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Springfield, Mass., City Council Passes Order Aimed To Protect Churches Offering Sanctuary

Attendees of a City Council meeting in Springfield, Mass. stood up and applauded after approval of an order preventing the city from interfering in religious institutions that provide sanctuary to immigrants.
Sean Teehan
/
NEPR
Attendees of a City Council meeting in Springfield, Mass. stood up and applauded after approval of an order preventing the city from interfering in religious institutions that provide sanctuary to immigrants.

City councilors in Springfield, Massachusetts, passed an order Monday night that says the city will not interfere with religious institutions that provide sanctuary to immigrants.

The order was proposed after Mayor Domenic Sarno said he'd take action against South Congregational Church, which has been housing Peruvian national Gisella Collazo, who is facing deportation. Her two American-born children are also sheltering with her.

Before the unanimous vote, several councilors, including Michael Fenton, criticized Sarno for what he called, "executive over-reach.”

“That’s why we’re here,” Fenton said. “No mayor passes any edict telling any church what to do – particularly as it relates to sanctuary.”

Last week, the church passed minimum health and safety standards after Sarno sent city inspectors to the church. The mayor previously said he'd seek to revoke the church's tax-exempt status.

Before voting on the measure, councilors amended the order’s original language, so city employees will not be punished for possible violations to the order.

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