Kudos to USCCB

by Michael Sean Winters

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On Friday, the USCCB filed an amicus curiae brief, supporting the Obama administration's efforts to overturn an anti-immigrant law in Arizona. The USCCB opposes the law on the merits - arguing that it ignores the fundamental human dignity of immigrants and that it also subverts one of the goals of a well-constructed immigration policy, namely, keeping families together.

But, what is really interesting is that the last part of the brief objects to the Arizona law because it infringes on the religious liberty of the Church. The brief states: "The Catholic Church’s religious faith, like that of many religious denominations, requires it to offer charity—ranging from soup kitchens to homeless shelters—to all in need, whether they are present in this country legally or not. Yet SB 1070 and related state immigration laws have provisions that could….criminalize this charity… [or] exclude from that charity all those whose presence Arizona and other states would criminalize."

The Arizona law is less egregious in this regard than the Alabama anti-immigrant law, where the religious liberty issue is exactly on point. But, the main reasons for the Kudos is that it is vital, repeat vital, for the USCCB to present its religious liberty concerns as principled, not partisan. In Washington's dysfunctional hyper-partisan moment, only by being, and appearing to be, above the partisan fray can the USCCB hope to have all of its religious liberty concerns addressed. By linking the issue to immigration reform, the USCCB makes the point.

It will be very interesting to see what Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum have to say about this. They have not only voiced support for the Arizona law, they have explicitly criticized the Obama administration for filing suit against it. They have also criticized the Obama administration for attacking the religious liberty of the Church. So, in this instance, which will win? Will they defend the Arizona law or will they defend the Catholic Church's religious liberty?

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