Opponents of Arizona’s new immigration law have been praying for its reversal in court. The Wall Street Journal today has a photo of parishioners sitting outdoors on folding chairs at a prayer session for the demise of the law, which asks local police officers to verify the immigration status of individuals they have lawfully stopped if the officer has reasonable suspicion that the person stopped is in the country illegally. Church coalitions throughout the country have been urging God as well as politicians for help in dismantling SB 1070.
If the federal judge now hearing challenges to SB 1070 from the federal government and various advocacy groups overturns key portions of it, all those who have been praying for judicial nullification will claim divine vindication. How will Glenn Beck, who regularly advises his radio listeners to pray, Sarah Palin, Mark Levin, Newt Gingrich, and every other conservative figurehead or foot soldier who views belief in God as a central component of conservative identity and who supports stronger immigration enforcement respond? Did God in fact answer the prayers of SB 1070 opponents? And if so, why? Because the opponents were more organized in sending their prayer packets to the great pollster in the sky or because God agreed with them on the merits?
Or will the conservative believers suddenly incline towards skepticism? Might they ask such questions as: How do we know that God influenced the judge’s ruling and that it wouldn’t have happened anyway? Where is the control group of judges whose decisions were not prayed about–how did they rule? And what about those other judicial rulings that have upheld Arizona’s other immigration laws—requiring verification of citizenship status to vote, for example, or requiring employers to verify the legal immigration status of their workers—why did God allow those laws to stand and not this one?
More likely, however, religion-promoting immigration restrictionists will not allow such potential complications to cross their minds at all, and will simply go on to the next issue.
Of course, if U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton upholds SB 1070, the conservative prayer advocates will appreciate God’s understanding of illegal immigration while the law’s religious opponents will, in theory only, face their own theological conundrums.