WASHINGTON (BP) — President Obama’s request of Russell D. Moore was an opportunity for the Southern Baptist ethicist to apply the Bible’s teaching on how Christians relate to governmental authorities.
During a meeting Wednesday (Nov. 13) in the Oval Office with religious leaders, Obama asked Moore, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, to pray for him. The request was “a joy,” Moore said.
“We disagree, sharply, on some very important issues, but the Bible calls on us to pray for our leaders and to show honor where honor is due,” Moore said in a statement for Baptist Press. “I stand on the other side of the president on many matters, but I love him and pray for God’s wisdom and discernment and direction.”
The president made the request of Moore during a meeting regarding immigration. Moore and the other seven largely evangelical Christian leaders met with Obama and Vice President Biden to discuss the opportunity to enact legislation soon to reform a system that nearly everyone acknowledges is badly broken. Flaws in the system and its enforcement have resulted in an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living illegally in the United States.
At the meeting, Moore called for cooperation between the White House and Congress in the effort.
“My message to the president is that there are many things that divide us as a country, but on this issue we have a remarkable consensus that the system is broken and the government isn’t doing its job to keep the border secure, to shore up the economic health of the country, and to keep track of who is and isn’t legally here,” Moore said.
“I urge the president and the Congress to work together to fix the system in a way that honors the rule of law and finds a way for those who’ve broken the law to make things right,” said Moore, who expressed gratitude that Obama and Biden took time to dialogue with the faith leaders. “I think we can do that, and now’s the time. There are a number of ways we can do this, and I am for every good suggestion, but the same-old, same-old political gamesmanship isn’t an option.”
Obama told the religious leaders, however, “there is no reason for House Republicans to continue to delay action” on immigration reform, according to a statement released by the White House. GOP action would show the federal government can work together to solve the country’s problems, said the president, who thanked the faith leaders for their work to reform immigration.
On the same day, however, Speaker John Boehner threw cold water on any expectations a quick fix in the House of Representatives is near. He made clear to reporters Nov. 13 that the House would not consider broad legislation like that approved by the Senate in June. Nor would it go into negotiations with Senate members in a conference committee to work out legislation to present to Obama, Boehner said.
“The idea that we’re going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House,” Boehner said in a news conference. “And frankly I’ll make clear — we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.”
Instead, Boehner said, the House will “move on a common sense, step-by-step approach in terms of how we deal with immigration.”
So far, two House committees — Judiciary and Homeland Security — have approved a total of five bills. Those bills deal with strengthening border and national security; providing visas for guest workers; requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to check workers’ eligibility; and setting levels for the number of immigrants.
The broad Senate measure needs some repair work, the ERLC has said.
The ERLC and other evangelical organizations have called for reform that would provide border and workplace security; uphold the rule of law; respect family unity; and establish a path to legal status and citizenship to those who want to live in this country permanently and are willing to pay penalties and meet the requirements.
In addition to Moore, others who met Nov. 13 with Obama, Biden and senior administrations officials were Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle; Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Orlando, Fla.; Hyepin Im, president of Korean Churches for Community Development in Los Angeles; Mike McClenahan, senior pastor of Solana Beach Presbyterian Church in Solana Beach, Calif.; Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition; and Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners.
In 2011, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix approved a resolution on immigration reform that called for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion. The measure urged the government to make a priority of border security and holding businesses accountable in their hiring. It also requested public officials establish after securing the borders “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.” It specified the resolution was not to be interpreted as supporting amnesty.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).