The Theology of Immigration

By John Tanton
Volume 3, Number 2 (Winter 1992-1993)
Issue theme: "The role of the churches in population growth, immigration and the environment"

As we try to explain in our 'Statement of Purpose' inside the cover of each issue, The Social Contract advocates a policy of restricting immi-gration by establishing reasonable limits, and then humanely enforcing them. In the course of working for immigration reform, we are frequently asked what groups oppose this approach. Several can be mentioned.

There are the agricultural growers who want a copious supply of docile and cheap stoop labor. There are the recrudescent sweatshop operators, running garment factories in the inner cities, who likewise want malleable and inexpensive labor. Then there are the putative ethnic group 'leaders' who are looking for a larger contingent at whose head they can parade. We mustn't forget the bilingual educa-tion lobby, which has struck gold among the burgeoning ranks of Limited English Proficient (LEP) students. The list could be extended to include the practitioners of immigration law, universities needing students to balance their budgets, corpora-tions preferring to import rather than train workers - the catalog is lengthy.

We must also place 'organized religion' among the opposition. The adherents of many faiths have often worked for high levels of immigration, sometimes for noble reasons, sometimes for ones that aren't quite so exalted. Many hold sincere ideas about the 'brotherhood of man' or the 'universalism that disdains national borders' which lead them to argue for unimpeded movements of people.

At a more practical level, leaders of some of these groups see increasing the number of their communicants through immigration as a way to guarantee the continuance of their sect, if not the road to more influence and political power. (For instance, see the filler item on page 89.) Even more venal (but not venial), some groups persist in the refugee business simply as a way of bringing in money and providing jobs for their bureaucracies through government payments for the resettlement of refugees.

In this issue, we consider the role of organized religion in the population/ immigration/ environment/ assimilation debate, realizing full well that we may be charged with being anti-religious in general, or anti- any one of the specific groups we mention. We think that if religious groups wish to play the public policy game, they should not retreat behind charges of discrimination when their positions are challenged. As Harry Truman said, 'If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.' We, as public policy advocates, are willing to stand the heat, and we plan to stay in the kitchen; we hope the religious groups are similarly resilient. If so, the basic rules of the public policy game include proceeding in the open, subjecting one's positions to free, full and searing debate, and not falling back on the argumentum ad hominem when the going gets tough.

The other fundamental rule is that ours is a secular, not a theocratic, society. When it comes to a conflict between church and state, the latter, in general, prevails. Thus polygamy was outlawed among Mormons, the use of drugs in religious ceremonies has been proscribed by the Supreme Court, and the claim of a First Amendment, separation-of-church-and-state justification for anti-social behavior has been denied. (In this connection, it will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court decides in Pichardo vs Hialeah, FL in which the issue is the use of animals for ritual sacrifice in the Santeria religion.)

In the ensuing pages, we look at the stances of the main U.S. religious groups on a variety of population/ immigration/ environment/ assimilation questions. Several of these articles we have commissioned; in others, we reprint statements by church leaders themselves (pp. 90, 102, 123) so you can make your own evaluation of the quality of their logic and the soundness of their positions.

As conservationists aware of the cumulative impact of numbers, we have paid particular attention to the internal contradiction in denominations that adopt positions which defend the environment but oppose the control of the numbers of people - the multipliers of environmental problems. Coupling an ethic of high fertility with today's medically efficient methods of death control, gives us the demographic disaster now in the making for the world. This is true whether the group is Muslim or Mormon, Hispanic or Hindu.

- John H. Tanton, Editor and Publisher

About the author

John Tanton is Editor and Publisher of The Social Contract and founder of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His personal website is