Source: Wiki Commons

November 21, 2014

Churches and Obama’s Executive Amnesty

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler has critiqued President Obama’s executive amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants as a “danger to separation of powers” that “should be unconstitutional.”

Mohler, before Obama’s speech, noted that “no previous President of the United States, in the past more than 200 years of the American constitutional experiment, has ever overreached as the President now has announced his intention to do.” And he cites Ross Douthat’s warning of a Latin strongman style “creeping caudillismo” in the U.S.

The “separation of powers written into the United States Constitution was dependent upon the Christian worldview,” Mohler observed. “The understanding especially of the fact that sin corrupts all centers of power and that if these centers of power are unchecked, the sinful results will be inestimable and horrifying. That’s why they developed the system of the separation of powers with the judicial branch, the executive branch, and the legislative branch, each acting as an important constitutional actor in our political stage; each checking the power of the other.”

And Mohler warned: “For President Obama, immediately after this election to act unilaterally in this way will endanger not only the future of genuine immigration reform but it will also endanger the nation in terms of the separation of powers and it will endanger our constitutional experiment in government and that in itself would be an unspeakable tragedy.”

Mohler’s critique of executive amnesty is notable. Much of Evangelical political witness in recent years has been detached from abstract principles of responsible constitutional governance and more attuned to emotive appeals for urgent action to address compelling injustices. Widely publicized Evangelical support for legislation to legalize millions of illegal immigrants often romanticized the undocumented as biblical sojourners deserving hospitality as God commanded of the ancient Hebrews in the Old Testament.

That U.S. immigration policy should be based on several Scripture passages simply urging kindness to strangers was a dubious claim but one that supposedly would mobilize millions of Evangelicals to compel the Republican House of Representatives to approve the Democratic Senate’s legislation for mass legalization. Despite a well-funded and very polished lobby campaign by the Evangelical Immigration Table, Evangelicals did not mobilize in the hoped for numbers. And of course Congressional Republicans declined to consider the Senate’s legislation.

To what extent Evangelicals who support mass legalization will address Obama’s executive amnesty is not yet clear. Some Mainline Protestant officials representing United Methodists, the United Church of Christ, Church World Service and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) joined Unitarian Universalists in August, as “citizens of the world,” to urge the President towards “executive action” after “Congress’ refusal to enact immigration reform.” These liberal church groups have long opposed nearly any immigration law enforcement as inherent injustice. And they are not renowned for their concerns about constitutional limits on executive authority when their version of social justice is impaired,

Almost as emphatic for a mass legalization as Mainline Protestant lobbying have been the U.S. Catholic bishops, who also seem to support executive amnesty. At their recent meeting in Baltimore, Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, chairman of the bishops’ migration committee, said the bishops “would be derelict not to support administrative actions” to prevent deportations of the undocumented.

In September Bishop Elizondo, with Bishop Kevin Vann, chair of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, wrote the Department of Homeland Security urging executive action “to protect undocumented individuals and families as soon as possible, within the limits of your executive authority,” complaining that “immigration reform legislation [was] stalled in Congress,” and declaring “our nation can no longer wait to end the suffering of family separation caused by our broken immigration system.”

It’s unclear what exactly the bishops understood to be the “limits of executive authority,” but at least they admitted there are some, while still implying that legislation by Congress is a nuisance if not compliant with the demands du jour of social justice. Especially given the impact of the Obamacare HHS mandate on Catholic organizations, the bishops might be more wary of congressionally unauthorized “executive authority.”

What Mohler cited as the “creeping caudillismo” of unilateral executive authority should distress all religious groups across the political and theological spectrum, all of whom are threatened by any diminishment of the rule of law and the protections of divided powers. Leading members of the Evangelical Immigration Table, which includes Jim Wallis’ Sojourners on the left, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in the middle, and the Southern Baptists on the right, are divided about Obama’s executive action on immigration.

