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Arizona immigration law threatens religious liberty, USCCB argues in court brief

March 29, 2012

As previously announced by Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop José Gomez, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the federal government in its dispute with Arizona over the state’s 2010 immigration legislation.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) joined the US bishops in filing the brief in the case of United States v. Arizona.

“The [USCCB] is compelled to file this brief in support of the United States for two reasons,” the brief states. “First, the Conference has a strong interest in ensuring that courts adhere to two important goals of federal immigration law--the promotion of family unity and the protection of human dignity. The provisions of S.B. 1070 [the Arizona immigration law] at issue in this case would hinder these critical federal objectives by replacing them with the single goal of reducing the number of undocumented immigrants in Arizona at all costs. That is flatly inconsistent with this country’s longstanding holistic approach to immigration policy--which underscores why these decisions are properly made at the federal, rather than the state, level.”

“Second, and more generally, the Conference is acutely interested in protecting the religious liberty of Catholic and other religious institutions,” the brief continued, adding:

The Catholic Church’s religious faith, like that of many religious denominations including those who join the Conference in this brief, requires it to offer charity--ranging from soup kitchens to homeless shelters—to all in need, whether they are present in this country legally or not. Yet S.B. 1070 and related state immigration laws have provisions that could either criminalize this charity, criminalize those who provide or even permit it, or require the institutions that provide it to engage in costly (if not impossible) monitoring of the individuals they serve, and then to exclude from that charity all those whose presence Arizona and other states would criminalize. This in itself, as well as the proliferation of fifty different laws of this kind, would unnecessarily intrude on the Church’s religious liberty.


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  • Posted by: chasann113163 - Mar. 30, 2012 9:08 AM ET USA

    I agree with DrJazz, the Bishops need to stay out of this.This is a legal issue not a religious one. Enough already!

  • Posted by: seewig - Mar. 30, 2012 12:38 AM ET USA

    This is another way to divide the Catholics. With this amicus c. brief the bishops support illegal activity, though in a difficult situation, brought on deliberately by the government by keeping the borders insecure. So, before angaging in any other effort, we should first CLOSE THE BORDER. The Mexican president, instead of lecturing the U.S. on charity, should make sure his people don't have to run away and dislodge their families who would rather stay home. Get foreign investors into Mexico.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Mar. 29, 2012 7:54 PM ET USA

    It seems that the USCCB is abiding by the letter of the law contravening formal political appointment, but violating the spirit of this law by direct political action that falls within the purview of the laity.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Mar. 29, 2012 11:57 AM ET USA

    I agree with DrJazz. Why are they (the bishops) doing this? They have not even won the legitimate battle before they cheapen their own complaint with a foolish alliance, siding with people that wish to neutralize them and cripple their Church.

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Mar. 29, 2012 7:50 AM ET USA

    The USCCB shouldn't be doing _anything_ on behalf of the federal government. The feds can make their own cases without help from the bishops.