Written by Don Byrd

Springfield, Massachusetts Mayor Domenic Sarno raised eyebrows when he suggested a local congregation should lose their tax-exempt status for providing sanctuary to a mother and her two children who are facing deportation back to Peru. Sarno added that local officials “would not stand for harboring and protecting immigrants.” In response, however, the city council voted unanimously in an attempt to protect the church, and calling on the mayor to “walk back” those statements about the church’s tax-exempt status.

The Boston Globe reports:

In a packed City Hall chamber, several councilors evoked Martin Luther King Jr. and quoted Bible passages in voicing support for the measure. Timothy Ryan, among the sponsors of the resolution, said churches that provide sanctuary to unauthorized immigrants are “fulfilling their religious mission.”

“It’s so fundamental, and what they have done by coming together in providing sanctuary for this unfortunate young lady is 100 percent within their religious views, within their religious mission.”

Gisella Collazo and her two children sought refuge inside the South Congregational Church after being told by immigration officials to return to Peru on March 26, according to the Globe report. The resolution prohibits city officials from “interfering with the religious freedoms of churches.”