Steve Ralls

American Nuns, Other Faith Leaders, Speak Out for UAFA

Filed By Steve Ralls | June 28, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Catholic bishops, Immigration, Immigration Equality, Religious Dispatches, Sarah Posner, Shirley Tan, Uniting American Families Act

The coalition of faith leaders who support the Uniting American Families Act is growing and becoming strongerimag005.gif in their insistence that Congress end discrimination against LGBT binational families.

Earlier this month, the United Methodist Church responded forcefully to an evangelical press event in Washington calling on lawmakers to exclude our families from immigration reform. In response to the event, Bill Mefford, the Director of Civil and Human Rights for the General Board of Church and Society with the United Methodist Church, noted:

Just as Jesus did not set any preconditions on identifying himself with, and loving, the sojourner, so too does he call all who claim to follow him to love and welcome the sojourner without moral preconditions.

To demand the right to prophetically challenge the nation to incorporate hospitality into our immigration policy, but then to work to exclude some people based on their sexual orientation, is to lose the moral basis for making that prophetic challenge. We want immigration reform that is just and humane, and that is truly comprehensive and truly moral.

This morning, more faith leaders joined Mefford in an extraordinary new column from Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches.

Writing about the growing chorus of supportive faith communities, Posner notes that, "many 'people of faith,' including mainline Protestants, Jews, and Catholics [are] challenging Vatican teaching [and] support a package including UAFA."

Sr. Jeannine Gramick (pictured), the national coordinator for the National Coalition of American Nuns, said of the [U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops] opposition to the UAFA, "I find their arguments specious and I think their stand, personally I find it scandalous."

"I am proud to be a Catholic," Gramick said. "I'm a lifelong Catholic. I spend my life hopefully working for justice so that people can look and see there are Catholic people who at least try to be just and try to follow the Gospel. But frankly the US bishops continually embarrass me. They are an embarrassment to the Catholic Church at this point, particularly with the stand they are taking."

Gramick, Posner writes, may represent a growing view among the Catholic faithful that supporting LGBT binational families is the right, and moral, thing to do. As Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) weighed the possibility of a private bill to keep Shirley Tan - a lesbian mother of two who faced imminent deportation - in the country, "Fr. Piers M. Lahey of the Church of the Good Shepherd, wrote a letter to Feinstein which was entered into the Congressional Record," Posner recalls. "Lahey described Tan and Mercado as 'wonderful Christian partners, parents, role models for their two boys, and, as Scripture says, 'living stones' helping to form and build up the Church, the Body of Christ, in today's broken and violent world.'"

Tan received her private bill, and Feinstein specifically noted Fr. Lahey's support of Tan's family in her consideration of the measure.

"It is certainly evident from Immigration Equality's case load, and the families we work with, however, that the Catholic people, and many Catholic leaders at the local level, embrace far different--and more compassionate--views on this issue than the Conference of Catholic Bishops," Immigration Equality also noted in Posner's article.

Increasingly, she writes, inclusive reform is seen as the pro-faith, pro-family position to take.

"Immigration reform is a matter of justice and that we're willing to sacrifice justice because we disapprove or we don't see how God works in the lives of people we don't understand goes against everything Scripture teaches us," said said the Rev. Kevin Goodman, Associate Dean of the Saint James Cathedral in Chicago. Goodman is an Episcopal priest whose partner of 11 years is an undocumented immigrant who faces possible deportation if the UAFA isn't passed.

That inclusive view of justice, Posner writes, could be a significant turning point on Capitol Hill, too.

"The emergence of organized religious support for UAFA," Posner says, "could help provide . . . . cover to skittish legislators by demonstrating, at the very least, that religious sentiment is mixed, and at best, showing wider religious support for UAFA than lawmakers would have understood from listening only to the conservative leadership."

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When we talked in NYC about how religious orgs were trying to block any LGBT+ immigration reform, I remember thinking that we needed to counter those groups with supporters' voices in that arena. It seems to me that the problem oft lies in that the evangelical Christians are actively involved in politics - with PACs, for example - but that liberal denominations aren't as politically connected. Would you agree?