Florida Pastors Are Worried This Immigration Bill Could Infringe on Religious Liberties

“Florida legislators are considering several bills that would target undocumented immigrants and the Floridians who interact with them. One of the more controversial measures, which is wrapped into Senate Bill 1718, would make it a third-degree felony for Floridians to conceal, harbor, or shield—or transport “into or within” the state—a person who they know “or reasonably should know” is in the United States unlawfully.
“With this legislation, Florida is continuing to crack down on the smuggling of illegal aliens,” said Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. State Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (R–Spring Hill), who introduced S.B. 1718, said the bill “should be the model for all 50 states going forward.”

S.B. 1718’s supporters have painted the bill as a way to protect Floridians and their rights. But some religious officials in Florida are worried that if S.B. 1718 passes, their work with undocumented immigrants could be criminalized—something they say would represent a violation of their religious liberties.

Joel Tooley takes issue with the bill being framed as an anti-trafficking effort. Tooley is a pastor at Melbourne First Church of the Nazarene and a consultant with the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of evangelical churches and organizations that advocates for immigration reform. S.B. 1718 “is actually a bill that criminalizes normal activities that are irrevocably natural expressions of the work people do as a response to their spiritual calling to show compassion for those in need,” he tells Reason.”

“Federal law already prohibits people from transporting undocumented immigrants “in furtherance of such violation of [immigration] law,” but S.B. 1718 has a lower threshold, applying to more routine activities. The bill would make it a third-degree felony for someone to transport or harbor an undocumented immigrant that they know or suspect is undocumented. Under Florida law, that would be punishable by up to five years in prison (and up to 15 years if the transported migrant is a minor). The bill wouldn’t apply to migrants who overstayed their visas.”

Ethiopia’s religious institutions were a catalyst for the Tigray war

““Prime Minister Abiy used existing cracks within the EOTC and the influence of new evangelical movements to consolidate his power.
After he received praise for supposedly unifying a divided Church in 2018, the EOTC is now more divided than ever, most notably in Tigray and Oromia.

The role of the EOTC, with its radical Mahibere Kidusan group—along with the rise of Pentecostals and the Prosperity Party—has been both a causative factor and fueling contributor to the Tigray war, and has produced a split within the Church in Tigray.

Beyond the role of Ethiopia’s institutions in fomenting divisions, the Tigray war has also seen priests systematically targeted and religious artefacts destroyed. According to a leaked official church letter, at least 78 priests were massacred in one zone in Tigray.

In addition, the Waldeba Monastery, the oldest in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the al-Nejashi Mosque, one of the first mosques in Africa, were attacked, with the former destroyed and its monastic community brutally massacred.

Thus, while conflict in Ethiopia is typically framed according to its political and ethnic dimensions, religion and religious institutions have also played a central role.””

Thai police say Chinese church members to be deported soon

“The members of the church, also known as the Mayflower Church, were granted refugee status by the U.N. agency after their arrival in Thailand last year. They say they faced unbearable harassment in China and are seeking asylum in the United States.”

“Human Rights Watch issued a statement on Saturday urging the Thai government not to deport the group due to “the grave dangers facing Christians back in China.”
In its annual report last year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom said the Chinese Communist Party requires religious groups to support its rule and political objectives, including by altering their religious teachings to conform with the party’s ideology and policy. “Both registered and unregistered religious groups and individuals who run afoul of the CCP face harassment, detention, arrest, imprisonment, and other abuses,” the commission said.”

Christmas comes early: Ukrainian church allows December 25 celebrations for first time

“Ukraine’s Orthodox worshippers have always celebrated Christmas on January 7 — but that will change for many this year, with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) for the first time allowing its congregations to celebrate on December 25.
This move creates a dividing line with Russia, which celebrates on January 7, and is likely to widen a rift between Ukraine’s two feuding churches.

In 2018, the OCU split from the similarly named Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which is seen as politically linked to Moscow and is facing public demands for its closure amid accusations that it is a hotbed of fifth columnists — that is, people who support and secretly help the enemies of the country they live in.”

