Statement on Immigration by Tennessee Faith Leaders

Our friends at the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition are helping to lead an effort to dissuade Republican presidential candidates from perpetuating anti-immigrant rhetoric when they come to Tennessee. Check out this open letter from faith leaders in Tennessee.

February 9, 2012

Dear Republican Presidential Candidates:

We are faith leaders in Tennessee who share the goal to advance the common good. We teach the Golden Rule and seek to treat others as we would want to be treated. We believe all people of faith and goodwill must welcome the stranger, protect the vulnerable and seek justice for the poor.

As such, we have taken a number of initiatives to address the issue of immigration, challenging the negative and untruthful narratives that generate bigotry and falsehoods. We have spoken about our responsibility to minister to the undocumented without prejudice.

We respect the rule of law. We also know that at times the rule of law results in unjust law. For example, segregation was perfectly legal, but reflective of unjust law. The internment of Japanese Americans was perfectly legal, but reflective of unjust law. Denying women the right to vote was perfectly legal, but reflective of unjust law. We are concerned that campaign rhetoric may result in unjust laws for the undocumented.

We are dismayed by the destructive discourse of American politics in general and toward the undocumented in particular. We think that the heated nature of campaigns that deny the undocumented their human rights, demonize an entire class of human beings as criminals and deliver unworkable and unjust solutions robs the public square of much needed civility and harms society’s efforts to find common ground to advance the common good.

As Tennessee faith leaders, we are writing to you in advance of the Tennessee Republican presidential primary on March 6, 2012, with a simple but urgent plea:

Please keep the highly charged and negative campaign rhetoric, advertisements and promises on immigration out of Tennessee.

Please do not inject our state with the language of “illegals,” the unworkable ideas of deporting millions of individuals and thereby destroying families, and the heated claims that characterize the undocumented and their children as a class of criminals.

While our letter is addressed to you at this time given the nature of the primary campaign, our deep concern applies to all candidates and campaigns this year.

With the words of President Abraham Lincoln, we hope and pray that your campaign in Tennessee will touch “the better angels of our nature.”


Daoud Abudiab, president, Islamic Center Of Columbia

Richard C. Britton, Jr., rector, St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, Nashville

Kathy Chambers, co-organizer, Clergy for Tolerance

Ben R. Chamness, resident bishop, Tennessee Conference of United Methodist Church

A.R. Chao, resident scholar and director of education, Islamic Center of Tennessee

John G. Crawford, pastor, Southminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville

LeNoir Culbertson, district superintendent, Murfreesboro District, Tennessee                                Conference of the United Methodist Church

Kamel Daouk, president, Islamic Center of Tennessee

William Dennler, rector, Church of the Holy Trinity, Nashville

Donovan Drake, senior pastor, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville

H. Julian Gordy, bishop, ELCA Southeastern Synod

Morgan Gordy, pastor, Christ Lutheran Church, Nashville

Eric S. Greenwood, Jr., rector, St. David’s Episcopal Church, Nashville

Darrell Gwaltney, interim pastor, Crievewood Baptist Church, Nashville, TN

Jackie L. Halstead, associate professor of Spiritual Formation, Lipscomb University

Randy Hoover-Dempsey, vicar, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Smyrna

Steven Hoskins, associate professor of religion, Trevecca Nazarene University

Heidi Hudnut-Beumler, pastor, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Nashville

J. Todd Jenkins, pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Fayetteville

Todd L. Lake, vice president for Spiritual Development, Belmont University

Frank Lewis, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Nashville

Kenneth M. Locke, pastor, The Downtown Presbyterian Church, Nashville

Shana Goldstein Mackler, rabbi, The Temple, Nashville

Viki Matson, assistant professor of the practice of ministry, Vanderbilt Divinity School

Robert Parham, executive director, Baptist Center for Ethics

Yasir Qadhi, resident scholar, Memphis Islamic Center

Laurie Rice, rabbi, Congregation Micah, Brentwood

Philip “Flip” Rice, senior rabbi, Congregation Micah, Brentwood

Christophe D. Ringer, pastor Howard Congregational (UCC), Nashville

Y. Kliel Rose, rabbi, West End Synagogue, Nashville

Mark Schiftan, rabbi, The Temple, Nashville

Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Wisdom House Interfaith Center at Scarritt Bennett, Nashville

William Shiell, pastor, First Baptist Church, Knoxville

Danish Siddiqui, president, American Center for Outreach, Memphis

Michael Smith, pastor, Central Baptist Church Fountain City, Knoxville

Jan Snider, co-organizer, Clergy for Tolerance

Lisa Steele, outreach and Hispanic minister, Antioch Church of Christ

Saul Strosberg, rabbi, Sherith Israel, Nashville

Melvin G. Talbert, retired Bishop, United Methodist Church

Robert P. Travis, associate rector, Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Knoxville

Vin Walkup, president, Nashville Area United Methodist Foundation

Ann Walling, retired minister, St. David’s Episcopal Church, Nashville

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