The Montgomery Advertiser reports that “Religious protection language was removed from immigration bill.” However, this should be filed under “old news.” Bob Terry of the Alabama Baptist reported this months ago. He wrote then:

The state Senate adopted an amendment to this bill that would have allowed churches to minister to illegal immigrants without fear of government reprisals. But that amendment was purposefully removed during conference committee considerations between Senate and House members.

The Alabama Legislature knowingly attempted to insert itself into the sacred space reserved for God alone in dictating to churches to whom and how they might minister in Jesus’ name.

The Legislature knew this issue for churches existed by recklessly proceeded head-long in in disregard to concern for churches and their mission.

Scott Beason explained why the church amendment was purposefully removed:

Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gar­dendale, who sponsored the legislation, said Bedford’s amendment used the phrase “bona fide religious organiza­tion” but left the term unde­fined. “You can pretty much plug any group into that,” Beason said. “What is a bona fide church, what is a reli­gious function. There’s no such definition in federal im­migration law.”

This could be another Keyshawn Johnson, “C’mon Man” Moment.

But I will make this one a SNL “Really with Seth and Amy” moment. There is no such definition? Really!?! You object to the phrase “bona fide religious organization” Really!?!?!?!?! Where do you think Bedford got such an awkward phrase?

THE DEFINITION IS IN THE FEDERAL REGULATIONS OF OUR FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAWS!  For Title 8, Aliens and Nationality, 8 C.F.R. §204.5 defines:

Bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States” means an organization exempt from taxation as described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 as it relates to religious organizations, or one that has never sought such exemption but establishes to the satisfaction of the Service that it would be eligible therefor if it had applied for tax exempt status.

Bona fide organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination” means an organization which is closely associated with the religious denomination and which is exempt from taxation as described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 as it relates to religious organizations.

Their defense of this bill is getting silly and frivolous. Even if he was not familiar with this exact definition in this regulation, other Federal statutes, case law, and regulations actually provide an extensive definition of church and “religious organizations.” Most exhaustively, for instance, federal tax law narrowly defines the “churches” and ‘religious organizations” that are eligible for Section 501(c)3, tax-exempt status.

I find his concern for technical definitions in federal immigration law hilarious considering the entire piece of legislation otherwise overly simplifies immigration regulations and disregards existing definitions, exceptions, and exemptions of federal immigration law.

At this point, we must ask: were there any consultations with immigration attorneys when the law was drafted? Did anyone think those lawyers with experience in the laberynthine workings of the immigration statutes and process could provide some wisdom?   Did anyone slow down long enough to seek guidance from any immigration law professor? What about advice from the Alabama Law Institute? Or did anyone do even a superficial Westlaw or Nexus/Lexus search?

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