Here is my statement from today’s clergy press conference where we publicly unveiled our letter of opposition to the Springfield E-Verify ballot proposal:
It is an honor to stand with my sisters and brothers in faith today as we call for a community that reflects biblical norms of dignity, equality, and fairness and at the same time voice our opposition to a proposal that is nothing less than degrading, dehumanizing, and demeaning of others.
Because so many small business owners and civic officials have already come forward to also voice their opposition to the E-Verify initiative – mostly because of the detrimental economic implications that it would have on the city of Springfield – the primary reason that I am here is not to repeat what has already been said on numerous occasions. While I am obviously not in favor of the economic burdens that this initiative would place on Springfield businesses, and while I do worry about potential lawsuits that would drain local taxpayers’ money, these points have already been made time and again by business leaders and civic officials, and there is no need for me to focus on them here.
Instead, as a person of faith, my primary opposition to this initiative is related to the spirit in which it is cast. I grew up in Springfield and I am proud to call it my home. I was fortunate to have parents that instilled in me values of faith that weren’t based on fear, anger, and animosity, but on fairness, compassion, and care. These values of fairness, compassion, and care are not only deeply rooted in the teachings of Jesus, but they reflect so much of what we as Springfieldians aspire to live up to. I have a difficult time believing that fear and anger and animosity represent the kind of values that make us proud to live in Springfield, and any initiative grounded in such a negative spirit does nothing but diminish the quality of life that is vital to being a strong, healthy community.
Now I recognize that we do not live in a perfect world. I’m not Pollyannaish by any stretch of the imagination. But I also know that it is already against the law to hire undocumented, unauthorized workers. It is already against the law. This tells me that the spirit of this initiative is not about achieving substantial reform (which, by the way, I am in favor of), but rather is about trying to make Springfield a place where discrimination, bias, and stereotyping is perfectly okay, even written into the law, driven by the unholy trinity of fear, anger, and animosity. And as a person of faith – a person who believes we weren’t given a spirit of fear but a spirit of love – I have serious reservations with such an initiative.
When voters go to the polls this Tuesday, I hope they will consider how their vote best reflects the values that we as Springfieldians aspire to live up to. Are we building a community based on the unholy trinity of fear, anger, and animosity, or are we committed to building a community based on the enduring values of fairness, compassion, and care? When we recall which values have marked our country and also our city when we’ve been at our very best, it’s really not all that difficult of a decision to make.