WASHINGTON (BP) -- The Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm will maintain its dedication to immigration reform under his leadership, Russell Moore has assured reporters and evangelical Christian allies.
Two days before he begins serving as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), Moore said on a telephone news conference call Thursday (May 30) the entity's "commitment to just and fair immigration reform is going to continue and will be a major, major touchstone of my administration, and we plan to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ in calling for justice and compassion and fairness for the sojourners among us and for just and fair immigration reform."
Moore, who has been the ERLC's president-elect since a vote by the entity's board of trustees in late March, will begin his official responsibilities as president Saturday (June 1). Richard Land, who announced last year his retirement after nearly 25 years as ERLC president, will become president emeritus Saturday. For several years, Land has been a leading evangelical advocate for immigration reform.
Moore's comments came in a conference call announcing a new advertising campaign by the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), a coalition of evangelical leaders supporting broad immigration reform. The ads represent the latest effort to continue to build support among evangelicals for change in the country's immigration laws.
On the call, Moore said he thinks support by evangelicals for such reform has increased because they "are understanding that our broken system is a moral issue. This isn't just a legal issue; this isn't a political issue; it isn't an economic issue only. It's a moral issue, and it's been a stain on our country for too long. And now is the time for the country to come together for an immigration system that respects the God-given human dignity of every person."
He added, "And I think it's really of a whole with a growing evangelical concern for loving neighbor and for recognizing the importance of human dignity."
Moore is a featured speaker in a national radio ad paid for by EIT that began running May 29 on Christian and talk radio stations. Lynne Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, also is featured in the ad. The campaign includes radio ads featuring local pastors in 13 states, as well as billboards in four states.
EIT is sponsoring the ad initiative as the United States Senate prepares to consider in June a bill designed to provide broad reform for a system that seemingly everyone acknowledges is badly broken. The lack of enforcement of the current system has resulted in an estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States illegally.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved in a 13-5 vote May 21 the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744. The Senate bill includes a universal employment verification system, as well as border security and fence plans. When the border security plans are in place, undocumented immigrants can seek temporary status. To achieve such provisional status under the bill, each immigrant must meet several requirements.
Some conservatives have criticized the legislation as too costly to the government and its border security measures as inadequate.
The ERLC and other evangelical supporters of broad immigration reform have not endorsed the Senate bill but have expressed their gratitude for the effort represented in the legislation. The product of about three months of negotiations among four Democrats and four Republicans, the proposal is the first serious congressional attempt since 2007 to repair the immigration system.
EIT has called for solutions to the immigration problem that "reflect each person's God-given dignity, respect the rule of law, protect family unity, guarantee secure borders, ensure fairness to taxpayers and establish a path towards citizenship."
Messengers to the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) passed a resolution in support of immigration reform with specific guidelines.
That resolution from the SBC meeting in Phoenix, Ariz., called for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion. The measure urged the government to make a priority of border security and holding businesses accountable in their hiring. It also requested public officials establish after securing the borders "a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country." It specified the resolution was not to be interpreted as supporting amnesty.
The new EIT national ad is on radio stations in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. The billboards are placed near congressional offices in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.
Before its latest initiative, EIT also sponsored in April ads on Christian radio stations in four states. In March, the coalition ran ads on Christian stations in South Carolina.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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