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Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 12:29pm

Evangelicals Split On Immigration

Many Evangelical Christians say they now support an immigration overhaul that would include a path to citizenship for people here illegally. But debate among Georgia evangelicals continues as the U.S. Senate takes up reform legislation.

Some Evangelical leaders say Christians should show compassion for immigrants who came here for a better life for themselves and their families.

Jonathan Merritt is a religion writer and a lay leader at Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, which his father, pastor James Merritt, leads.

“The Bible speaks repeatedly about God’s concern for immigrants and others who are vulnerable," he said. "In fact, the Hebrew word for immigrant appears 92 times just in the Old Testament.”

But Merritt says there can be a disconnect between clergy and congregants.

Jerry Luquire of the Georgia Christian Coalition says clergy pushing for immigration reform aren’t speaking for him or many other Georgia Evangelicals.

“When we’re gathered around my kitchen table, we say one thing. When we’re out having coffee where other people can hear us, we say something different,” he said.

Namely: that illegal immigrants should have to return to their home countries before applying for citizenship.

Julianne Thompson is an Evangelical and a leader in the state’s Tea Party movement. She says, first things first and for her that means border security.

“With regard to immigration policy, we need to realize that before we move onto anything else, we’ve got to secure borders first,” she said.

A bill expected on the Senate floor would allow undocumented people to apply for citizenship while remaining in the U.S.