Gov. Bill Lee Photo by AP
Nashville, TN – Tennessee pastors responded with video statements to Gov. Bill Lee, Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Sen. Bill Hagerty political attacks on immigrants and refugees this week of Christmas.

Their video statements include the following quotes:

“I wish Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee and U.S. Senators, Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty could walk in the shoes of the poor, the outcast, the hopeless for just one day of their life, much less a week or a month or year,” said Rev. Matt Steinhauer, Retired Pastor in the Evangelical Church of America. “The initial response from Governor Lee and our two Senators is the typical whipping up of fear and frenzy, instead of doing the hard work of Christian hospitality and love of neighbor, in asking refugees and asylum-seekers be blocked from coming to Tennessee. For political leaders who put forward such a public image as followers of Christ, I don’t get it.

“Governor Lee, and Senators Blackburn and Hagerty: this Christmas season we are reminded that Jesus was himself an immigrant and refugee when his parents fled to Egypt for safety,” reminded Rev. Steinhauer. “Do you have the courage to follow the call of Christ to welcome the immigrant and refugee as God commanded the Israelites in the Old Testament law from Leviticus, saying, ‘The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the stranger/immigrant as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’?” (Leviticus 19:33-34)

“I don’t understand why our political leaders have to use fear,” said Rev. Dr. Kevin Riggs, Pastor of Franklin Community Church. “These people are not just being dropped off. That’s just not true […] The reason that they are coming to TN is that we have lots of churches and non-profits who have a history of helping immigrants get settled in the United States. They are coming here legally. They are human beings created in the image of God. Jesus in the parable of the sheet and goats told us that we are to take care of the strangers among us. in other words, Jesus said those who are His true followers embrace and take care of the immigrants. Those who are not His followers, even though they claim to be, reject them and make hardships on them and don’t want to welcome them in.  And so Tennessee has billions of dollars in reserve. So it seems to me that instead of criticizing and increasing fear among us, the governor should call all these non-profits who are helping and say, ‘what can I do to help? How much do you need?’ so that we can make this a good experience for the citizens of Tennessee along with those in search of a better life.” 

“Governor Lee’s personal deficit of the Spirit of Christmas, should not be replicated by those who recognize the birth of Jesus as God’s invitation to live in His Kingdom, where love of neighbor as self and treating all others as we would desire to be treated are the gold standard of behavior,” said Rev. Gordon Myers, Retired Pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in Arlington, TN. “Politicians may at this time of year be more concerned about scoring political points than living the Spirit of Christmas.  They may overlook the fact that the Baby Jesus himself was a refugee shortly after his birth. (Matthew 2:13-15), or that Jesus taught that we should treat ‘the least of these’ as if they were Jesus himself in need (Matthew 25). But people of faith should not be distracted.  Jesus came to this world to declare that God’s love includes all and the way we serve and honor God is by caring for one another.”
BACKGROUNDGovernor Bill Lee says ICE is planning to release ‘unspecified’ number of detainees into TennesseeGov. Bill Lee: Feds plan to transport some migrants to Tennessee as Title 42 endsNon-profits prepare to welcome immigrants
The Southern Christian Coalition is a nonpartisan grassroots, ecumenical organization. Across the South, politicians use ideology in the guise of Christian theology to push policies that harm our communities and isolate us from our neighbors. We are a community of Christians, speaking up on the values of our faith.