This week, the Boston Globe published an article titled “Congregations in Mass. Preparing to Shelter Immigrants.” It describes efforts by local churches and synagogues to frustrate Trump administration efforts to enforce immigration law. According to a member of a prominent synagogue quoted in the story: “’We’re going to do what we do in a way that really has a chance of making it a public moral issue that cannot be dismissed…. Religious institutions are in a good position to do that.’”

It’s not surprising that houses of worship would wish to provide assistance to the newly arrived. The Judeo-Christian tradition places great significance on charity. However, the title of the Globe’s piece is misleading. “Immigrant” is a legal term, defined in statute. It refers to a foreign national coming to the United States with the intention, and legal authorization, to reside here permanently.

However, the congregations in Massachusetts aren’t preparing to shelter immigrants, they’re planning to harbor illegal aliens.  Where, exactly, is the public moral issue with deporting non-citizens who have broken the law? The Globe fails to make that clear. But the religious leaders referenced in its article seem to imply that deporting anyone, for any reason, is wrong.

That is a problematic assertion. It absolves foreigners of all moral and legal responsibility for their actions. Those unlawfully present in the United States have made a conscious choice to disregard all of the relevant legal requirements. Americans call that lawbreaking and, until recently, most theologically inclined organizations tended to frown on such lawless behavior, as it tends to lead to sin.

It’s also an assertion that rests on a fundamentally flawed premise. How many times have we heard alien advocates saying, “It’s an injustice to deport that family. Sure they’re illegal but they’ve been here for 20 years.”? In other words, we should reward those lawbreakers who successfully avoid detection for a significant amount of time. But that’s an absurd contention. It’s not an accepted defense in any other area of law and clerical leaders would never accept it as an excuse for sin.

Finally, those who would shield lawbreakers in temples abuse the privileged place that religious institutions occupy in the American Constitutional framework. Under the First Amendment, religious organizations are free from most forms of government regulation. As such, American law enforcement considers houses of worship to be “sensitive areas.” While not prohibited from enforcing laws on consecrated ground, policing agencies take great care to fulfill their duties without disrupting spiritual ministries. Churches and synagogues serving as “shelters” for illegal aliens evading deportation are simply exploiting their special status to provide a veneer of legitimacy to an utterly spurious argument.

Charles Baudelaire once said that “The devil’s finest trick was persuading man that he didn’t exist.” But the open borders lobby may have trumped Lucifer. They seem to have persuaded churches and synagogues that breaking immigration law is a blameless sin of omission. And in the process, they have made the very institutions that should serve as moral pillars in our communities into advocates for lawlessness.