Right Wing Bigots Claim Immigration Reform Path to Citizenship Violates the Bible

Religious bigots have a difficult time understanding that the United States is not Israel; that the law of the land is not Leviticus or the Ten Commandments or even the Bible, but the United States Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of a state religion; that their God, their Bible, and their Ten Commandments, do not even get a passing nod in said Constitution.

Ralph Reed, a huckster if there ever was one, took the op-ed pages of USA Today to demonstrate how geographically and constitutionally-challenged he is, opining that, “As politicians seek to solve the thorny problem of U.S. immigration policy, they should sit down with the faith community and perhaps open their Bibles.”

In Scripture, the obligation to care for the alien carries a corollary responsibility for the immigrant to obey the law and respect national customs. In the Old Testament, immigrants who followed the law shared in the inheritance of Israel. Amnesty violates this principle. Those who have come to the U.S. illegally must reform: Pay fines and back taxes, undergo a criminal check, learn English and wait before they can apply for a green card. Those who entered the country illegally should not be guaranteed a path to citizenship.

For some reason, Reed feels the need to point out that, “Foreign labor to achieve great national purpose is as old as human civilization itself. Both David’s palace and Solomon’s temple were built with skilled artisans from Lebanon and elsewhere. Today, our technology sector needs more scientists and engineers than we produce. We should increase the number of worker visas to meet our economic needs.”

This is a crazy jumble. Israel? Green cards? King Solomon did not issue green cards. Nor did any other king of Israel, or the priesthood after the monarchy had gone the way of the missing tribes. It doesn’t matter a whit if US immigration policy violates ancient Jewish law for the simple fact that this isn’t Israel, and what the Bible says, according to the Constitution, is irrelevant where US law is concerned.

Here, I’m going to throw Reed a rope. This is ancient Israel:

This is the United States:

The United States is a democracy, not a monarchy; the United States is a democracy, not a theocracy. It’s capital is Washington, DC, not Jerusalem. Power derives from the people; not from God. It becomes tiresome to reiterate these basic facts but that is what we are reduced to in dealing with right wing religious thuggery.

Peter Montgomery, over at Religion Dispatches, quips that Reed’s Bible seems to contain some “supplemental material” and this would not be the first time a religious bigot found something in his Bible that wasn’t in any of ours (David Barton being an infamous example).

Reed’s claim that amnesty somehow violates a biblical principle is fallacious. The modern-day principle of amnesty did not exist in Solomon’s day so it could hardly violate anything the Bible says; it simply isn’t addressed. Trying to twist the what the Bible actually does say – all of it relevant to the Bronze and Early Iron Ages – into something relevant to situations which the Bibles authors could not have envisioned, is an exercise in futility. In ancient Israel, as in other ancient cultures, foreign workers would often enough be slaves, men and women captured in times of war. Since the Bible also promotes and embraces slavery, is Ralph Reed going to suggest we solve our immigrant problem in the same way?

According to Biblical law, a slave was chattel. If Reed is claiming that the Bible demands that we care for the aliens in our midst, he is guilty of a very selective reading of his scriptures. It is a simple and irrefutable fact that “postbiblical Jewish literature suggests that many laws requiring humane treatment were in practice ignored,” whatever the Bible said about treating slaves well (Goodman, 2007). In any event, even a well-treated slave is still a slave.

Bigots like Ralph Reed never tire of boring us with what is in their Bibles, as though it really matters outside of a church, or perhaps a rousing good home-style bigotry rant. We cannot reasonably expect these bigots to wise up to the Bible’s irrelevance because reasonable is not a word in their vocabulary. And is a sad fact that our government is populated with a seeming endless array of these bigots, who are in turn influenced by people like Reed.


Martin Goodman. Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.

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