Clergy appeal to baker in defending refugees, immigrants

Faith leaders gathered at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul Tuesday before visiting the State House. [Photo Courtesy: Massachusetts Council of Churches]

BOSTON, Mass. (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE) – Clergy members of different faiths filled Gov. Charlie Baker’s office lobby Tuesday, outlining their opposition to President Donald Trump’s immigration and refugee executive order and explaining to two aides how they hope the governor will back legislation banning state funds from being used to enforce federal immigration laws.

Clergy members sought Corner Office support for the Safe Communities Act, which also bans law enforcement agencies and the state Registry of Motor Vehicles from making information available to any entity “for enforcement of any federal program requiring registration of persons on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or national or ethnic origin.”

“The question has been, ‘Where is Charlie?'” Rev. Dorothella Littlepage, an Episcopal priest in Roxbury, told the governor’s aides.

Before visiting Baker’s office, clergy members signed an oversized “Dear Governor Baker” card, which featured the outline of Massachusetts with the words “NOT A TRUMP STATE” inside the state’s boundaries. The card also read, “We do not accept politics of hate and fear in Massachusetts.”

In the governor’s lobby, Rev. Sarah Kelb, an Episcopal priest from St. Paul’s in North Andover, told Baker aides that they hoped Baker would look at their card. After the exchange ended, Baker aides went down to the first floor of the State House and retrieved the card.

In addition to signing a joint letter, clergy leaders expressed opposition to Trump’s order blocking refugees from coming to the United States for 120 days and preventing people from seven majority-Muslim countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya – from entering the country for 90 days.

On Sunday, Baker said Trump’s order puts at risk “the shared experiences of our partners from around the world,” including relationships at education, health care, business and public sector institutions. “I believe focusing on countries’ predominant religions will not make the country safer as terrorists have showed they intend to strike from across the world. The confusion for families is real. The unexpected disruption for law abiding people is real. And the lack of guidance associated with such an abrupt and overwhelming decision is hugely problematic for all involved,” he said in a statement.

Baker did not support Trump during the campaign, and has emphasized his duty to work with the federal government on behalf of Massachusetts’ interests. He also on Tuesday supported Attorney General Maura Healey’s move to add Massachusetts and the University of Massachusetts to a federal lawsuit seeking to strike down the executive order on the grounds that it violates residents’ rights to religious freedom and due process.

“Governor Baker opposes the recent executive order as it puts our global community and economy at risk, will not improve our security, and lacks the guidance associated with such an abrupt and overwhelming decision that is problematic for all involved. The administration plans to share our concerns with the federal government this week and has worked with the Attorney General’s office in support of her challenging this action today. Governor Baker does not support a sanctuary state.” Baker press secretary Billy Pitman said in a statement on Tuesday.