One of those visits led me to a blog I hadn’t seen before. It’s Episcayune. I’m not adding it to my blogroll, since she doesn’t blog often. But when she does, it’s worthwhile. I was particularly stunned by her blog entry, Separation of Church and State (back in April 2008).
She wrote there about Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, which I believe is in Phoenix. I’ve heard a lot about Sheriff Arpaio on NPR in the last few years, and he doesn’t impress me as a man concerned with justice. He sounds more like a gunslinger out of the Old West … exercising his own personal sense of “justice.” [ Photo at right courtesy of this site.]
If you think I’m overreacting to Arizona's anti-immigrant legislation, read that blogpost at Episcayune. Here’s a part of the blogger’s essay about the activities of Sheriff Joe Arpaio:
A Hispanic Episcopalian was pulled over recently and asked to show his papers. He was born and raised in the U.S. and had his valid Arizona driver’s license with him but that wasn’t good enough for the deputies since they’ve seen “too many fakes.” So now he, and others like him, are avoiding church because the congregations are afraid of detainment or harassment by over-zealous deputies.When I read that, I thought, “Huh?? Why the heck would they avoid church? The blogger explains:
The problem? He, and many others, worship within one of Arpaio’s Crime Suppression Operation [zones]. . . . Most are of Hispanic origin and they have been pulled over and asked to provide their papers. . . . According to the Rt. Rev. Kirk S. Smith, Arpaio's deputies interrupted a confirmation service on April 6 in a Roman Catholic Church in Guadalupe, a largely Hispanic neighborhood where Arpaio started another Crime Suppression Unit.WHAT?? Sheriff’s department interrupting a church service to look for illegal aliens? Surely not! It’s been a standard for centuries that churches are places of sanctuary. I cannot imagine sheriff’s deputies thundering into a church service. But I believe this blogger. I also thought surely that was a once-in-a-lifetime mistake by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department. But no. It happened at least once more in 2008.
And on Good Friday [Arizona] Bishop Smith received a call from the priest at a Spanish-speaking church in Phoenix. He drove to the scene and found an officer. "I tried to explain to him that not only were his men frightening law-abiding citizens, but they were in fact violating if not the letter, then at least the spirit of the Constitution by preventing people from going to church--it's called freedom of religion. Suffice it to say, the deputy, although polite, was not interested. He had his orders."That does it. I am officially gobsmacked. It appears that sheriff’s deputies were intentionally targeting churches where they thought they might find undocumented Hispanics. I can’t possibly explain this. And I am now doubly proud of Bishop Kirk Smith.
This despite the fact that Arapio’s own press release dated Jan. 18 stated, “The posse members and deputy sheriffs will not racially profile anyone in this operation.”This has been my point. There’s no way the police and sheriff’s departments can do this without racial profiling!
But the Episcayune blogger says it better than I ever could. She wrote after these travesties, back in April 2008:
Are they pulling over French speakers to make sure they haven’t come here illegally from Canada? Are they pulling over blue-eyed blonds as suspected illegal European immigrants? How about people of middle-eastern descent?Let’s face it. In the U.S., we are a nation of mutts. With the exception of the Native Americans, we’re all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. The only way that Arizona police and sheriffs can exercise this law fairly is to pull over every person who isn’t obviously Native American.
Good luck with that, Arizona.