Evangelicals Heart Immigration Reform

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How to explain the willingness of some conservative evangelicals to join forces with President Obama to support comprehensive immigration, as the NYT reported yesterday? Well it could be that it’s the Judeo-Christian thing to do. (Or maybe not, if you’re Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association.) But for sure there’s a political calculus, as baldly stated by that most political of evangelicals, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:

“I’ve had some older conservative leaders say: ‘Richard, stop this.
You’re going to split the conservative coalition.’…I say it might split the old conservative coalition, but it won’t
split the new one. And if the new one is going to be a governing
coalition, it’s going to have to have a lot of Hispanics in it. And you
don’t get a lot of Hispanics in your coalition by engaging in
anti-Hispanic anti-immigration rhetoric.”

Actually, this understates the GOP’s problem. According to the recent Trinity ARIS Latino survey, between 1990 and 2008 the proportion of Latinos who support the Republican Party dropped from 24 percent to 12 percent. That’s before Arizona passed its little illegal immigrant search law. It’s telling that in this summer of Obama’s discontent, the latest Gallup survey finds that he’s got a higher approval than disapproval rating in Texas, which he lost to McCain by 55 percent to 44 percent. The approval is not coming from Anglos. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this horse is out of the barn.

  • This is an interesting case. If you look at SBC numbers, they have lost heavily among Anglos. Their missions to African Americans have been an abject failure, despite the collapse of the NBC and their apology for racism. However, the SBC has gained Latinos. I don’t know why, but I do know that. I know Richard Land pretty well, and he’s no idiot. This isn’t about the Republican Party, this is about the SBC. Land sometimes seems to have problems discerning between the two, but on this one, he’s got his eyes of the prize sought by his employer.

  • Mark Silk

    Maybe so, Darren, but at least according to ARIS, that horse is out of the barn too. The proportion of Latino Baptists has dropped by about 75 percent since 1990, and the absolute numbers are down as well. Where the growth on the non-Catholic side has come is among the “sects” and the non-denominationals. So if Land has his eye on signing up significant numbers for the SBC, he’s got his work cut out for him.

  • Yeah, especially since the majority of the denomination (or what is left of it) is hostile to immigrants. These growth figures are about switching from a low baseline of Protestants, and they are really the fruit of “home missions” efforts which many of the SBC laity probably don’t support. I can ride my bike 12 miles and find an SBC funded church serving an all-latino mostly documented legal immigrant congregation….But most SBC faithful don’t know the difference between documented, undocumented, or even legal citizens….