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ERLC leaders voice support for immigration reform, some gun control measurescomment (0)

January 31, 2013

In the same week, leaders of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) took a strong stand on two major issues facing the nation — gun control and immigration reform.

Richard Land, ERLC’s president, wrote President Obama Jan. 15 supporting gun-control measures that don’t infringe on the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. He voiced support for mandatory criminal background checks for all gun sales and making gun trafficking a federal crime.

In the letter, Land called on President Obama to “focus your efforts on practical means to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable, without adversely restricting firearms from law-abiding citizens.” He said the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms “remains one of the surest deterrents of gun violence in our nation.”

Land’s letter coincided with a letter from 47 faith leaders including representatives of the Alliance of Baptists, American Baptist Churches USA and the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, urging action to curb violence like the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The letter, organized by Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, asked members of Congress to enact laws similar to those proposed by Land, but added an additional demand for a ban on high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines.

Land urged Obama to consider regional differences in policies aimed at curbing gun violence.

“We consider an effort to apply the same gun restriction laws across the entire populace to be unworkable and of considerable offense to many,” Land wrote. “We recommend that you allow the individual states’ elected representatives to decide whether to implement any restrictions you may choose to enforce or to enact their own restrictions based on the needs and interests of their own citizens.”

The Southern Baptist Convention has never taken a formal stand on gun control with the exception of a single sentence in a 1968 resolution on violence that commended “the President’s urgent plea to Congress to ‘pass laws to bring the insane traffic in guns to a halt,’ while maintaining the constitutional right to the legitimate possession of arms.”

At a Jan. 17 news conference in Washington, Barrett Duke, ERLC vice president for public policy and research, voiced the commission’s determination to make immigration reform a priority.

“We do not intend to let this fail,” Duke said. “We will stay on top of this until Washington, D.C., and our country finally [do] what is right by the 12 million who are here looking to us to do something to help resolve their dilemma.”

Americans with widely divergent views have contended for years the federal government’s failure to deal with immigration has resulted in a broken system and from 11 to 12 million undocumented, or illegal, immigrants in this country.

While advocates for immigration reform have various reasons for their support, it is a moral and humanitarian issue for the ERLC, Duke said. In the Bible, God instructs His Old Testament people, the Israelites, to love the stranger among them, Duke said.

“[W]hen we read that, we understand that God has an expectation for how a people with power would treat those who are vulnerable and weak in their presence,” he told reporters.

“It is not possible to respond to the plight of those who are here living in the shadows compassionately without actually speaking to their circumstances in trying to assist them,” Duke said. “I don’t know how you could have a clear conscience thinking that we’re going to in some kind of way consign 12 million people possibly to perpetual poverty and as a perpetual underclass in this country. ... It is simply not the right thing to do. It is certainly not the humanitarian thing to do. It is indeed not the Christian thing to do.”


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