and retract this executive order so that all God's children in Arizona can contribute to your state's economy and strengthen its communities.

Pastor Yvette Lopez of the New Life Church of God in Tucson, Ariz., also helped deliver the petition.

“I’m a conservative, but this is this was the last straw for me,” Lopez said.“This executive order is deplorable, and it must be rescinded; my faith and my politics demand this.”

Gov. Jan Brewer Tries to Stop the DREAM in Arizona

by Beau Underwood 08-20-2012
Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer after being elected in 2010. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

President Barack Obama recently announced a policy change that would let young people living in the U.S. without immigration status pursue an education and find meaningful work without fear of deportation. As communities continue to suffer the effects of the country’s broken immigration system and families live in fear of their loved ones being deported, this was news to celebrate and an answer to prayer.

Apparently Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona, had a different reaction to the compassion and progress embodied by this new policy. On the day it went into effect, Brewer issued an executive order denying driver’s licenses to young people in Arizona qualifying for the relief being offered by the federal government. 

Alabama Needs to Put People Before Profits

by Beau Underwood 07-25-2012
Photo illustration, Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Photo illustration, Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Living in poverty has always been a struggle, but in Alabama being poor could land you in prison. According to a recent story in The New York Times, Alabama resident Gina Ray was locked up for over a month because she couldn’t pay fees and fines related to minor traffic offenses. Speeding while poor shouldn’t land someone in jail. This punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

Why would such morally outrageous penalties be imposed for such minor violations? Because criminal justice has become big business. Private companies are making millions of dollars running prisons, administering probation systems, and providing health care to those living behind bars.

Christians Need To Love their Muslim Neighbors

by Beau Underwood 07-19-2012

Independence Day in Joplin, Mo. saw fireworks of a different kind. On July 4, the Islamic Society of Joplin’s mosque was set on fire. While the mosque has only been open since 2007, it has already been targeted twice by arsonists. These hateful attacks must stop.

The biblical call to love our neighbors as ourselves requires Christians to speak out against these attacks. By protecting the rights of American Muslims to worship in the United States, we provide a powerful witness to those countries where Christian minorities face attack and persecution, such as Nigeria, Egypt, Somalia, and Kenya. If we expect others to take our advocacy for global religious freedom seriously, then our efforts must begin in our own backyard.

While the FBI is investigating the incident, the fact that a religious community was targeted means the attack should be investigated as a potential hate crime. Christians around the country are speaking out to ensure the Department of Justice gives this the necessary attention it deserves. Add your voice to the petition calling for a hate crimes investigation and show a little love to your Muslim neighbors in Joplin, Mo.

Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Care Act

by Beau Underwood 06-28-2012
Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

In a widely anticipated and extremely consequential decision, the Supreme Court ruled today in a 5-4 decision that President Barack Obama’s chief domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act, is constitutional.

The main challenge to the law had focused on the “individual mandate,” which required people to purchase insurance or pay a fine. In its ruling, the Court upheld the mandate under the taxing power given to Congress in the Constitution.

Supreme Courts Stops Some of Arizona’s Attack on Immigrants

by Beau Underwood 06-25-2012
Supreme Court image, Mesut Dogan / Shutterstock.com

Supreme Court image, Mesut Dogan / Shutterstock.com

Today the Supreme Court struck down three central provisions of Arizona’s controversial anti-immigrant law, SB 1070. Attempts by Arizona to force immigrants to carry identification, create legal penalties for undocumented workers seeking employment, or detain individuals solely based on suspicions about their immigration status were ruled to interfere with the federal government’s right and responsibility to set immigration policy.

The Court let one section, known as 2(B), to stand, which allows law enforcement to check the immigration status of individuals apprehended for non-immigration offenses, if law enforcement has a “reasonable suspicion” that the person violated U.S. immigration laws in entering the country. (Read more on concerns about the racial profiling measure HERE.)

Racism Alive and Well in Jasper, Texas

by Beau Underwood 06-22-2012
Jana Birchum / Getty Images

Members of the Byrd family attend the funeral of James Byrd in 1998. Jana Birchum / Getty Images

In June of 1998, three presumed white supremacists from Jasper, Texas severely beat and then murdered James Byrd, Jr. by tying him to a pick-up truck and dragging his body for miles.  This incident has made the town infamous and, unfortunately, the racial divide continues to linger. According to a report in The New York Times, the city’s first African-American police chief has been fired by a predominantly white city council, prompting the former chief to take legal action and the NAACP to seek a federal investigation.

Even more shocking are the sentiments expressed by some of the town’s leaders. 

When Grandma Can’t Eat

by Beau Underwood 06-12-2012
Image: OneSmallSquare / Shutterstock.com

Image: OneSmallSquare / Shutterstock.com

As Congress continues to wage a war of political ideology over budget cuts and entitlement programs, they need to remember that these abstract policy debates have real consequences for millions of Americans. 

Deciding between funding programs that feed the hungriest Americans versus giving tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans is not really a choice, at least not when it comes to the demands of the Gospel.

Kansas Lawmakers Forget the Greatest Commandment

by Beau Underwood 06-01-2012
The Kansas State Capitol, Walter G Arce / Shutterstock.com

The Kansas State Capitol, Walter G Arce / Shutterstock.com

Recently, the Kansas’ legislature and governor enacted a law to ensure state courts and agencies do not consider foreign laws in legal decision-making.  While the language is broadly written, the law’s narrow intention is clearly understood. The Kansas legislature has irrationally concluded that Sharia law somehow threatens the state’s well-being and decisive action was needed.

This, of course, is false.

Crisis on the Canadian Border

by Beau Underwood 05-29-2012
Passport photo, Jennie Book / Shutterstock.com

Passport photo, Jennie Book / Shutterstock.com

The debate over immigration policy and border security often focuses on the border shared by the United States and Mexico. However, The New York Times recently offered a revealing and troublesome picture of efforts by the U.S. Border Patrol along the dividing line between the US and Canada.

According to the report, the border agents “hover outside the warehouse where Mexican immigrants sell the salal they pick in the temperate rain forest. Sometimes they confront people whose primary offense, many argue, is skin tone.”