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Press Release: Texas Religious Leaders File Amicus Brief in U.S. 5th Circuit to Uphold Injunction Against Anti-Immigrant SB 4

Executive Director

October 27, 2017—Austin, TX—A number of prominent religious organizations and clergy members in Texas, representing multiple faith traditions, filed an amicus brief in the U.S. 5th Circuit on October 20, asking that it uphold the injunction against anti-immigrant SB 4, which San Antonio U.S. Judge Orlando García granted at the end of August.

The amicus brief of the interfaith religious coalition argues that implementation of SB 4 would cause irreparable harm to families who can no longer safely practice their religion among their faith communities. According to the brief, congregations and organizations that serve largely immigrant communities have already seen a harmful impact caused by the uncertainty around the implementation of SB 4. Fear of detention and deportation while on the way to worship services, or even just waiting at the bus stop, has already disrupted the family and religious lives of people in the immigrant community.

Bee Moorhead, Executive Director of Texas Impact, one of the signatories of the brief, said, “Immigrants across Texas are withdrawing from religious and community life for fear of being targeted by immigration officials and putting their children in jeopardy. The climate of fear created by SB 4 has caused immigrants to stop attending worship services, and some families no longer use the community services offered by their congregations. Even traveling to and from daycare or food pantries could bring them into contact with immigration authorities, risking detention or deportation.”

Faith leaders and communities have voiced strong opposition to SB 4 since its proposal during the past legislative session. Bound by tradition and scripture, they firmly assert they will continue to use all avenues available, including the courts, to support and minister to their congregants, regardless of immigration status.

“Our religious institutions serve their missions in many ways, among them, providing social and charitable services to vulnerable immigrant communities. SB 4 not only interferes with the right of immigrants to participate fully in religious life, but also undermines congregations from fulfilling their religious missions,” said Moorhead.

The amicus brief was prepared by John K. Warren, Senior Associate with the Washington DC law firm of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer US LLP, andJim Harrington, Founder and Director Emeritus of the Texas Civil Rights Project.

The appeal is pending.


The Interfaith Coalition comprises the following:

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas consists of 154 congregations in southeastern Texas, with over 79,509 members in 57 counties, spread over nearly 50,000 square miles.

The Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande encompasses 154,000 square miles of far-west Texas, from the Pecos River to the border with Mexico along the Rio Grande, as well as the entire State of New Mexico. The Diocese has 63 congregations and 15,000.

The Coalition of Evangelical Alliances of Texas (CEAT) is a group of Evangelical Christian Hispanic Pastors affiliated with Pastor Alliances throughout Texas. CEAT advocates on behalf of the weak and marginalized in society. In 2017, more than 2,000 Hispanic Pastors made friendly legislative visits to the Texas State Capitol.

Alianza Hispana Evangelica Ministerial (AHEM), an organization of Hispanic Pastors and churches, among other work, serves immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries.

Texas Impact is a statewide religious grassroots network whose members include individuals, congregations, and governing bodies of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths. Texas Impact advances state public policies consistent with social principles common to the Abrahamic traditions.

The Rev. Harvey Clemons is Pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, which has been located in Houston’s Fifth Ward since 1925. Pleasant Hill conducts comprehensive community revitalization efforts, with particular focus on immigration and criminal justice reform.

The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle serves as Bishop of the Diocese of Texas and spiritual leader for the approximately 80,000 members of the Diocese.

The Rev. Dr. John Elford serves as the Senior Pastor of University United Methodist Church in Austin, which has more than 900 members and a long history of social justice work in the community, and is an active member of the Austin Sanctuary Network.

The Rev. Chuck Freeman is the Executive Director of the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry and oversees 34 Unitarian Universalist congregations comprising 5,000 members.

The Rev. Dr. Erik K.J. Gronberg is Bishop for the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Synod includes 106 congregations and more than 25,000 members.

Rabbi Steve Gross leads the Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism. The congregation, comprising 250 families, embraces interfaith values and social justice.

The Rt. Rev. Dena A. Harrison, Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, chairs the board of El Buen Samaritano, a social services agency in Austin that serves a primarily Latino client base.

Rabbi Oren Hayon is the Senior Rabbi of Congregation Emanu El, a large reform synagogue in Houston involved in social justice ministry.

The Rev. Dr. Scott Jones is Bishop of the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, which is comprised of 700 congregations across east Texas.

The Rev. Dr. Joel N. Martinez is Bishop (retired) of the Rio Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. The Conference spans south Texas, from Austin to the border, and extends west to San Angelo and east to Victoria.

The Rev. Andy Shelton is Director of Chapel for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth.

The Rev. Gregg Alan Smith is an Associate Pastor and Director of Outreach at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church in Dallas.

The Rev. Dr. Ray Tiemann is Bishop of the Southwestern Texas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which extends from Austin to the Rio Grande Valley.

The Vy. Rev. Barkley S. Thompson is Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Houston, which has a membership of approximately 3,000 persons, including approximately 200 Latino parishioners.

The Rev. Dr. Sallie Sampsell Watson is General Presbyter of the Mission Presbytery, which consists of 138 Presbyterian churches and fellowships in south central Texas.

The Rev. Dr. Steve Wells is Pastor of South Main Baptist Church, a congregation of 1,200 members in Midtown Houston. South Main has a Hispanic congregation with 80 members from fifteen Spanish-speaking countries.

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