Six Alabama Catholic and mainline Protestant clergy have asked Gov. Robert Bentley to repeal the state’s anti-immigration law.
Writing the governor on Dec. 19, they urged Bentley in the Christmas season to show “great political courage and leadership” in support of “the repeal of this unfortunate piece of legislation that has brought such heartache to our State.”

Short of the repeal of the Beason-Hammon Act, they asked Bentley to revise the “unjust and unfair law.”

The Beason-Hammon Act (House Bill 56) was sponsored by a Baptist state senator, signed into law by Bentley, who’s a Southern Baptist, and supported by a spokesman for the Alabama Baptist State Convention.

“People of faith must be free to exercise their religious beliefs in loving their neighbors, whoever they are, without fear of persecution or prosecution,” wrote the Catholic and Protestant leaders. “Children should not be used, intentionally or not, as a means to intimidate their parents or other relatives. Our schools must be safe havens for children, and not battlegrounds in the struggle over illegal immigration.”

Letter signatories included: Henry Parsley, bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Alabama; Robert Baker, bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Birmingham; Thomas Rodi, archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Mobile; William Willimon, bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church; Cletus Meagher, abbot of the Benedictine Society of Alabama; and Janet Marie Flemming, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Cullman.

They said that “Alabama does not need to return to a time when laws were used to vent hate for others and to justify mistreating people.”

The Catholic, Episcopal and Methodist clergy wrote, “In this holy season of our Lord’s birth, we remember that our Biblical charge to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God is over 2000 years old.”

The Birmingham News reported that the attorney for the bishops, who had earlier filed a lawsuit against the law, said that the letter to the governor was an expression of their views, not a confrontational document.

“These leaders do not want to sit by the wayside and watch, as they believe was done in the 1960s (civil-rights struggle),” said attorney Augusta Dowd, referring to the passivity of white leaders. “They will not be a part of a letter such as was done from the Birmingham Jail.”

The Cullman Times reported on Dec. 20 that Bentley’s press secretary said that Bentley would not repeal the law.

“As Governor Bentley said before, there is nothing unkind, unjust or unwarranted about asking everyone in Alabama to obey the law,” said Jennifer Ardis.

Prioress Flemming told the Cullman paper: “[W]e believe the best approach is to repeal the poorly drawn law, which has had a chilling effect on our ministry and outreach to people as well as on our state’s economy. Even people who are in this country legally are afraid that they are being targeted by this law, and rightfully so as evidenced by recent events in the news.”

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