Donald Trump, the billionaire real estate tycoon and frontrunner for the Republican nomination for the US Presidency, continues to make headlines for his extreme views on US immigration policy. His campaign has involved numerous attacks both on Muslims and Mexicans. This is despite needing illegal immigrant Mexicans to work at Trump construction sites and needing financial support from rich muslims. He has even criticized Pope Francis' visit to Mexico last week saying that 'he [the Pope] doesn't understand the Mexico-US immigration situation.'
The Pope suggested that Trump is 'not a good Christian' after he promised that a border wall would be built to stop Mexicans entering the US. It would appear that Trump's own Christian denomination, the Presbyterian Church is more in agreement with the Pope's view on immigration. The real estate magnate has been heavily criticised by the Presbyterian Church leadership.
Trump's anti-immigration views out of line with Christian teachings
The Presbyterian Church (USA), into which Trump was baptized as a child, says that his hardline stance on US immigration is 'out of line with its teachings.' The most senior elected official of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Gradye Parsons said: "The Bible is clear, followers of the faith have to care for the needy."
During an interview with The Guardian newspaper, Parsons said that Donald Trump's views concerning US immigration are not in keeping with the church's policies and do not hold true in terms of its values.
Presbyterian Church USA votes in favour of US immigration reform
Parsons told The Guardian that the Presbyterian Church had voted 'several times' in its national assemblies in favour of comprehensive US immigration reform and had been doing so since the 1990s. Comprehensive US immigration reform would provide a route to legal status for the 11 million undocumented migrants currently residing in the US.
The Church's policy is in contrast to Trump's views - he is said to want to deport all undocumented migrants. However, a recent opinion piece published on Newsweek online suggests that Trump would deport undocumented migrants only to allow most of them back in legally; apart from those with criminal records.
Indeed, Donald Trump's son, Eric, said: "The point isn't just deporting them, it's deporting them and letting them back in legally. He's been so clear about that and I know the liberal media wants to misconstrue it, but it is deporting them and letting them back legally."
The Church said that its own policy is to actively encourage US immigration reform. Parsons said that 'the founding narrative of Christianity points to a clear commitment to helping those in need whether it be widows, orphans, the oppressed or the alien.'
"The Bible shows that God wants us to step in on behalf of the stranger. Jesus himself, along with parents, Mary and Joseph, had to flee their homeland for the sake of their lives when he was born. There are plenty of parallels," Parsons said.
Public Disagreement between Pope and Trump on Immigration
Last week, Trump ruffled the feathers of the religious community by getting into a very public spat with Pope Francis. The Pope, although he didn't mention Trump by name, made a very clear reference to the Republican Presidential candidacy frontrunner at the end of his visit to Mexico.
The pontiff said: "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian." However, the Vatican quickly moved to appease the situation by stating that the Pope's remarks were not meant as a 'personal attack.' Yet, the Pope's comments didn't seem to faze Trump who described them as 'beautiful.'
Trump's antics when it comes to US immigration policy may lose him support amongst the religious Republican supporters. The issue holds more significance as the Republican primary race, in which Trump holds favourable poll ratings in comparison to nearest rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, heads to the deep south in coming weeks, where conservative evangelical Christians have a lot of influence.
Trump member of the Presbyterian Church
As a child, Donald Trump was confirmed at the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica in the New York Borough of Queens. He is understood to now worship at the Marble Collegiate church in Manhattan, which is part of the Reformed Church in America denomination.
Parsons, who is often referred to as the 'stated clerk', which in the Presbyterian tradition means that he's the Presbytery's chief ecclesiastical administrator, for the 1.6 million members of the US Presbyterian Church, said that he didn't hold the Pope's view that Trump is 'not a Christian' because of his view on US immigration.
However, he did add that biblical mandates are of great significance and how people care for the oppressed and the alien represents a marker for whether a person is following their faith.