I think that the press, and bloggers, sometimes misunderstand the power of people like Richard Land, an SBC leader. Today, according to the Hill, he joined Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina (and John McCain supporter) to help introduce a bill on comprehensive immigration reform:
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) joined a group of Democratic senators and evangelical leaders in calling for action on so-called comprehensive immigration reform.
The lawmakers were also flanked by a group of Hispanic evangelical leaders and Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Church.
Now, Hispanic Evangelical leaders shouldn’t be surprising, although, I should point out that they are probably Republican. Richard Land is the one that I want readers to think about.
He is considered a conservative leader. This probably tells us that the SBC will have, at least, a positive stance towards comprehensive immigration reform. Will they say that much about it? Probably not, and few churches are likely to mobilize over it. (although, speaking as the chairman of the Missions Board at my baptist church, some pastors and lay leaders are acutely aware of some of this because it may impact the legality of some of our programs)
Will this protect candidates like John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, and Sam Brownback from conservative criticism? My gut is, probably not. A leading Member of Congress on this issue even told me that social conservatives consider immigration reform to be as much a danger to the country as gay marriage. I told him he was over stating it.
However, will this help with outreach to social conservatives and religious voters? Maybe. Marc Ambinder at the Hotline wrote an interesting post on this question.