Welcoming the stranger: South Dakota religious leaders denounce Governor Kristi Noem’s anti-immigrant statements
SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) – Two religious leaders in South Dakota sent a letter to Governor Kristi Noem, criticizing her refusal to allow the settlement of migrant children in South Dakota.
This refusal was most publicly exposed in the form of a tweet written by Noem, stating “My message to illegal immigrants … call me when you are American”.
In the letter sent Thursday, co-signed by Bishop Constanze Hagmaier of the ELCA Synod of South Dakota and Bishop Jonathan Folts of the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota, the pair warned the Governor, saying his “ stern rebuke ” of the proposal de Biden “ is not in accordance with Christ’s command. ‘
The letter goes on to urge Noem to engage in healthy public discourse with the Biden administration, with the congressional delegation from South Dakota. The bishops also invite Noem to join them and other members of the clergy for a conversation on how to seek a resolution to the migration crisis. So far, the bishops have received no response.
KELOLAND News spoke with Bishop Hagmaier and Foltz on Friday about their letter, and they said the main message needed is acceptance.
Asked about their reasoning for expressing themselves politically as religious figures, the two bishops indicated that this question goes beyond simple political differences.
“Because we are Christians and we live in this world,” says Hagmaier, “we are part of this world, but we also receive what we call our vocation and our calling. Our call and our vocation come from God. It is something given to us, and we are given a voice and we have to use that voice to speak on behalf of God and our neighbors.
Bishop Folts also invoked the idea of the neighbor.
“Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, and of course where that story came from is when the person asked Jesus, ‘Well, who is my neighbor? Who am I responsible for? He said. “Based on the governor’s statement, especially her most recent statement of, ‘When you’re American, call me,’ she would define my neighbor as American, and I would say Jesus had a concept of neighbor a lot. broader than just nationality. “
Folts also agrees that Jesus himself was notably not an American.
When asked about the likelihood of having a conversation with the governor, the two stuck a positive, albeit realistic, note. “We can always hope,” said Hagmaier ironically. Folts for his part, elaborated a little more.
“No answer is always an answer,” he said. “Even if a response is silence or no response, it is still a response, so we hope to receive a verbal or written response, some kind of reaction, but so is silence.”
Given Noem’s very public adoption of Christianity, looking at some of Noem’s policies and statements relating to marginalized communities such as the LBBTQIA +, Hagmaier says this is not the first time the religious community has felt the need. to reach out to the governor because of his actions.
The bishops end the letter with a passage from Leviticus, writing: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you will not oppress the stranger. The stranger who resides with you will be the citizen among you; you shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
KELOLAND News has contacted the governor’s office for comment on this letter, but we have not received a response.
The invitation of the bishops to dialogue with the governor remains open.