Church Leaders Challenge Alabama's Immigration Law

Article excerpt

Faith leaders have joined a coalition of civil fights groups to file a federal lawsuit challenging Alabama's new immigration law described by Gov. Robert Bentley as the strongest in the country.

Greater Birmingham Ministries, a multiracial organization representing 20 different faith groups, including the Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, joined forces with the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center in challenging the bill signed into law June 9.

The bill, inspired by Arizona's controversial immigration law, will take effect September 1 and empowers law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of individuals. It also makes it a crime to knowingly transport an undocumented immigrant and requires school officials to determine the immigration status of students and their parents, among other provisions.

A class-action lawsuit spearheaded by the Southern Poverty Law Center argues that the law is unconstitutional on several counts. The plaintiffs said the law will lead to racial profiling and unlawful interrogations, searches, seizures and arrests that violate the Fourth Amendment.

Faith-based organizations raised First Amendment concerns about the new law.

"Today, our mission and the missions of many religious groups across Alabama have been made impossible by the recently enacted Alabama immigration law," said Scott Douglas, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries. …