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O.C. pastor: Immigration debate boils down to loving thy neighbor

Dave Gibbons is among the Orange County evangelical leaders  pushing for immigration reform. He wants the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally to be treated according to Christian principles.

Loving thy neighbor doesn’t just mean loving the person who lives next door in a nice suburban house, Gibbons said. It also means loving people who are not like you.

“If you can’t love your neighbor, how can you love God?” said Gibbons, senior pastor of Newsong Church in Irvine.

Gibbons spoke Thursday at Friends Church in Yorba Linda. The event was sponsored by the Bible, Business and Badges coalition, which supports the bipartisan immigration bill being debated in the Senate.

Also Thursday, the Evangelical Immigration Table announced a national media campaign in support of the Senate bill, including advertisements on Christian radio and billboards near congressional offices.

For the first time, some evangelical churches have united around an immigration reform agenda, becoming an influential voice in the national discussion. The pastors at the Yorba Linda event described their support for a path to citizenship as a natural outgrowth of their religious beliefs.

Skip Lanfried, a pastor at Friends Church, said his congregation has long worked on behalf of India’s “untouchable” caste. Immigrants in the United States illegally are also voiceless people who need to be given a voice, he said.

“We’re concerned about justice, human trafficking, poverty, standing with those who can’t stand for themselves,” Lanfried said.

The attendees, many of whom were religious leaders, left with cards urging them to “Pray 4 Reform.” Participants receive an email or text containing a weekly prayer for immigration reform.

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Twitter: @cindychangLA

cindy.chang@latimes.com

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