Jim Wallis after Obama’s speech was enthusiastic. “Tonight, faith leaders and all those who have spent years trying to fix our broken immigration system should feel gratitude toward President Obama” for heeding the “biblical call to ‘welcome the stranger.’” Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore called Obama’s action “unwise and counterproductive” for failing to seek “consensus through the legislative process.”

An NAE statement after the midterm election urged Republicans to address immigration legislatively, which implied Congress should still have a role.

But will NAE and others look beyond their immediate policy objectives to publicly admit the dangerous implications of unilateral presidential action, as Mohler described? They may soon regret it if they don’t. Rule of law, nurtured by centuries of tradition, is part of what attracts immigrants to America and protects the poor and most vulnerable. Can there be true biblical justice without it?

This post originally appeared on First Things 


 

23 Responses to Churches and Obama’s Executive Amnesty

  1. yolo says:

    “Much of Evangelical political witness in recent years has been detached from abstract principles of responsible constitutional governance and more attuned to emotive appeals for urgent action to address compelling injustices.”

    Yep. I commend him for respecting the governing framework that gave forth to this country and our people. It’s disappointing that our President will not. He either has utter contempt for the governing framework or he wants to replace it.

    • MarcoPolo says:

      President Obama is taking action on this issue because it is the right thing to do, and for the fact that he has legal authority to do so.
      It’s been done by many other Presidents.
      It’s also a shame that the Republican party hadn’t addressed the issue first!

      • yolo says:

        Hitler had the legal authority. So what?

        • MarcoPolo says:

          Strange how Regressives always reference Hitler when they can’t quite pinpoint there angst!

          • yolo says:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enabling_Act_of_1933

            The Enabling Act (German: Ermächtigungsgesetz) was a 1933 amendment to the Weimar Constitution that gave the German Cabinet – in effect, Chancellor Adolf Hitler – the power to enact laws without the involvement of the Reichstag. It passed in both the Reichstag and Reichsrat on 23 March 1933, and was signed by President Paul von Hindenburg later that day. The act stated that it was to last four years unless renewed by the Reichstag, which occurred twice. The Enabling Act gave Hitler plenary powers. It followed on the heels of the Reichstag Fire Decree, which abolished most civil liberties and transferred state powers to the Reich government. The combined effect of the two laws was to transform Hitler’s government into a de facto legal dictatorship.

          • MarcoPolo says:

            Thanks, yolo, for copying and pasting the History lesson.

            I’d be guessing, but are you drawing similarities between the aforementioned German event, and President Obama’s Executive action?

            Seriously, I hope I’m wrong. Otherwise, our national problems rest more on the mental stability of the electorate, and not so much with our elected officials.

      • Melissa Windom says:

        “The right thing to do” as determined by whom? Obama is president of the whole country, not just of the people who agree with him. A president has no right to override the wishes of the people, that is tyranny, not democracy. Every American citizen’s life is affected by illegal immigration, and Obama has shown no concern at all for us. To ignore the welfare of legal citizens is not compassionate nor right.

        • MarcoPolo says:

          How does the President’s action affect your job, or civil rights?
          The Republicans said they would present an Immigration policy by July 2014, as made public by Speaker, John Boehner, and it never happened, and President Obama said he would use his authority to address the issue if they failed to produce. And he did! Hallelujah!

          So do you have any compassion for those immigrants or their children who have been here for decades, paying taxes, supporting our economy?

  2. MarcoPolo says:

    President Obama has the authority to take Executive Action, and he is doing so! And our last seven Presidents have done so, as well.
    Too bad that the Republicans didn’t make a plan before this. They had several years of doing nothing, but obstruct all kinds of Progressive legislation. It’s just sour grapes!

    • yolo says:

      Hitler was a progressive.

      • MarcoPolo says:

        So was Jesus!

        • Guest says:

          There are two words that you don’t know the definition of. Blasphemy and Progressive. Jesus was as much a progressive as the inventor of steam power was, neither were. Progressives believe in state action as opposed to private action. Progressives believe that society will continue progressing under the hand of the state, as opposed to the golden ideal. An example is traditional marriage. Progressives not only reject the idea, but they believe that the state must progress marriage. Another example of helping the poor. Progressives not only reject the idea of charity, but they believe that the state must “select” the affluent (see van guard party) and redistribute wealth that has been acquired NOT at the direction of the state. The Romans were progressive in the context of progressivism. Jesus was conservative, Burkean.

