United Church of Christ Southwest Conference and member Congregations join Amicus Brief Opposing Anti-Muslim, Anti-Refugee Executive Order
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Phoenix, AZ – On January 31, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, sparking protests worldwide. In response, many faith-based organizations will file an Amicus Brief to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and in other courts, to oppose the executive order.
Rev. Dr. William M. Lyons, the Designated Conference Minister for the United Church of Christ Southwest Conference, stated “Jesus was a refugee. The United Church of Christ was founded by the Pilgrims, refugees themselves. Our denomination has a long history of caring for refugees, from running the Underground Railroad to free the slaves, and caring for other refugees seeking freedom here: Cubans, Vietnamese, Hungarians, Irish, Biafrans, and more. Caring for refugees, from every religious background and no religion at all, is in our DNA and is an essential part of our expression of religious freedom as Christians.”
Several congregations of the Southwest Conference already have decided to join the amicus brief as well, and more are coming. Rev. Randy J. Mayer, Pastor at Church of the Good Shepherd UCC, Sahuarita, Arizona, stated “My congregation has long been involved in assisting refugees and immigrants who cross the Arizona desert for freedom. We cannot repeat the mistake of turning away Jewish refugees during World War II, most of whom later died. Even today, refugees from Central America are dying in our Arizona desert, as are Syrians fleeing the mass murder of their own government. We must do all we can to alleviate suffering, not create more suffering by slamming our doors shut.”
Rev. James Pennington, Pastor at First Congregational UCC Phoenix, recently led his congregation’s decision to become a sanctuary church. “There is no higher calling for Christians – and Jews and Muslims too – than to care for the refugee and the dispossessed. The Administration’s attempt to suppress our religious calling to care for refugees is an affront to our religious liberty enshrined in the First Amendment. Usually we go about our business quietly, but when confronted with tragedy and religious discrimination, especially from our own government, we will respond,” stated Rev. Pennington.
Rev. Ken Heintzelman, Pastor of Shadow Rock UCC in Phoenix, added “My congregation began extending sanctuary to refugees two years ago. Our voice is a voice of faith and justice. We call on our government to be on the right side of history and resist the temptation to create national policy based on fear and hate of suffering people.”