Two hundred fifty left-wing Evangelicals, part of a coalition that calls itself the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), swarmed Capitol Hill last week to lobby an estimated 100 Republican Congressmen in support of amnesty for illegal aliens.
A year ago, the same group launched a $250,000 advertising campaign financed by a George Soros-funded non-profit to promote the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill and what it calls “six principles” of immigration reform. The principles say individuals who “wish to become permanent residents” should be afforded a “path toward legal status and/or citizenship.”
In its new push on Capitol Hill, the group appears to be making efforts to avoid creating the impression it’s a left-wing front group.
On its website, EIT says it is “a broad coalition of evangelical organizations and leaders advocating for immigration reform consistent with biblical values.” The coalition’s website, however, offers no details of its organizational structure or funding, though it display a list of groups that are part of its coalition.
The list includes such left-wing organizations as Sojourners and the Chicago-based Christian Community Development Association, whose mission has been described as “Reconciliation, Relocation and Redistribution” by its founder, John Perkins.
It also includes the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a group headed until 2013 by Dr. Richard Land, now executive editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Christian Post.
One affiliated group, G92, was organized in 2011 at Cedarville University, the Christian college in Ohio that recently terminated the contract of adjunct professor J.D. Winteregg, Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) challenger in this month’s GOP Republican primary in Ohio’s 8th Congressional District.
Last June, the group’s pro-amnesty press conference featured high-profile left-winger Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners. No nationally prominent left-wingers were featured at this year’s press conference. Instead, local pastors, among the many flown in from 25 states to Washington for a day of Congressional lobbying, were the main speakers.
An email to the group from Breitbart News asking who paid for travel and arrangements for the pastors did not receive a reply.
One of the local pastors who spoke at the press conference, Dr. Richard Nathan, senior pastor at Vineyard Columbus, also claimed that Evangelicals were united in their support for the EIT’s version of immigration reform.
“Virtually every other issue that you can think of that impacts people will see divisions in the faith community,” Nathan said. “But around the need for immigration reform there is virtually total unanimity. There is a wall without any breach,” he asserted.
However, Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy says Evangelicals do not support amnesty. “There’s little indication that most Evangelicals or most Americans support a mass legalization first, greater enforcement later (maybe) approach, or a doubling of legal immigration,” Tooley told Breitbart News Wednesday.
“Religious lobbyists for this approach often portray their political cause as the clear Gospel way,” Tooley added. “But the Bible offers no specific legislative guidance on immigration law, about which people of faith may disagree.”
Kelly Monroe Kullberg, author of Finding God Beyond Harvard and coordinator of Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration, a group of Evangelicals who oppose amnesty for illegal aliens, pointed to recent polling evidence that contradicted Nathan’s assertions.
“According to a 2014 Pulse Opinion Research poll presented at NRB, about 80% of evangelicals don’t agree with the EIT’s positions. 78% feel that biblical admonition to ‘love the stranger’ means to treat unlawful immigrants humanely while applying the rule of law. Only 11% felt it meant to offer legal status,” Kullberg noted.
“The question remains,” Kullberg continued, “why does the EIT keep misrepresenting The Bible, American workers, and the Church. We’re to be kind to our own most vulnerable citizens, many of whom are handicapped and elderly, as well as kind to immigrants. But kindness, in Scripture, does not usually translate as full citizenship in any one nation,” she concluded.
Many Republican lawmakers who were lobbied by the EIT activists were unimpressed.
“My response to them was, No. 1, a policy of legalizing the people who are here, the sort of easy way out, would in the long run put 40 million new people into our country, which would change the nature of our country, and that would be a bad thing, not to mention breaking the bank, etc.,” Congressman Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA), an outspoken opponent of amnesty for illegal aliens, told Roll Call.
“Christian love is not furthered by advocacy of government policy,” Rohrbacher said, “but instead by individual action and commitment.”
Rohrbacher told Roll Call that “[i]ndividual commitment is not individual commitment to changing a government policy, it is to come out and help specific people and people who are in need, and if [the pastors] really wanted to help people who are here illegally or in bad situations they, they want to pay for their health insurance and everything, then I would be saying how wonderful that is.”
“But if they are advocating that the government do that, then it will break our bank and destroy our country,” Rohrbacher concluded, expressing a viewpoint held by many Christians both in and outside of the public arena.
EIT activists have sought to frame the immigration debate as a battle between Biblical values and the views of those who are unsupportive of those values.
Speaking at the press conference, Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, based in Fort Worth, Texas, said his immigration views are based in his Christian beliefs.
“It is my desire to see the fear of God inform all of our actions,” Patterson told the Christian Post.
“Consequently, I believe that fear of God informing our actions would cause us to reach out to many, many people in this country, from many different origins who are not known law-breakers, not workers of wickedness, but simply needing an opportunity and seizing the American opportunity,” he added.
Bryant Wright of Georgia’s Johnson Ferry Baptist Church said at the press conference, “[t]he leadership of the [2011 Southern Baptist Convention] was concerned that so many conservative Christians were having their views shaped by talk radio and other news outlets, and we wanted them to come to a position shaped by Biblical teaching… Now it’s time to bring these Biblical teachings to our leaders in Washington, D.C., and ask for immigration reform this year.”
The Institution for Religion and Democracy’s Tooley disputed Wright’s views. “The religious lobbyists for quick mass legalization advocate for illegal immigrants but forget the many legal immigrants and other Americans who comprise the growing ranks of chronically unemployed, not to mention millions of low pay workers whose wages are stagnant. How will they be affected by ‘immigration reform?’ ” Tooley asked.
“Ideally,” Tooley said, “these religious lobbyists will reconsider and adopt a new more unifying approach that most religious Americans can support and that would actually benefit most Americans.”
Kullberg agreed with Tooley. “[EIT’s] position does not reflect the whole counsel of Scripture. The Bible teaches wise discernment, not blanket citizenship. We’re to embrace the ‘ger’ or sojourner, which is the lawful immigrant who comes as blessing,” she told Breitbart News on Wednesday.
“[W]e’re to be kind to citizens as well as guests, and twenty-three million American citizens are looking for jobs right now. An influx of more than ten million new workers is unkind to hurting Americans whom God also loves,” Kullberg added.