Big Victory for Religious Liberty in America!

The decision by SCOTUS to overturn most of SB-1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration law, is being lauded by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):

The U.S. bishops greeted with hope and caution the June 25 Supreme Court decision to strike down provisions of an Arizona immigration law that would have allowed warrantless arrests of people suspected of an offense that is deportable, that would have made it a crime to seek work in the state and that would have made undocumented presence a state crime. The bishops found hope in the decision in Arizona vs. United States and said it reflects the bishops’ call for humane and just immigration laws and concern for laws that could tear families apart.

Earlier this year, the USCCB filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of the federal government’s suit against the State of Arizona. In the brief, the bishops noted the danger SB-1070 posed to the unity of families, and the risk of unjust treatment of both citizens and non-citizens alike. The bishops also made a religious liberty case against SB-1070:

The Catholic Church, like others, believes that it has a moral and religious duty to serve all in need. That is an important religious tenet flowing directly from scripture. “Love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential to [the Catholic Church] as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel. The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word.” Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est ¶ 22 (2006).

In line with a divine call to action, numerous Catholic institutions provide charitable assistance to the poor and underserved …

The Church’s duty to help all in need necessarily extends to both documented and undocumented im- migrants. The Book of Matthew “describes the mysterious presence of Jesus in the migrants who frequently lack food and drink and are detained in prison.” The Church believes that it must follow Jesus’s command concerning these mi- grants: “‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Catholic teaching has thus led the Church to minister specifically to this country’s immigrant population …

S.B. 1070 and many other state and municipal immigration laws of recent vintage threaten grave disruption of this Catholic mission to provide charity to all in need. S.B. 1070, for example, makes it unlawful for a person who is in violation of a criminal statute to “[c]onceal, harbor or shield . . . an alien from detection” or to “[e]ncourage or induce an alien to come to or reside in [Arizona]” “if the person knows or recklessly disregards” that the assisted immigrant is undocumented. S.B. 1070 § 5, Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-2929(A)(2)-(3).

The one provision the Court allowed to stand permits police who have already detained someone on an unrelated matter to demand proof of immigration status. The USCCB urged that provision to be struck down at a later time, noting that the Court did not specifically say whether the provision was constitutional or unconstitutional. Aboout that provision, Archbishop José H. Gomez, of Los Angeles noted that “the implementation of this provision could lead to the separation of families and undermine the Church’s ability to minister to the immigrant population.”

‘Humane enforcement of our nation’s laws are part of any solution,” said Archbishop Gomez. “but enforcement by itself, unjustly administered, only leads to abuses and family breakdown. The Church will continue to stand by immigrants and their families and seek justice on their behalf.”

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