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In contrast to the unwavering support that conservative and evangelical religious groups give President Trump, progressive churches and synagogues are fighting on the front lines against the administration’s anti-immigrant policies
RABBI DR SHMULY YANKLOWITZ: I think any religious institution, which diminishes suffering that is happening among the vulnerable populations, is living with religious hypocrisy.
NARRATOR: This is Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, an Open Orthodox rabbi, author and human rights defender.
RABBI DR SHMULY YANKLOWITZ: They have abandoned their texts, because as someone who has studied various religions and have been exposed personally to them, I know that the core of every religion is compassion, it is mercy upon vulnerable people.
And for [conservative religious groups] to say that they support the current administration, and policies that marginalize, and target the vulnerable, [they] are living with religious hypocrisy. No matter if they are Jews, Christian, Muslim, or have no faith at all.
Last week hundreds of people took to the streets to oppose the administration’s harsh treatment of asylum seekers in detention centers. Here’s Father Andrew Barreras from the Reform Catholic Church.
FR. ANDREW BARRERAS: Christ never talked against, he was for the immigrant. If we follow Christian values we should support them, help them, not mock them, not locking them up in cages, separate them, or abuse them, mentally, physically.
NARRATOR: Some of the groups, working on the ground to relieve the suffering of ailing immigrants and asylum seekers, are religious organizations.
OSCAR LEON: The activist group No More Deaths is a voluntary faith organization which is a ministry of the Unity Universalist Church of Tucson.
NARRATOR: No More Deaths is a coalition of community and faith groups trying to stop immigrant deaths in the desert. For 15 years now, the group has worked at the border, providing humanitarian relief while risking detention and, as of late, persecution, by the Trump administration.
Nine of the group’s activists have been detained and prosecuted in recent months, but they are not alone in their view. Many local groups form a network to support asylum seekers. These are small Latino and inclusive progressive churches, trying to reflect their interpretation of the gospel.
FR JAMES PENNINGTON: Over the past four years we have been working pretty intently on immigration issues. And about two years ago we announced that we are a sanctuary church.
Their progressive platform includes environmental issues, LGBTQ protections, minorities and immigrant rights, even sexual education.
FR JAMES PENNINGTON: This issue of family values, and especially the current administration and administrations before that, which where talking about family values, that is not a family value.
And then especially the statements that are heinous and say that -this is our way to tell you to stop coming to our country, we are going to take your children, and we are going to put them in some detention for children or Child Protective Services, that is just outrageous. And it is so anti anything that I understand as gospel and humanity.
NARRATOR: First Church UCC, Phoenix provides shelter to undocumented immigrants who face deportation, and runs an immigration legal clinic.
GORDON STREET: We are here to speak out against this moral injustice, going against the families and kids. It is not the right Christian thing to do. It is not the right human thing to do.
NARRATOR: Commissioned Minister Gordon Street is an example of an “inclusive” new wave of faith.
GORDON STREET: I think the more conservative right wing church forgets about,the basic human things that Jesus thought about. He hung out with people [like the] ones in here, speaking out against the establishment and what is human and right to do.
NARRATOR: Father Pennington questions the values and consistency of conservatives religious groups.
FR JAMES PENNINGTON: It is really hard to understand that kind of closed system of Christianity, which is a more conservative Christianity, which says we value families, and we don’t think we should abort a child. But once the child comes into the world, it’s like we don’t want to provide social services. We are going to pull them from their parents arms at the border.
Like it is a total … it seems like to me, irrational. It is irrational.
NARRATOR: Rabbi Yanklowitz thinks the time is now to exert change from within.
RABBI DR SHMULY YANKLOWITZ: So we see in every religious group that binary happen, those who are resistant and pushing back against policies of hate, or those who are submitting to them because some archaic religious dogma. And each of us within our own religious camp have an obligation to speak up, and challenge people in our own religious communities, to realign themselves with our own ancient traditional values.
NARRATOR: Father Pennington says to address these splits, there must be dialogue among both the left and right wings of the US’s religious community
FR JAMES PENNINGTON: And this is not just Christian, but it’s Muslim and it’s Jewish, and it is the three Abrahamic faiths that have this whole understanding of peace and equity and justice, and that we are all given the same rights as humans. Yet in each of those Abrahamic faiths we’ve had our times when we needed reformation, and we needed to be transformed and change our own narratives.
So for me it has been really difficult to have those conversations. It is easier to have them with like-minded people, but we need to have them.
NARRATOR: Stay with The Real News for more on the issue.
Oscar León is an experienced international press correspondent and documentary filmmaker based in Arizona. His work has reached continental TV broadcast in many occasions on Telesur, ECTV, Ecuavisa, Radio Canada, Canal Uno and even Fox Sports Latin America and El Garaje TV; he has been a TRNN correspondent since 2010. Oscar has reported from as many as 9 countries and more than 12 cities in US; his coverage includes TV reports, special reports and TV specials, not only covering social movements, politics and economics but environmental issues, culture and sports as well. This includes the series "Reportero del Sur", "Occupy USA - El Otoño Americano", "Habia una vez en Arizona", "Motor X" all TV mini series broadcasted to all Americas and "Once upon a time in Arizona" finalist in Radio Canada's "Migration" 2010 contest.