An Indianapolis church is protesting the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy by placing the Holy Family in a cage held together by chainlink fencing.
The display is situated on Christ Church Cathedral’s lawn and is facing Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis — a conspicuous location obvious to passersby.
— USA TODAY Video (@usatodayvideo) July 3, 2018
In June, President Donald Trump faced intense backlash from all sides of the political aisle — including from the largely supportive evangelical community — over an immigration policy that led to the separation of minor children from their parents, who were crossing into the U.S. illegally. As a result of the criticism, Trump signed an executive order rectifying the issue and requiring families to be housed together if they are detained.
But now the White House is taking heat for continuing the policy at all, even if families are being held together.
Speaking about his church’s display and the immigration policy that inspired it, the Rev. Curtis Lee said, “We’re hoping to draw attention to the fact that indefinite family detention is wrong, and that this holy family, this family that were refugees seeking asylum in Egypt are representative of every family in detention.”
“This Holy Family is every family and every family is holy,” he added.
— CCC Indy (@CCCathedralIndy) July 3, 2018
Some have criticized the display as theologically inaccurate while others have come to its defense.
Mary and Joseph — and Jesus, after He was born — were definitely not refugees when they were in Bethlehem because they had returned to the city for a government decreed census. But some argue they could have been refugees when they fled to Egypt, as chronicled in Matthew 2.
It's the part where Herod decrees all the male children 2 years old and under to be killed and Mary and Joseph flee with baby Jesus to Egypt that many Christians liken to the refugee crisis. (They just don't make as many statues of the Flight to Egypt.) https://t.co/VTXTEw5k9f https://t.co/XrgdaHJunD
— Emily McFarlan Miller (@emmillerwrites) July 3, 2018
Warning them of what was to come, an angel appeared to Jospeh in a dream, the passage explains, and told him, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
But according to a 2015 report from PolitiFact, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph could not accurately be considered illegal immigrants or refugees in Bethlehem or Egypt because, at the time, it — along with the rest of the places Jesus lived in during his earthly ministry — was part of the Roman Empire.
While the Herodian Kingdom was very similar to modern-day Israel and Egypt — or Aegyptus — was operated by a prefect appointed by the emperor, it was all part of the Roman Empire, so citizens could travel pretty much anywhere without any major restrictions, as long as their taxes were paid.
“Joseph had to be cautious, but the caution had nothing to do with immigration status,” Charles Cochran, senior pastor at First Christian Church in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, told PolitiFact. “It was much more like sneaking across the Georgia-Alabama line than across the Rio Grande.”
Ultimately, the fact-checking site ruled the claim that Jesus was a refugee or an illegal immigrant, in its modern context, to be “false.”