My name is the Rev. Dr. Phil Snider, and I stand before you this evening in support of the ordinance.
Any accurate reading of the Bible should make it clear that [Gay rights] is an abomination against the “plain truth of the word of God.” As one Bible believing preacher warns us, “Man, in overstepping the boundary lines God has drawn [by making special rights for gays and lesbians], has taken another step in the direction of inviting the Judgment of Almighty God upon our land. This step of [gay rights] is but another stepping stone toward the gross immorality and lawlessness that will be characteristic of the last days.”
This [ordinance] represents a “denial of all that we believe in, and no one should force it on us.”
“Outside government agents are endeavoring to disturb God’s established order…This disturbing movement is not of God. It is not in line with the Bible….Do not let people lead you astray.
These religious liberals are the worst representatives of our country…They do not believe the Bible any longer; …they are leading the people astray … and they are leading [gay Christians] astray. But every good, substantial, Bible-believing, intelligent, orthodox Christian can read the Word of God and know that what is happening is not of God…
When you run into conflict with God’s established order, you have trouble. You do not produce harmony. You produce destruction and trouble, and [our city] is in the greatest danger it has ever been in in its history…The reason is that we have gotten away from the Bible of our forefathers.
You see, “The right of [segregation…uh, hold on….the right of segregation] is clearly established by the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example.”
Oh wait, I’m sorry, I brought the wrong notes. I borrowed my argument from the wrong century. It turns out what I’ve been reading to you are quotes from white preachers from times like the 1950s and 60s in support of things like racial segregation and interacial marriage. All I have done is taken out phrases like “racial integration” and substituted them with phrases like “gay rights.”
I guess the arguments I’ve been hearing around Springfield lately sounded so similar to these that I got them confused. I hope you won’t make the same mistake. I hope you’ll consider which side of history you wish to stand on. Thank you.
Note: Here are some links that were helpful in getting the ball rolling for this speech. Also, after all of this went viral, a friend pointed out that one of the more famous quotes I used was actually in support of slavery, not segregation, which of course drives the point home all the more. I tracked down the quote and he was right.
Any time people are exploited or taken advantage of by others, especially the most vulnerable members of our society, then people of faith are called to stand in the gap – to do something about it – in order for God’s will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
That’s why I am so encouraged that you are here this evening. I admire your spirit and your heart so much.
As people of faith, we have gathered to call attention to the predatory payday lending practices that are far too prevalent in the state of Missouri. Such practices take advantage of people who find themselves in the most desparate of situations, backed up against a wall. What’s worse, such practices want people to find themselves in desperate situations, they root for people to be backed up against a wall, they thrive on people’s misfortune. Here we see a classic inversion of the Golden Rule, the polar opposite of the Golden Rule: instead of treating others the way you would like to be treated, predatory lending practices are forged in the hopes that others are treated exactly how you do not want to be treated.
But that is not the entire story. People of faith across the state are coming together to make a difference. Tonight you will hear about these efforts, as well as have the opportunity to sign a petition that will cap the rate of payday loans at 36%.
We also recognize that this is a complex issue. That’s the reason you will hear information tonight from a variety of perspectives. Not only do we want to stir conversation regarding possible ballot initiatives, but also to reflect on a number of viable alternatives.
For instance, some fantastic community leaders, including representatives from local banks and credit unions, have been talking about the possibility of providing small loans at a fair rate to those in need. So if a person’s brakes go out and they don’t want to miss work, they’ll have the option of seeking a loan from a reputable, integrity driven lender that helps them stay on their feet, as opposed to someone who just wants to take advantage of them.
We also recognize that part of the reason people are driven to payday lenders is because they have very little money to begin with. If you work forty hours a week at minimum wage, you’ll make $15,080 a year. Now I’ve struggled with math my whole life, but it doesn’t even take someone like myself very long to figure out just how difficult it is to survive on such a wage. While the primary focus of this evening is on the payday lending initiative, it’s also important to know there is another ballot initiative in Missouri that would raise the minimum wage so that people wouldn’t have to seek out emergency loans in the first place.
Ultimately, as people of faith following in the way of our Lord, we are responsible not just for putting band-aids on people who are bleeding, but to figure out why they are bleeding in the first place. This is the difference between charity and righteousness. Instead of pulling bodies out of the river, we need to keep them from being thrown into the river.
As Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “A true [transformation] of values will cause us to question the fairness of many of our policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
We are here tonight because we want to transform the Jericho Road. We are here tonight because our faith compels to care for those taken advantage of by society.
We are here tonight to “make straight in the desert a highway for our God; to see every valley lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.”
The Rev. Dr. Phil Snider’s statement at the 2/4/2012 press conference
It is an honor to stand with my sisters and brothers in faith today as we call for a community that reflects biblical norms of dignity, equality, and fairness and at the same time voice our opposition to an initiative that is nothing less than degrading, dehumanizing, and demeaning of others.
Because so many small business owners and civic officials have already come forward to also voice their opposition to the E-Verify initiative – mostly because of the detrimental economic implications that it would have on the city of Springfield – the primary reason that I am here is not to repeat what has already been said on numerous occasions. While I am obviously not in favor of the economic burdens that this initiative would place on Springfield businesses, and while I do worry about potential lawsuits that would drain local taxpayers’ money, these points have already been made time and again by business leaders and civic officials, and there is no need for me to focus on them here.
Instead, as a person of faith, my primary opposition to this initiative is related to the spirit in which it is cast. I grew up in Springfield and I am proud to call it my home. I was fortunate to have parents that instilled in me values of faith that weren’t based on fear, anger, and animosity, but on fairness, compassion, and care. These values of fairness, compassion, and care are not only deeply rooted in the teachings of Jesus, but they reflect so much of what we as Springfieldians aspire to live up to. I have a difficult time believing that fear and anger and animosity represent the kind of values that make us proud to live in Springfield, and any initiative grounded in such a negative spirit does nothing but diminish the quality of life that is vital to being a strong, healthy community.
