Lutheran Activists Borrow From Martin Luther, Protest Immigration Policies In Milwaukee

Aug 7, 2019

On Wednesday, hundreds of members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) became the latest religious group to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policies. They marched to the offices of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in downtown Milwaukee. 

The ELCA is holding its annual Churchwide Assembly at the Wisconsin Center this week.

The Lutheran group borrowed from religious reformer Martin Luther. In 1517, he attached 95 theses containing his religious questions and proposals to the door of a German church.

At Wednesday's protest, ELCA members read nine pro-immigration theses outside the ICE office. Retired Milwaukee Rev. Dennis Jacobsen read the first thesis.

READ: Milwaukee Jewish Community Leads Protest Over The Detention Of Immigrants

"When our Lord Jesus Christ said repent, he willed the entire life of believers to be repentance. We repent, of our silence, indifference, and our lack of courage, as our nation separates immigrant families, inflicts misery on migrant children and turns away refugees,” Jacobsen said.

ELCA members march toward the ICE office on E. Knapp Street in Milwaukee.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

The crowd responded to Jacobsen, and the other theses readers, by paraphrasing one of Luther's famous statements.  They shouted, "Here we stand! So help us God!"

The Lutheran activists taped the immigration theses to the front door. But a security guard quickly took down the sheets of paper, saying it was federal property.

A federal security guard removes pro-immigration theses, shortly after they were taped to the front door of the ICE office.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

Elizabeth Eaton is the newly re-elected Presiding Bishop of ELCA. She says that the connection to Martin Luther's actions is strong.

"Luther tried to break down walls. We're trying to do the same thing." - Elizabeth Eaton

"Luther wanted to make it clear there is no barrier, no boundary between the believer and between God, and nothing should stand in the way. And in the same way, there should be no boundary between those who are seeking freedom and opportunity and safety ... Luther tried to break down walls. We're trying to do the same thing," Eaton said.

President Trump continues to call for an expanded wall between the U.S. and Mexico to deter illegal immigration. The Associated Press reports that on Wednesday, immigration officials raided numerous food processing plants in Mississippi, arresting 680 workers, most of them Latino. The AP reports it's the largest workplace immigration action in at least a decade.