You Brought Me a Beer — and Took My Picture

Mug of beer, Yellowj /

Mug of beer, Yellowj /

My flight home from Phoenix over the weekend got pushed back, so I wound up spending an extra night at an airport hotel. Also, I got an $8 food voucher from the airline. I decided to eat at the hotel.

The restaurant was located on the top floor of the hotel with a nice view of downtown. There was a small bar near the entrance. A handful of hotel visitors were enjoying complimentary drinks and watching the Olympics on a flat-screen television.

I was greeted at the door by Melody, a transplant from Erie, Pa., who doubles as a bartender and a server. When I mentioned that I had a food voucher, she offered condolences for my scrambled travel plans. She also offered me a free beer.

Glass of red ale in hand, I picked a table in a corner of the restaurant, ordered a spinach salad and went back to reading a book about the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the long struggle to get the country to live up to its ideal that everyone should be treated as an equal child of God.

I couldn’t help but think about my 10 days in Arizona watching the state legislature debate and ultimately pass a bill that would allow business owners and individuals to refuse service to anyone on grounds of religious freedom. The impetus was a New Mexico case involving a photographer who refused to take photos of a gay couple.

The bill was promoted as a religious liberty issue. Opponents pointed out that it was the definition of discrimination — people would be singled out for unequal treatment.

Kansas, Arizona Bills Reflect National Fight Over Gay Rights vs. Religious Liberty

A man holds a gay pride flag in front of the Supreme Court on June 26, 2013. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks.

Gay rights are colliding with religious rights in states like Arizona and Kansas as the national debate over gay marriage morphs into a fight over the dividing line between religious liberty and anti-gay discrimination.

More broadly, the fight mirrors the national debate on whether the religious rights of business owners also extend to their for-profit companies. Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether companies like Hobby Lobby must provide contraceptive services that their owners consider immoral.

The Arizona bill, which is headed to Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk for her signature, would allow people who object to same-sex marriage to use their religious beliefs as a defense in a discrimination lawsuit.

Shariah 101: What Is It and Why Do States Want to Ban It?

Photo courtesy RNS.

Anti-Shariah demonstrators rally against a proposed mosque near Ground Zero in New York. Photo courtesy RNS.

North Carolina lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill to prohibit judges from considering “foreign laws” in their decisions, but nearly everyone agrees that “foreign laws” really means Shariah, or Islamic law.

North Carolina now joins six other states — Oklahoma, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Tennessee — to pass a “foreign laws” bill. A similar bill passed in Missouri, but Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed it, citing threats to international adoptions.

The bills all cite “foreign laws” because two federal courts have ruled that singling out Shariah — as Oklahoma voters originally did in 2010 — is unconstitutional.

What the Supreme Court Didn't Strike Down Yesterday

Voters in Arizona celebrated yesterday after the Supreme Court dismissed parts of Proposition 200 — the requirement that made people of Arizona provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote. Although parts of Prop 200 remain intact, yesterday’s ruling was considered a step in the right direction for voters and immigrants across our nation. The Nation reports:

The Supreme Court defended voting rights yesterday when it struck down Arizona’s requirement to present proof of citizenship when registering to vote. But while the decision relieves registrants of an unnecessary burden, the rest of the proposition that brought it into being remains intact. Arizona’s Proposition 200 attacks not only voters but immigrants as well. Despite a win for voting rights yesterday, undocumented immigrants will remain especially vulnerable under the law.

Read more here.

Laying Under a Border Patrol Truck — An Act of Love and Resistance

Photo by by Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa

Obstruction of Justice, taken by cell phone by Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa while under the Border Patrol vehicle

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon just a few weeks ago, a friend of mine courageously crawled under a Border Patrol truck. And he wasn't changing the oil. Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa was riding his bike to work when he came upon a scene that is all too common in southern Arizona, where racial profiling by the Tucson Police Department is permitted through the notorious legislation SB1070 and Border Patrol roam our streets. Multiple police cars and Border Patrol trucks were surrounding a vehicle apparently pulled over for traffic violation. When Raúl arrived, he saw five children crying for their father and a pregnant woman sitting terrified in the vehicle. Handcuffed and being transferred to Border Patrol custody was a Latino man named René.

Raúl had to think and act quickly, and he crawled under the Border Patrol truck. He began sending texts that spread quickly throughout a community protection network designed to alert community members and advocates about raids, abuse, and racial profiling by immigration and law enforcement. Media and supporters responded within minutes, just as Raúl was pepper sprayed, Tazed, and pulled out from under the vehicle. Both men spent the night in custody, and public demands were widespread for their release. While Raúl was released the next day, top officials of Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security ignored pleas for René to rejoin his family, and he was promptly deported to Mexico.

John McCain Gets Tough on Immigration

Photo credit: Alan Freed /

One angry constituent asked repeatedly where the “dang fence” that McCain had promised was. The senator turned to a chart illustrating how much fence had been constructed (hint: it’s a lot), and the man shot back that it was not a fence. “Oh, it’s not a fence?” McCain challenged. “OK, it’s a banana. We put up a banana with about $600 million of appropriations.”

Wow. Talk about laying down the law.

McCain even alluded to the work of the faith community on changing the message on immigration. Why are we not going to deport immigrants who have been living in the country for over 40 years? “Because we are a Judeo-Christian nation,” McCain affirmed. Mass deportation is contrary to our values.

Border Violence is Fast & Furious; Four Killed in Recent Weeks

Candles near site of shooting, Murphy Woodhouse

Candles near site of shooting, Murphy Woodhouse

Candles burn near the bloodstained concrete sidewalk where a youth was tragically killed when more than a dozen bullets shot across the wall into the Mexican bordertown. I've walked that sidewalk running parallel to the border wall and Calle Internacional in Nogales, Sonora possibly hundreds of times. It is with this intimate awareness of the context that I describe how recent deaths in the name of homeland security are an affront to all families of the borderlands. 

Four deaths in six weeks across the border region, one common offender

On the evening of Oct. 10 U.S. Border Patrol agents shot and killed 16-year old José Antonio Elena Rodriguez. The shots were fired through the paneled border wall in Nogales hitting José Antonio in the back seven-to-eight times. The agents allege the boy was involved in rock throwing. For more detailed description of the circumstances, see this article.

About a week earlier, Border Patrol agent Nicolas Ivie, 30, was killed in Naco, another Arizona border town just east of Nogales, when a fellow U.S. agent searching for smugglers mistakenly opened fire. Agent Ivie has a wife and two young daughters who live in southern Arizona, and the family is publicly fundraising to survive without him.


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

Photo: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Christopher Halloran /

Photo: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Christopher Halloran /

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

Christopher Halloran /

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

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. 

Race the Driving Factor Behind Arizona’s SB 1070?

E-mails from former Sen. Russell Pearce purportedly reveal the motivations behind SB 1070, claims the ACLU:

"The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has released thousands of e-mails that it says proves Arizona's controversial immigration law was racially motivated.

The e-mails, acquired through a public records request to the state Legislature, are to and from former senator Russell Pearce, who authored Senate Bill 1070."

Read the full story HERE.