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Author of Protestant Reformation invoked by Lutheran activists at local immigration protest

Hundreds of members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) became the latest religious group to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policies on August 7. They marched to the offices of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in downtown Milwaukee.

The rally took place on the same day the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America declared itself a “sanctuary church body,” signaling its support for immigrants. The ELCA has been holding its annual Churchwide Assembly at the Wisconsin Center this week. The Lutheran group borrowed from religious reformer Martin Luther. In 1517, he attached 95 theses containing his religious questions and proposals to the door of a German church. At the protest on August 7, ELCA members read nine pro-immigration theses outside the ICE office. Retired Milwaukee Rev. Dennis Jacobsen read the first thesis.

“When our Lord Jesus Christ said repent, he willed the entire life of believers to be repentance. We repent, of our silence, indifference, and our lack of courage, as our nation separates immigrant families, inflicts misery on migrant children and turns away refugees,” Jacobsen said.

The crowd responded to Jacobsen, and the other theses readers, by paraphrasing one of Luther’s famous statements. They shouted, “Here we stand! So help us God!”

The Lutheran activists taped the immigration theses to the front door. But a security guard quickly took down the sheets of paper, saying it was federal property. Elizabeth Eaton, the newly re-elected Presiding Bishop of ELCA, said that the connection to Martin Luther’s actions is strong.

“Luther wanted to make it clear there is no barrier, no boundary between the believer and between God, and nothing should stand in the way. And in the same way, there should be no boundary between those who are seeking freedom and opportunity and safety … Luther tried to break down walls. We’re trying to do the same thing,” Eaton said.

President Trump has continued to call for an expanded border wall between the U.S. and Mexico to deter illegal immigration. Also on August 7, immigration officials raided numerous food processing plants in Mississippi, arresting 680 workers, most of them Latino. It was the largest workplace immigration action in at least a decade.

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