Sanctuary... a First Amendment Issue

So there is a movement that has been spreading across this country - it takes various forms - but generally it seems to be in reaction to the election of Donald Trump as president, and some of the commitments he made on the campaign trail... specifically his commitments to crack down on our immigrant neighbors who don't have their paperwork order to be in this country legally.

Cities, school districts, counties, states and churches are organizing to #resist this crackdown from the Trump administration, under the common language of "sanctuary."  You can find a helpful outline of the past and present of the sanctuary movement here: http://religionandpolitics.org/2017/02/21/the-sanctuary-movement-then-and-now/. 

The First United Methodist Church of Eugene has decided to participate in the sanctuary movement, and is working with some amazing local partners here in Eugene in our common fight to help Eugene be a safe and welcoming place for all people.  

I think there is a compelling case to be made, that our churches serving as sanctuaries for people who fear they or their loved one's might be deported, gets to the core of how people in the United States have articulated their religious values.  The First Amendment is an important statement of those values, and there we read "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." 

Providing sanctuary to people in fear, is a beautiful example of exercising our religion.  

So recently we gathered during the public comment period of the Lane County Board of Commissioners meeting to express our hope that our commissioners might take steps to declare Lane County to be a safe place for our immigrant neighbors.  Everyone was given 3 minutes to speak.  Here are my remarks from that morning:

Good morning Commissioners.

My name is Rev. Adam Briddell.  I serve the First United Methodist Church of Eugene, at the corner of 14th and Olive streets.

I live at 1100 Brotherton Avenue, in the Santa Clara neighborhood.  Commissioner Bozieivich thank you for your service.  

I have had a chance to attend a meeting of the Equity and Access Advisory Board and hear about their work on the proposed inclusivity resolution.

The safety of our immigrant brothers and sisters is of deep concern to our community.  We have been working with local partners, non profits and attorneys.  And we have been working with leaders in our denomination - we are a global connection, and here in the United States we claim some 7 million members, and more than 30,000 churches.

Our church is counted among those churches willing to provide sanctuary to our immigrant brothers and sisters who fear they may be deported.  

It was a hard decision, but it didn’t take too long.  Because not only in my faith tradition, but in so many faith traditions, hospitality is an un-compromised value.  

That does not mean hospitality is easy.  

Hospitality is often hard.  Hospitality is often risky.  After hanging up a banner welcoming immigrants and refugees, our church was caught up in the wave of swastika graffiti in Eugene.

I believe you have all heard from members of our faith community, who live in each of your districts, and who strongly support the adoption of a strong inclusivity resolution, if not an ordinance, here in Lane County. 

County staff have sent me the most recent draft of the Inclusion Resolution.  It is encouraging. But it has a ways to go.  

We hope you will take on this challenge of hospitality - we hope you will make a radical, risky declaration that Lane County is a safe place for all people, regardless of whether they have their immigration paperwork in order.  And I hope you will take that step confident - that your community stands behind you.  We can’t wait to stand behind you.  

Life is short, friends.  We have the power and opportunity to do something courageous, for vulnerable people.  

Thank you in advance, for your courage, and for the opportunity to speak here.
~ Rev. Adam Briddell, June 13, 2017