Uneasy Alliances in the Heart of the Bible Belt

Tennessee town's tolerance tested in "Welcome to Shelbyville," airing on PBS

"When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don't take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God" (Lev. 19:33-34, The Message).

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in" (Matt 25:35, NIV)

These are familiar passages to many in the Bible Belt, including the residents of Shelbyville, Tennessee. But putting such words into practice is much easier said than done. That's the premise of Welcome to Shelbyville, a documentary airing tonight (10/9c) on PBS's Independent Lens.

It's a fascinating look at how a small town grapples with a rapid influx of foreign refugees, including a growing Latino population and, in more recent years, many Muslims from Somalia. Most of the film was shot in the days prior to the 2008 Presidential election, when America was already facing many changes. ...

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