        • yolo says:

          There are two words that you don’t know the definition of. Blasphemy and Progressive. Jesus was as much a progressive as the inventor of steam power was, neither were. Progressives believe in state action as opposed to private action. Progressives believe that society will continue progressing under the hand of the state, as opposed to the golden ideal. An example is traditional marriage. Progressives not only reject the ideal, but they believe that the state must progress marriage. Another example is helping the poor. Progressives not only reject the idea of charity, but they believe that the state must “select” the affluent (see van guard party) and redistribute wealth that has been acquired by people other than the state’s selected winners. Eugenics is the result of people who not only rejected the idea that we were created, but who believed that the state must complete the creating! The Romans were progressive. Jesus was conservative, Burkean.

          • MarcoPolo says:

            Dear Guest (aka…?)
            I don’t know where you get your facts, but they are skewed.
            “Progressive”: To move forward, increasing, developing, forward thinking, enlightened, enterprising, pioneering, bold… and on, and on….

            Nothing in our political description says we want BIG Government to control our lives! That’s YOUR fear.

            Progressive ideals move a society forward, out of former prejudices and onto more judicious systems of equality.
            Every societal gain has to credit Progressives.

            BTW, Bach was an extremely progressive musical master. He took the staus quo of musical structure from mundane, to elaborate. Sure, he was considered radical at the time, but his style eventually became the avant-garde, and the rest is History.

            I suppose you wouldn’t think Jesus was a radical either? But he was!

            Don’t be afraid of change… it is happening every second of every day, and those who don’t PROGRESS, die.

        • Guest says:

          Jesus was as much a progressive as Bach was, neither were. Progressives believe in state action as opposed to private action. Progressives believe that society will continue progressing under the hand of the state, as opposed to the golden ideal. Progressives believe that there is no such thing as a golden ideal. Progressives believe that the past was always worse than the present. Progressives reject the idea that the present may be worse than the past. An example is traditional marriage. Progressives not only reject the ideal, but they believe that the state must progress marriage. Another example is helping the poor. Progressives not only reject the idea of private charity, but they believe that the state must “select” the affluent (see van guard party) and redistribute wealth that has been acquired by people other than the state’s selected winners. Eugenics is the result of people who not only rejected the idea that we were created, but who believe that the state must complete the evolving (planning). In this context, the Romans were the progressives. Jesus was a Burkean conservative.

        • Guest says:

          Jesus was as much a progressive as Bach was, neither were. Progressives believe in state action as opposed to private action. Progressives believe that society will continue progressing under the hand of the state, as opposed to the golden ideal. Progressives believe that there is no such thing as a golden ideal. Progressives believe that the past was always worse than the present. Progressives reject the idea that the present may be worse than the past. An example is traditional marriage. Progressives not only reject the ideal, but they believe that the state must progress marriage. Another example is helping the poor. Progressives not only reject the idea of private charity, but they believe that the state must “select” the affluent (see van guard party) and redistribute wealth that has been acquired by people other than the state’s selected winners. Eugenics is the result of people who not only rejecte the idea that we were created, but who believe that the state must complete the evolving (planning). In this context, the Romans were progressive and Jesus was a Burkean conservative.

          • MarcoPolo says:

            I have never met a Progressive that believes the way you described in your diatribe. Not one!
            Do your Progressive friends agree with your description?

