April Prayer Partner: Five Years in Jail For Driving Someone to Church?
As an evangelical pastor whose ultimate authority is God’s Word, I take seriously the biblical admonitions both to love, welcome and seek justice for immigrants and to “be subject to the governing authorities” that God has established. Gratefully, these instructions are not at odds: the laws of our country generally allow us to love, serve and share the gospel with people regardless of what their immigration legal status may be. And that is as it should be – as Pastor Rick Warren has said, “A good Samaritan doesn’t stop and ask the injured person, ‘Are you legal or illegal’?”
However, a new bill moving forward in my state of Florida could change that dynamic, presenting a grave threat to religious liberty, and many evangelical pastors and leaders throughout the state are voicing their concerns.
Among other troubling provisions, Senate Bill 1718 would make it a third-degree felony – punishable by up to five years in prison – to transport someone whom the driver knows (or should reasonably have known) entered the U.S. unlawfully.
Florida is home to roughly 700,000 undocumented immigrants, many of whom entered unlawfully, often many years or even decades ago. Many are also members of local churches like the church that I pastor in Orlando. And local churches often transport people – not to assist them in entering the country unlawfully or otherwise violating an immigration law (which would already be illegal under federal law), but for everyday ministry purposes like bringing congregants to Sunday services, picking up kids for youth group, or transporting people to a doctor’s visit. And sometimes the pastor or church volunteer happens to know, or would have reason to suspect, that the members of their church whom they’re transporting entered the country unlawfully at some point.
If you happen to be a Floridian like me, I’d encourage you to reach out to your State Senator and Representative to voice your concerns with this bill. This tool will help you determine which state legislators represent you based on your zip code and either make a phone call or send an email (or both!).
Whether or not you reside in Florida, I’d also ask you to join me in prayer. Please pray for:
- Each State Representative and State Senator, that they would have wisdom to know how to respond to immigration issues without infringing upon religious freedom – and that they would have the courage to vote their consciences even when under political pressure to do otherwise.
- Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, who has expressed support for this bill, that he would reconsider or at least call for amendments to address these religious liberty concerns.
- Churches and ministries within Florida, that we would know how to respectfully but courageously speak out against policies that would harm immigrants or would limit our ability to lawfully minister to them.
- Immigrants in Florida whose lives and livelihoods would be directly impacted by this bill if it were to become law, many of whom are fearful of what the future will hold if this bill passes.
- Lawmakers in other states and at the federal level, that rather than pursuing similar policies, they would finally pass long-overdue immigration reforms that would both respect the rule of law and create an earned pathway to legal status and citizenship for undocumented immigrants who meet appropriate requirements.
If you’d like to join others in corporate prayer, the Evangelical Immigration Table’s April virtual prayer time will take place on Tuesday, April 25 at 4 PM ET/3 PM CT/2 PM MT/1 PM PT. You can add the call to your calendar or simply click here to join the Zoom call at that time.
Rev. Gabriel SalgueroPastor, The Gathering Place Church, Orlando, Florida President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition