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Conservative Religious Leader Richard Land Speaks Out Against the GOP’s Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

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Richard LandA leading conservative religous voice spoke up this past week over the nativist rhetoric that runs unchecked through the GOP party.

Richard Land, a.k.a. “Chief Red Bull” (according to his Wikipedia page), is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Recently, according to The Atlantic, he said that “the GOP candidates’ tough talk on illegal immigration, as well as their anti-government fervor, are alienating Christian voters.”

More from The Atlantic:

Asked whether the “compassionate conservatism” of George W. Bush has fallen by the wayside, Land said, “It existed, and it exists. One reason there’s a lot of frustration on the part of evangelicals is we don’t see anyone who’s running who fits that model.”

He added, “I am more of a Bushie than a Reagan or Perry on these issues. Reaganism believed that government is a necessary evil and we should have as little of it as possible. I happen to think government can be used as a way of empowering people to make good, positive decisions for themselves.”

Land cited the post-World War II G.I. Bill as an example as well as a robust commitment to foreign aid. In addition, he bemoaned the demonizing of illegal immigrants.

“There has been shameless politicking on this issue from both sides of the aisle,” he said. In their cynical jockeying for political advantage, he said, “One side has ginned up nativism, while the other side has ginned up fear in the Hispanic community.” Meanwhile, the majority of Americans support some kind of comprehensive immigration reform.

Our friends at Right Wing Watch have written extensively about Land.  He is not exactly the most open-minded of all Christian figures. He’s staunchly anti-abortion and not surprisingly, also anti-gay. In fact, President George W. Bush is a huge fan, and appointed Land to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Despite that, Land adheres to some very reasonable policies on immigration. For example, in June this year, Land described a move by the Southern Baptist Convention to approve a new resolution at its meeting in Arizona calling for a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants as “a really classic illustration of gospel love and gospel witness.”

Given the religious make up of Alabama, Land is speaking to a lot of fellow Southern Baptists. 

According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, the Southern Baptist denomination is Alabama’s largest population. Statistics from 2006 note that more than 1.1 million Alabamians were enrolled in the Southern Baptist Convention out of 4.5 million total residents, and two out of every three church members in the state and more than two-fifths of all state residents considered themselves Baptists.

Alabama’s Republican Governor and its GOP legislators have led a full-fledged attack against undocumented immigrants. Since they wear their religion on their sleeve, maybe they should heed the advice of a religious leader? It would be great to see the Alabama Legislature repent — and repeal HB 56. That, too, would also be “a really classic illustration of gospel love and gospel witness.”