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Alabama Churches Sue to Block State Immigration Law Enforcement

August 01, 2011

Aug. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Church leaders in Alabama sued to block enforcement of the state’s immigration law over claims it prevents free exercise of religion.

Leaders of the Episcopal, Methodist and Roman Catholic churches representing 338,000 Alabama residents filed the suit today in federal court in Birmingham, Alabama, according to a statement e-mailed by the White, Arnold and Dowd law firm of Birmingham.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed the law broadening police powers on June 9, following Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in requiring local authorities to identify illegal immigrants. The law is set to take effect on Sept. 1. Today’s lawsuit follows another brought last month by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery challenging the law.

The law requires police officers to verify the immigration status of anyone they stop and suspect may be in the U.S. illegally. Businesses must use a federal database called E- Verify to determine whether job applicants are eligible to work. In addition, the measure makes it a crime to rent housing to illegal immigrants. Alabama became the fifth U.S. state to enact such legislation.

The law “interferes with the biblical imperative of hospitality which our churches have adopted and encoded in various documents of governance,” Bishop Robert J. Baker of the Birmingham Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in Alabama said in the statement. “It aims to shut the doors of our churches and social ministries, against our wills, to a whole class of people, denying them access to such basic human needs as food, clothing, shelter, and, most importantly, worship of God.”

The complaint couldn’t immediately be confirmed with the court.

The case is Parsley Jr. v. Bentley, 11-S-2736, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama (Birmingham).

--With assistance from Tom Schoenberg in Washington and Laurence Viele Davidson in Atlanta. Editor: Glenn Holdcraft

To contact the reporter on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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