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Scripture supports the rule of law

A Zogby survey reinforces what many of us already know: Americans, including the religious faithful, want America’s laws enforced. According to the study of likely voters, 34 percent of Catholics, 20 percent of Protestants and 15 percent of born-again Christians support amnesty for illegal immigrants. Conversely, 54 percent of Catholics, 61 percent of Protestants and 65 percent of born-again Christians support attrition through enforcement.

Without the support of the American people, the open-borders crowd is now trying to claim a more powerful ally: God.

Consider the evidence: In just the last month, one congresswoman hosted a press conference on Capitol Hill with a group of Caribbean-American pastors to call for amnesty. A senator held a hearing entitled “Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Faith-Based Perspectives” at which multiple witnesses attempted to invoke God’s Word to justify amnesty. And a congressman held a prayer vigil on the South Lawn of the Capitol just before introducing his outline for an amnesty bill.

There is just one problem that plagues these claims: The Bible contains numerous passages that do not necessarily support amnesty and instead support the rule of law.

Concerned about the unstemmed flow of illegal aliens over our border? Don’t miss Tom Tancredo’s book, “In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security”

From my own study, I find that the Scriptures clearly indicate that God charges civil authorities with preserving order, protecting citizens and punishing wrongdoers. A prime passage is Romans 13:1-7: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” Neither God nor the Bible ever rewards lawlessness (1 Timothy 1:8-10).

Consider Leviticus 19:33-34, frequently cited by amnesty advocates: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Mass-immigration and amnesty advocates claim that such passages mandate that a society welcome any and all foreigners. But such passages do not state or imply that foreigners should disregard civil laws to enter, or that we should overlook it when they do. The law God laid down for Israel allowed legal distinctions to be drawn between native Jews and resident aliens.

Also, the Hebrew term for “sojourn,” as well as the dictionary definition, means “temporary stay.” A related term used in some scriptural translations is “stranger.” So this passage offers no scriptural sanction for allowing millions of illegal immigrants to remain permanently in the United States. In the New Testament, the word “stranger” denotes one who is simply unknown (The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible).

Related to the Leviticus citation is the passage about treatment of “the least of these my brothers” – the hungry, the naked, the stranger, the prisoner. This quote from Matthew 25:31-46 plainly is based on individual acts of kindness, as private persons, and does not mandate a public policy. A note in the New Interpreter’s Bible says, “… it is the individual human beings, not nations as corporate political structures, that stand before the judgment.”

Finally, my view is that God supports borders (Exodus 19:12), boundaries (Deuteronomy 32:8; Proverbs 22:28), standards (Numbers 2:17) and order (Isaiah 9:7). Borders and boundaries are consistent and important principles throughout the Bible, being mentioned some 200 times in one context or another. This suggests little biblical support for anyone’s claim to have a “right” to be where they lived illegally.

While both sides of the immigration debate can cite Bible verses for their own purposes, ultimately the interpretation of passages is an individual one made through study and prayer.

Americans need not repent for wanting to uphold the rule of law. Our nation has a wonderful tradition of welcoming newcomers. We admit more than 1 million legal immigrants a year, far more than any other country. About 38 million immigrants are now living in the U.S. and they form the highest percentage of our population in almost a century. 

There is a difference, though, between those who play by the rules and come in the right way and those who don’t, and there is an honest difference of opinion about the Bible’s commentary on strangers and foreigners.


Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee and a member of the Immigration Reform Caucus.