In April of 2011 the legislature of Alabama passed the harshest anti-immigrant law in America. Central Alabama had just been hit by a series of devastating tornadoes, and churches were preoccupied with ministry to those who were victims of the natural disaster.
Many faith leaders in Alabama quickly realized that the law was a disaster, too—a moral disaster. It was xenophobic, it contradicted the American tradition of welcoming immigrants, and it was incompatible with the ancient Jewish, Christian, and Muslim practice of hospitality, welcoming the stranger in our midst.
Soon faith leaders began to protest the law. Several bishops—Episcopal, Methodist, and Roman Catholic—sued the state to change parts of the law that would have interfered with their ministries because the law made it illegal to feed or house or even transport an undocumented person. Many ministers preached sermons about the cruelty of the law and its fundamental injustice, for example, in splitting up immigrant families. Some clergy testified before committees of the Alabama legislature, and others had private conversations with legislators. Some bought large ads in newspapers to protest the law. Some participated in sit-ins at the capital building; they were arrested and briefly jailed. Many wrote op-ed pieces explaining their opposition. And many joined undocumented persons and others in public rallies and marches, some of which numbered thousands of persons.
The story of this important protest has now been told in a beautiful new book. Entitled Love Has No Borders, it is edited by the Rev. Angie Wright, one of the principal organizers of the protests. It is a compilation of work done by more than two dozen Alabama leaders of the three Abrahamic faiths.
Here you can read the letters they wrote, the official statements they issued, the sermons they preached, the op-ed pieces they penned, the personal diaries they kept, the prayers they offered to God, and the testimony they gave before legislative committees and other groups. Their objective was always the same: to influence the people and the government officials of Alabama to adopt policies concerning undocumented persons that are more consistent with the teachings of the New Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, and the Quran concerning hospitality, love of neighbor, and care for “the stranger within thy gates.”
Love Has No Borders is a lovely book that puts a human face on the volatile issue of the treatment of undocumented persons. It also displays some of the similarities between the opposition to the immigrant law and the opposition by the civil rights movement to the racial segregation laws, opposition which dominated life in Alabama fifty years ago.