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Alabama Evangelical Leaders Want to Inspire Congregants to Take a Stand on Immigration

Alabama Evangelical Leaders Want to Inspire Congregants to Take a Stand on Immigration

"It is a repeat of the chapter lived by African-Americans..."

Immigration continues to be a highly-contentious issue. As states like Arizona and Alabama battle with the federal government over new laws that are seen, by some, as discriminatory and unfair, the faith community is also weighing in. But some leaders feel as though evangelicals have been a voice missing in the discussion.

The Roman Catholic, Episcopal and United Methodist churches took Alabama to court over the law, which these faith groups call "merciless" and immoral. But evangelicals, in contrast, have been much quieter about the issue.

The law -- called HB 56 -- gives police the right to question crime suspects about their immigration status (and arrest those who are believed to be illegals). Also, it requires individuals who seek to rent a house or buy a car to verify their legal status, among other restrictions.

Here's the ACLU's not-so-positive take on the law (as illustrated through UW Clemon -- the nation's first African American federal judge):

Hispanic evangelicals, in particular, are taking note of the dearth of opinion among their fellow Christians. Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, a California-based religious group, is one leader who feels that evangelicals aren't stepping up to the plate on the immigration issue.

"What is happening in Alabama is incredible," he says. "It is a repeat of the chapter lived by African-Americans, but now the African-Americans are Latinos and immigrants."

Carlos Campo, the president of Regent University, a Christian college founded by broadcaster Pat Robertson, echos the issue's importance. "This is...a moral issue," he says. "...The religious community cannot stand idly by and allow a moral issue like this to go without a comment."

But while these pastors feel passionately about this issue, it seems their congregants are nowhere near as vocal. CNN has more:

"The pastors are failing, within the evangelical movement, in contextualizing the message to their members to call the elected officials at the local and federal level, and encourage an immigration reform that is not amnesty, but is not Alabama either. We have to find something in the middle that has a biblical balance," said Rodriguez, whose group represents churches with a membership of about 16 million.

According to a recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Survey, more than 45% of Alabama residents identify themselves as evangelicals. But Campo said that group is not speaking with a unified voice.

These leaders feel as though evangelicals are behind their Catholic and Methodist counterparts in coming forward to address this important issue. While the religious groups' lawsuit was inevitably dismissed, provisions they were concerned about -- portions that deal with the criminalization of transporting illegal immigrants -- were blocked in a separate case.

Read more about this contentious issue on CNN's Belief Blog.

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