Commentary

Following the law…but which one?

On Sunday, July 27, I attended a major interfaith gathering in Postville, Iowa,
in support of more than 380 workers who were arrested in an Immigration
and Customs Enforcement raid at Agriprocessors (the largest kosher packing
plant in the U.S.) in May. Well over a thousand people, mostly from
communities of faith, assembled to pray, sing, and march in solidarity with
the detained workers and their families and reflect on the state of workers’
rights and immigration policy. The lead sponsors of the event were Postville’s
St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, Jewish Community Action (St. Paul), the Jewish
Council on Urban Affairs (Chicago), and the Office for College Ministries at
Luther College (Decorah, Iowa).

The day began with an interfaith service at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church.
Pastor Mark Anderson, assistant to the bishop of the Northeastern Iowa
Synod of the ELCA offered the following reflection that beautifully captured
what many of us were feeling that day.
—Rev. Doug Mork

Mark Anderson
AndersonM@neiasynod.org

On behalf of the Bishop and of the Lutheran Church in Northeastern Iowa, I
thank you for the opportunity to speak this afternoon. We are thankful for the
witness of Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church, ELCA, in Postville and for the bold
leadership of Pastor Steven Brackett. We rejoice in the partnership we share
with Saint Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church. While the cause itself is filled
with sadness, the ministry and friendships that have grown here between the
Lutheran and Roman Catholic congregations are a blessing. Now, we also
welcome our brothers and sisters from the Jewish community. Today I have
sat in a Catholic church with more rabbis than all the other days of my life
combined!

Much is being said these days about following the law. Those who want strict
enforcement of immigration laws have gotten the action they have wanted.
They have gotten what they have wanted even though it has eaten away at
this town; even though it has devastated the school district; even though it
has torn apart families.

Much is being said these days about following the law. But we are here
waiting for the enforcement of labor laws! This morning’s issue of The New
York Times exposes incidents of child labor, physical abuse, sexual abuse,
safety violations, and much more. Yet, we wait for enforcement of these laws.
Much is being said these days about following the law. But not enough is
being said about following God’s law.

“You shall treat the stranger who resides with you no differently than the
natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you
too were once strangers in the land of Egypt. I the Lord am your God” (from
Leviticus 19:34).

“You shall not violate the rights of the stranger or the orphan, nor take the
clothing of a widow. For remember you were once slaves in Egypt, and the
Lord your God freed you from there; this is why I command you to observe
this rule” (from Deuteronomy 24:17-18).

God, our creator, gave us the law as a gift so that we could live in
community. Where God’s law is ignored there is no justice; no dignity; no
security. When God’s law is ignored there is no community.

The rumor is that the Latino caucus of the United States Congress is in
Postville today. Let us call upon all politicians to work together to fix this
legislation so that people of faith do not have to choose between what is legal
and what is faithful.

Let us call upon all politicians to act on “family values” in a way that respects
the sanctity of all families.

Let us call upon all politicians to protect workers, their dignity, and their
safety as vehemently as they talk about protecting our borders.

Let a new immigration legislation be constructed on God’s laws so that we
can live in shalom.

Mark A. Anderson is a pastor and is assistant to the bishop of the
Northeastern Iowa Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America