“According to Yevstratiy, already before the invasion, more than a third of Ukrainians wanted to change to the Gregorian calendar. “The numbers are probably higher now, and we are having an experiment to try to understand what worshippers really want,” he said.

“We are not moving the day of Christmas,” he added. “This will be an additional day of worship,” with celebrations held in accordance with the official Julian church calendar.

In the meantime, the church will “consider what to do in the future, and we will observe closely how many congregations take up the opportunity to celebrate on December 25,” Yevstratiy continued.”

“Political differences underpin the the split between the churches of the predominantly Orthodox nation: Western-oriented OCU churches offered support to the Maidan protesters of 2014, which toppled Viktor Yanukovych, Moscow’s viceroy in Ukraine. Over recent years, the church been a strong advocate of Ukrainian statehood and sovereignty.

The Russian-tied UOC claimed in May to have ended its subordination to Moscow’s Metropolitan Kirill, a vociferous supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin — although few believe the split is sincere. The church’s spokesperson, Metropolitan Klyment, dismissed as a political stunt the OCU’s decision to allow its congregants to celebrate on December 25, claiming it as evidence of how the rival church is not a religious institution but a political organization eager to do the government’s bidding.”

“The Kyiv-headquartered UOC dismisses the charge that its decision to allow congregations to celebrate Christmas on December 25 has anything to do with politics. Instead, it is merely responding to “numerous requests and taking into account the discussion that has been going on for many years in the church and in society.””

“The Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory in 1582; the Julian calendar, established by Julius Caesar, harks back to 46 B.C.”

The Supreme Court fight over whether religious schools can discriminate against LGBTQ people


The Supreme Court tears a new hole in the wall separating church and state

“The specific program at issue in Carson is unusual to Maine. About 5,000 students in Maine’s most rural areas, where it is not cost-efficient for the state to operate a public school, receive tuition vouchers that can be used to pay for private education. Maine law provides that these vouchers may only be used at “nonsectarian” schools, not religious ones.

Carson struck down this law excluding religious schools from the Maine voucher program, and that decision could have broad implications far beyond the few thousand students in Maine who benefit from these tuition subsidies.

Not that long ago, the Court required the government to remain neutral on questions of religion — a requirement that flowed from the First Amendment’s command that the government “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” In practice, that meant that the government could neither impose burdens on religious institutions that it didn’t impose on others, nor could it actively subsidize religion.

Carson turns this neutrality rule on its head, holding that government benefit programs that exclude religious institutions engage in “discrimination against religion” that violates the Constitution.

At the same time, however, Carson also contains significant language confining the scope of this new rule. If the government cannot create benefit programs that exclude religion, then under the most extreme version of this argument, it is unclear why traditional public schools — which provide secular but not religious education — are constitutional. Secular public schools, after all, are government institutions that maintain neutrality toward religion. And, under the new rule announced in Carson, neutrality is unconstitutional discrimination.

But Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion in Carson states explicitly that “Maine may provide a strictly secular education in its public schools.” And it reaffirms the Court’s holding in a 2020 decision that “a State need not subsidize private education.” That means that most students who receive a state-subsidized education will not be indoctrinated into a faith.

Nevertheless, one upshot of the Carson decision is that Maine’s taxpayers will be forced to pay for education that many of them will view as offensive. As the state explained in its brief, the plaintiff families in this case want the state to pay at least part of the tuition at private schools that discriminate against LGBTQ teachers and students. One of these schools allegedly requires teachers to agree that “the Bible says that ‘God recognize[s] homosexuals and other deviants as perverted’” and that “[s]uch deviation from Scriptural standards is grounds for termination.’”

After Tuesday’s decision, these families are all but certain to get their wish — Maine would have to significantly rework its education policies to avoid such an outcome — and Maine’s taxpayers will soon have to fund education at schools with outlandish or even bigoted worldviews.”