Now I recognize that we do not live in a perfect world. I’m not Pollyannaish by any stretch of the imagination. But I also know that it is already against the law to hire undocumented, unauthorized workers. It is already against the law. This tells me that the spirit of this initiative is not about achieving substantial reform (which, by the way, I am in favor of), but rather is about trying to make Springfield a place where discrimination, bias, and stereotyping is perfectly okay, even written into the law, driven by the unholy trinity of fear, anger, and animosity. And as a person of faith – a person who believes we weren’t given a spirit of fear but a spirit of love – I have serious reservations with such an initiative.
When voters go to the polls this Tuesday, I hope they will consider how their vote best reflects the values that we as Springfieldians aspire to live up to. Are we building a community based on the unholy trinity of fear, anger, and animosity, or are we committed to building a community based on the enduring values of fairness, compassion, and care? When we recall which values have marked our country and also our city when we’ve been at our very best, it’s really not all that difficult of a decision to make.
To Concerned Citizens of Springfield Missouri,
As faith leaders in Springfield who represent a variety of traditions, we feel compelled by conscience to speak out for our community regarding the illegal, unjust, and uncalled for City Ordinance, Question 1, on the February 7th ballot, put forth by the Ozarks Minutemen by Initiative Petition, and popularly referred to as E-Verify.
We are called upon by our sacred texts to affirm the importance of loving one’s neighbor and welcoming the stranger, an ethical code central to all enduring religious traditions.
“The strangers residing among you must be treated as your citizens. Love each one as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Eternal your God.”
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…”
While our faith traditions command us to care for the outcast, the downtrodden, and the most vulnerable populations, Question 1 is in clear violation of these moral precepts.
This unjust City Ordinance would prove detrimental to our local community and economy by placing a costly and unnecessary burden on businesses, local government, non-profit organizations and religious organizations alike to enforce a version of E-Verify that goes far beyond state and federal guidelines.
The complaint-based nature of the ordinance, with no penalties for frivolous complaints, makes the ordinance’s loosely defined terms problematic. In the hands of some, this ordinance could be used to harass former employers, business rivals, religious organizations, civic groups, and individuals.
We believe that should this measure pass it will invite legal challenges to its constitutionality and impose litigation fees our government and businesses cannot afford.
“In addition to the problems inherent in the E-Verify system itself, the ordinance is so poorly constructed that it conflicts with federal law in places and exposes anyone who uses it to significant risk of litigation and expense.”
–Councilperson Cynthia Rushefsky, Attorney at Law
We are very concerned about fair economic practices and the economic health of our community. If passed, the Minutemen version of E-Verify would place the responsibility of the federal government back on local taxpayers. Instead of providing true reform, it would hinder economic development and competition in Springfield, thus far the only city in the region considering adopting such restrictive measures.
The truth of the matter is that this ordinance doesn’t address the proper ways to ensure that organizations in Springfield be in compliance with established laws that already make it illegal to hire undocumented workers. This ordinance would not simply impact unauthorized workers, but would have tremendous negative outcomes for millions of legal workers. As the most up-to-date research provided by the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce shows, on average, of those persons erroneously determined to be “unauthorized to work” under E-Verify, 20 percent are American citizens and 50 percent are actually documented, work-authorized, foreign-born employees. Likewise, 45 percent of the users of E-Verify misuse it by racial profiling or hiring under the table.
A 2009 competitive assessment listed Springfield’s lack of diversity as an obstacle to our community’s future economic development. Creating more fear of one another in Springfield is counterproductive to building healthy communities that honor family values, hard work and love for our neighbors, which are values that make us all stronger.
The Minutemen E-Verify proposal in Springfield goes far beyond the federal version with careless, over-reaching implications that could even force churches to E-Verify guest speakers, an unnecessary burden and cost for struggling congregations and a potential violation of freedom of speech and religion.
The proposed version of E-Verify is similar to ordinances passed in parts of the country that have gained a reputation for stoking the kind of anti-immigrant sentiment that is detrimental to building a healthy community. Springfield should learn from these examples and recognize that such policy divides communities, hurts local economies, and scares off businesses.
We uphold the U.S. Constitution’s clarity on immigration enforcement being handled at the federal level. We seek fair local laws and initiatives that will help build stronger, more welcoming congregations and communities in which all persons thrive.
We are dedicated to living out our faith by affirming that all people are created equally in the image of God.
Rev. John Andrews
Rev. Emily Bowen
Rev. Ellen Brantley
Rev. Dr. Carl Brown
Rev. Dr. Peter Browning
Rev. Howard Cavner
Rev. Ken Chumbley
Rev. Conni Ess
Rev. Jonathan Frazier
Rev. Laura Fregin
Rev. Dan Friberg
Rev. Steve Gardner
Rev. Janet Given
Rev. Samuel Gonzalez
Rev. Becky Hebert
Rev. Dr. David Hockensmith
Rev. Paul Hunt
Rev. Larry Maddox
Rev. Dr. Gary Metcalf
Rev. Hazael Rodriguez
Rev. Ednor Sebag
Rabbi Rita Sherwin
Rev. Diana Smith
Rev. Dr. Phil Snider
Rev. Mark Struckhoff
Rev. Dr. Mike Weinman
 Westat Audit, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce Local Issues Public Policy Task Force
 Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce Local Issues Public Policy Task Force
*Note: This letter reflects the views of the signatories, but not necessarily the institutions they represent. In other words, we are speaking for ourselves here and not for our congregations.*