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Strange Bedfellows on Immigration, Cocaine, and Campaign Finance

The ACLU and many conservative activists find themselves on the same side of the issues this week.

Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about the past week.

Social conservatives often find themselves at odds with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). This week, however, many conservative political groups found themselves fighting alongside the group on immigration, campaign finance, and even sentencing for possessing crack cocaine.

Arizona Showdown

On Wednesday, a federal judge struck down the most important pieces of Arizona's controversial immigration law. The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and the National Association of Evangelicals—both of which support comprehensive immigration reform—did not respond immediately to the ruling. In an interview with Fox News last week, ERLC president Richard Land called the Arizona law "a symptom" that indicated the need for reform.

"The Arizona law is a cry for help from a state that has been let down by the federal government under both Democratic and Republican administrations that has not done its job. The best way to solve the issue of the Arizona law is to pass comprehensive federal legislation that makes the Arizona legislation irrelevant," said Land.

Rod Parsley, president of the Center for Moral Clarity, said arguments in favor of the law "betray a selfish, arrogant and, at times, racist attitude that is incompatible with the Christian's command to love one's fellow man and to serve the poor among us." Still, Parsley said, "It's difficult for us to muster any outrage for the Arizona officials that wrote and passed a law that attempts to control illegal immigration (emphasis added), particularly since it complies with the federal statutes already on the books."

Faith in Public Life's Dan Nejfelt pointed to the role of evangelicals and other faith groups in Arizona. "The faith community's moral witness against this anti-immigrant bill and for comprehensive immigration reform has been consistent and powerful," said Nejfelt.

Other Christian groups supported the Arizona law.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) called the ruling "extremely disappointing." The ACLJ had filed a brief supporting Arizona, arguing that its law was constitutional because Congress gave states the right to enforce federal immigration laws.

The American Family Association's Bryan Fischer called the ruling "a monstrous display of judicial activism, arrogance, and tyranny." He warned of impending anarchy and vigilantism: "The only hope we have left for representative government to shield us against a total social meltdown is state government. Our elected representatives at the state level have the 10th Amendment right to exercise every power that is not expressly granted to the federal government in the Constitution."

Liberty Counsel founder Mathew Staver disagreed, noting that  Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress alone the power "to establish a uniform rule of naturalization."

"I sympathize with Arizona," said Staver. "However, Arizona cannot enter the immigration regulation business. I agree with the judge's ruling because immigration is a federal, not a state issue. The rule of law expressly set forth in the U.S. Constitution regarding immigration compels me to conclude that the Arizona law is unconstitutional."

What color is your drug law?

President Obama signed a new law that changes the sentencing for possession of crack cocaine. The punishment for possessing crack had been stronger than for possession of powder cocaine. The law has been criticized for being racist—intentionally or not—as African Americans are more likely to be arrested with crack cocaine and whites are more likely to have the powder form of the same drug.

 "Current sentences disproportionately impact African Americans and force law enforcement agencies to spend their time and effort on low-level drug users rather than the distributors that cause most of the damage," Parsley said last March, when the bill was introduced.

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The Senate considered the DISCLOSE Act, a bill written in response to the Supreme Court's ruling against campaign finance reform laws. The Democrats were forced to table the bill because of a Republican filibuster.

The ACLU sees campaign finance rules as an infringement on free speech. Political groups that are active in electoral politics strongly opposed the bill because they would be required to list their major donors when airing a campaign ad.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said the bill was "Democrat incumbent protection legislation disguised as campaign finance reform. … While [tabling the bill] was a victory for those who believe in the First Amendment, there is little doubt that President Obama and Sen. Reid will try to bring up the legislation again and again before the November elections in their attempt to silence their opponents. One day they may finally learn—the more they try to shut us up, the louder those of us who believe in democracy will get."

ERLC's Land also spoke out against the bill. Unlike the FRC, the ERLC would be unaffected by the legislation. For Land, however, the key issue was religious freedom. "The DISCLOSE Act's requirements would severely impair political discourse, stifling the valuable contributions of religious groups," said Land.

Odds and Ends

– Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) encouraged its members to join two lobbying efforts. First, they asked members to join "Put Solar On," an international effort to have political leaders encourage solar energy. The group wants the U.S. to put solar panels on the Capitol Building and to enact energy reform legislation. Second, ESA backed the creation of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and wants Elizabeth Warren to be its first director. Warren is a professor at Harvard University and chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel investigating the bailout of the financial sector.

– Is wrong not to vote? In a discussion of the Christian's role in politics, Citizenlink's Tom Minnery said Romans 13 requires Americans to vote. "It matters who is elected. Now, the threshold duty in our system for honoring the governing authorities is voting," said Minnery. "People who do not cast an intelligent, informed vote are not honoring the governing authorities. We are a government of the people, by the people and for the people. And we are the people." Minnery further said that there are "many, many people in [Congress], state legislatures across the country who are good people, dedicated Christian people, trying to do good in a hostile environment. Those people need to be sought out by our listeners and supported."

– Richard Cizik returned to Fresh Air. The last time Cizik was on the National Public Radio program, he said he was supportive of civil unions for gay couples and was "shifting" in his opposition to same-sex marriage. That statement caused an uproar that led to his resignation as vice president for governmental affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals. He has since helped found the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. In this week's interview, Cizik commented on his departure:

We have an evangelical saying that goes like this: "When God closes one door, he opens another." Well, absolutely right, I found out about that. But [God] doesn't say anything about catching your fingers in the doorjamb as you leave. What I'd say to people who have been sacked, fired, or whatever—don't get your fingers caught in the doorjamb while leaving. In other words, don't try to pull yourself back in. … But God is bigger than those events that precipitate your departure from that job. I'm not the only one who lost my job in recent days, weeks, years. So recognize it as an opportunity and see how God is going to help you in the future.

– FRC Action's Tom McClusky noted that he was once again not listed as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People on the Hill," an annual list compiled by the D.C. newspaper The Hill. McClusky said that while he was afraid to ask his wife or mother if they thought he should be included, he described himself as "so beautifully humble that if he were offered the top spot he would actually hesitate before graciously accepting on behalf of all beautiful people."

Related Elsewhere:

Earlier Political Advocacy Trackers are available on our site.

Christianity Today also follows political developments on the politics blog.

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