For background on the religious liberty implications of the SC Anti-Refugee Bill, S997, I wrote about it here.
How Religious Liberty Dies. S997 just effectively passed the SC Senate by a vote of 39-6. Churches and religious organizations will be held civilly liable for any crime committed in the future by refugees that they helped place and support in South Carolina in the present. 6 out of 8 co-sponsors of the bill are Southern Baptists. They know not what they do. Or, they do and don’t care. This is unheard of. Churches have a biblical mandate to minister to these people. These are the people fleeing violence and abuse. The two organizations placing them (World Relief and Lutheran Services) are religious organization. Many of them are Christians fleeing religious persecution. They are applying this to all refugees. The individual board members of religious organizations can also be sued, according to what I have been told. This is a clear religious liberty violation and those who say they care about such things when it comes to cupcakes, but do not care about this are woefully uninformed at best. This is how liberty dies. And, this will do NOTHING to make South Carolina safer. It will only spread fear and make it impossible for churches to help refugees, which is the plan. If this passes, I fully expect this to spread to Alabama and other Southern states. Once the government starts telling churches that they can be sued for something that someone they minister to might do in the future, it will create such a chilling effect on the ministry of the church that it will shut down a great deal of work. And, if this precedent stands, do you not think that others will try and apply this to other issues to limit the ministry of the church? This isn’t coming from the Left. It is coming from the Right and is being motivated by fear.
The church is meant to be the bridge in society. Salt and light. The ones who step in and bring peace and help bring reconciliation. Blaming the church for the potential actions of someone that they tried to help but who refused the help and then turned to violence is a horrible move. And, holding the church civilly liable for the actions of someone that they had no control over is only meant to spread fear. It is ironic that as we fight against terrorism (which is the spreading of paralyzing fear through the threat of violence), we can engage in the same basic acts by spreading fear to those who might try and do good if those they help then turn to violence. It is the same basic approach.
All over the Bible Belt South, state laws are being drafted to make life miserable for refugees and immigrants so they will not want to come here. From 2011 with Alabama’s HB56 and Georgia’s anti-immigrants laws, to what South Carolina is doing now, all of these laws in some way end up targeting the church and those who would minister to immigrants and refugees in Jesus’ name. But, so many Christians do not notice the violation because they only think first about security. We are making a massive mistake here. This is how Jim Crow laws were developed – piece by piece until an unbreakable net was formed that separated people and caused massive devastation to individuals, families, churches, and society.
I will not sit by and watch while it happens again.