Today's Paper Search Latest stories Listen Traffic Legislature Newsletters Most commented Obits Weather Puzzles + Games
story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas Democrat-Gazette moral crisis illustration. - Photo by Nikki Dawes

Area faith leaders who have strongly opposed the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border will be among those pushing for additional change today at the Families Belong Together rally in Little Rock.

The event is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the state Capitol. Rallies also are being held today in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Hot Springs and Jonesboro in conjunction with the national Families Belong Together rally in Washington and hundreds of other rallies nationwide.

The Arkansas rallies come the week after church leaders of different faiths held a news conference at Little Rock's First United Methodist Church to express concern about the U.S. Justice Department's zero-tolerance policy. The policy sought to prosecute adults crossing the border into the United States, and resulted in the detainment of thousands of children separate from their parents.

Some Arkansas religious leaders have been vocal about the treatment of migrants and refugees, releasing a statement of unity months before U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the zero-tolerance policy May 7.

The statement was signed by more than 120 Arkansas faith leaders and called for -- among other changes -- education and advocacy against "the sins of oppressing the immigrants and sojourners in our midst."

Rabbi Barry Block of Congregation B'nai Israel in Little Rock spoke of "cruel, highly restrictive" immigration policies instituted in the 1920s that prohibited people from migrating to the United States from eastern and southern Europe, and ultimately led to the prevention of Jewish people from immigrating to the States during the Holocaust.

Block noted that the theme of "Remember the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt," is repeated 36 times in the Book of Moses.

"All Americans have been strangers or their ancestors were at one time or another," Block said. "We must all remember the stranger, and welcome them with open arms in this land of freedom and opportunity."

"We think it's a moral crisis in our country, I think, that we're treating people at the border in this way," said Clint Schnekloth, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville. "And I think it's a moral crisis because at a very basic level, how have we even allowed this to be where we are? This is what we're fighting over -- something as simple as that we should treat children well."

Schnekloth is also founder and chairman of Canopy Northwest Arkansas, an affiliate of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service that helps migrants and refugees with resettlement.

Schnekloth spent part of this week with a group of Arkansas high school students in Houston attending the 2018 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Youth Gathering, which drew 35,000 young people nationwide to engage in service and learning.

Schnekloth said he will attend the Families Belong Together gathering today in Houston, along with a number of clergy that includes the faith's presiding bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, and Michael Rinehart, bishop of the faith's Gulf Coast Synod.

David Cook, legislative director for Faith Voice Arkansas, the organization that put together the news conference last week at First United Methodist Church, called on Arkansans of all faith backgrounds to allow their "values of compassion and mercy, and love of neighbor as yourself, to inform their responses to the issue at the border."

"We thought that the policy that was in effect that allowed for the separation of children from their parents was unjust and immoral ... [and] that our policymakers and us as Americans should do a lot better than that," Cook said on behalf of the nonprofit, which works on legislation at state and federal levels.

News that President Donald Trump had signed an executive order aimed at halting family separations at the border reached First United during the news conference, and was announced, Cook said. That order was followed Tuesday by a California judge's court order to reunite all children with their parents within 30 days, and within 14 days for children under the age of 5.

"As a bishop in the church, my heart hurts deeply for the plight of the families," said Bishop Gary Mueller of the United Methodist Church's Arkansas Conference, who described the executive order as a good but "insufficient" first step toward reuniting families.

"I think 30 days is still 30 days too long, and we're seeing only slow progress out of that," said Haley Jones, a pastor at First United Methodist Church in Little Rock. "I think we just have to keep pushing for a responsible response."

Religion on 06/30/2018

Print Headline: 'It's a moral crisis': Families Belong Together rally takes stand on treatment of children at border


Sponsor Content


You must be signed in to post comments
  • dana72023
    June 30, 2018 at 5:47 a.m.

    Why weren't they protesting when Obama was doing it?

  • Jfish
    June 30, 2018 at 6:36 a.m.

    Why don't all of these churches just open their doors and house and feed them all? There, problem solved.

  • Dero
    June 30, 2018 at 9:05 a.m.

    If Little Rock's First United Methodist Church want’s to express genuine concern they may sponsor all the individual’s they care to import…and be responsible for…while they await the immigration process.

    If Rabbi Barry Block of Congregation B'nai Israel wants to quote from the Pentateuch, attempting to apply these laws to Gentiles, will he next advocate death for those not observing the Sabbath?

    Finally, no one and no law prohibits either of these churches to sponsor these individuals into this nation. They can pay, themselves, and import all of these people they choose to bring in legally but please don’t besmirch my Lord and Savior’s church or His chosen people with Hypocrisy. PLEASE!

  • mrcharles
    June 30, 2018 at 10:06 a.m.

    Oh ye of little faith and knowledge.

    Dero, besmirch! Your deity , huh? Of course ignore exodus but follow jesus, the one who his family thought was mental and later said hate family but love your neighbor. If the immigrants were midianites, you could join in the rape and slaughter.

    Cossack! Conquistador!

  • 23cal
    June 30, 2018 at 10:54 a.m.

    dana...The Obama administration did not have a policy which separated families and caged children. The Obama policy dealt with UNACCOMPANIED MINORS who came to the border unaccompanied.
    The Trump administration policy CREATES unaccompanied minors by separating families. You need to seek a better and more honest source of information.
    It's a pretty simple difference. If you can't comprehend the difference, you're trying very hard not to.
    JFish......good call. And while they're at it, why don't the churches "just open their doors and house and feed " all of the homeless and the hungry? Problem solved.
    If Trump hadn't created this problem, there wouldn't be one which needed to be solved. You know, the one where he said he couldn't do anything, and then he did something? Yeah, that problem.
    Love they neighbor as thyself.
    Jesus wept.

  • Dero
    June 30, 2018 at 11:05 a.m.

    For those that THINK they know The Bible or Exodus please inform me of the law that was broken in "The Exodus". I am not against immigration. I believe we should help those seeking Asylum, legitimately. I am merely asking "If you WANT to support these people, why aren't you stepping up to your words?" I am merely pointing out there is a legal method. Our government moves slowly but YOU COULD STEP UP and sponsor people personally if you mean what you say. Don't preach to me what you are unwilling to do yourself....or recognize that you are a Hypocrite.

  • RBear
    June 30, 2018 at 7:05 p.m.

    Dero I'm not sure how much you know about immigrant sponsorship, but a church cannot sponsor an immigrant. The USCIS code clearly states it MUST be an individual and there are other requirements as well, including minimum income levels. So, that must be some meme running around the right wing sites but it's false information.

  • GeneralMac
    June 30, 2018 at 7:39 p.m.

    You don't want your kids separated?

    Don't enter the US ILLEGALLY.

    Sounds simple enough.

  • mrcharles
    June 30, 2018 at 8:26 p.m.

    Dero, I would be your huckleberry!

    Point being that boss of bosses said you shall not oppress a stranger...something about be a stranger in Egypt. Dont think separating kids is "not" oppressing.

  • sjmays
    June 30, 2018 at 8:50 p.m.

    GM - your humanity is overwhelming.