        • Guest says:

          Jesus was as much a progressive as Bach was, neither were. Progressives believe in state action as opposed to private action. Progressives believe that society will continue progressing under the hand of the state, as opposed to the golden ideal. Progressives believe that there is no such thing as a golden ideal. Progressives believe that the past was always worse than the present. Progressives reject the idea that the present may be worse than the past. An example is traditional marriage. Progressives not only reject the ideal, but they believe that the state must progress marriage. Another example is helping the poor. Progressives not only reject the idea of private charity, but they believe that the state must “select” the affluent (see van guard party) and redistribute wealth that has been acquired by people other than the state’s selected winners. Eugenics is the result of people who not only reject the idea that we were created, but who believe that the state must complete the evolving (planning). In this context, the Romans were the progressives. Jesus was a Burkean conservative.

        • yolo says:

          Jesus was as much a progressive as Bach was, neither were. Progressives believe in state action as opposed to private action. Progressives believe that society will continue progressing under the hand of the state, as opposed to the golden ideal. Progressives believe that there is no such thing as a golden ideal. Progressives believe that the past was always worse than the present. Progressives reject the idea that the present may be worse than the past. An example is traditional marriage. Progressives not only reject the ideal, but they believe that the state must progress marriage. Another example is helping the poor. Progressives not only reject the idea of private charity, but they believe that the state must “select” the affluent (see van guard party) and redistribute wealth that has been acquired by people other than the state’s selected winners. Eugenics is the result of people who not only reject the idea that we were created, but who believe that the state must complete the evolving (planning). In this context, the Romans were progressive and Jesus was a Burkean conservative.

  3. Dev Alston says:

    Obama’s temporary hold on deportations is neither an amnesty nor a legalization of the status of illegal immigrants. It does not provide a path to citizenship. It simply allows many families to stay together. So what would Jesus do? I doubt he would advocate that these families, most of whom are Christian, be torn apart simply because someone in the family doesn’t have a piece of paper some bureaucrat requires. So as a Christian, I have to support Obama’s action, even if it angers some members of Congress (who repeatedly failed to pass sorely needed immigration reform.)

    • Vegan Taxidermist says:

      Jesus refused to ever hold a political position on anything, including when he was asked. And as Christians, we don’t need to “support” political actions or activism–although we do have a duty to submit to governmental authorities, unless we are faced with having to choose between obeying God and obeying men.

  4. Kyle says:

    A guy who supposedly is an expert in Constitutional law jumps on the Constitution with both feet and stomps it into the ground.

    That’s bad. So is our cowardly Congress – 435 in the House, 100 in the Senate, and not a spine to be found among them.

  5. M Didaskalos says:

    Liberal mainline (read, moribund) churches are famous for straining out gnats and swallowing camels. They expostulate at length on quality-of-life issues about which the Bible doesn’t make definite prescriptions, yet they turn a blind eye to their own participation in life-or-death concerns to which the Bible speaks unequivocally.

    The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which dubs itself the church of “God’s work, our hands,” is a case in point.

    Another recent example of ELCA leadership’s willful deafness to God’s Word:

    In supporting Pres. Obama’s executive order on immigration, ELCA bishops issued a statement which reads in part: “The treatment of immigrants is a core religious value,” the [ELCA] bishops said. “To welcome the stranger is to welcome a child of God. In the New Testament, Jesus tells us to welcome the stranger, for ‘just as you did it to one of the least of these … you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40),” the statement said. – [ELCA News Service — http://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/7707#sthash.27R07Baj.dpuf ]

    And the treatment — namely, the killing — of preborn children isn’t a core religous value? Do the ELCA bishops think that quality-of-life immigration issues are important to God, but the life-or-death shedding of innocent blood by abortion is no longer an abomination to Him [Proverbs 6:16-17]?

    If ELCA bishops think God is indifferent and turning a blind eye to the ELCA’s blood-money subsidies in its self-funded employee health plan [ http://www.exposingtheelca.com/on-abortion.html ] for the abortion of children known and made in the womb by Him [Psalm 139:13-16], they’ve got another think coming. They’d better take a sober, repentant look at Proverbs 24:11-12 and stop funding the killing of “God’s work” with “our hands.” As you’re doing it to “the least of these,” ELCA, you’re doing it to Jesus.

    http://www.biblestudytools.com/proverbs/passage.aspx?q=proverbs+24:11-12

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *