Tenn. Clergy Plan Meeting to Discuss State's Harsh Immigration Bills

William H. Willimon, Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church, speaking at Clergy for Tolerance's Nov. 30, 2011 breakfast in which 300 faith leaders participated.

An interdenominational panel of ministers will sound off on immigration reform in Tennessee next Wednesday for a discussion about the situation of undocumented immigrants.

Methodist, Lutheran, and Episcopal clergy will be speaking at the event, which will is being organized by Clergy for Tolerance and will be held at Nashville's Lowes Vanderbilt Hotel.

The meeting is a follow up to a breakfast held last November where 300 Tennessee faith leaders showed up to express their concern about the harshness of Alabama's then recently-passed anti-immigration law. Now leaders are facing the possibility of similar measures being passed in Tennessee.

The new laws would allow state officials to check documentation of individuals before granting them disaster relief and immunization services. A proposal is also being made to administer driver's license tests in English only.

"Because the church values justice, equity, compassion, family unity and the humane treatment of all people, we church people are compelled to speak to the moral dimensions of our immigration laws and policies," Bishop Julian Gordy of the ELCA Southeastern Synod told EthicsDaily.com.

Along with the panel discussion a new documentary entitled "Gospel Without Borders" will be shown at the January 24 meeting. The film explores the issue of immigration in the states of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa and North Carolina and was funded by the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas.

"I hope that many religious leaders in Nashville will gather to see 'Gospel Without Borders' and to talk together about our relationship with our immigrant neighbors," Gordy said.

Clergy for Tolerance is an interfaith coalition that works to educate and mobilize faith leaders about the issue of immigration. The organization played a role to a defeat a 2009 English-only referendum in Nashville.

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