Arizona Campsite Arrests Blasted
A group of Arizona church leaders called on religious officials across the state Tuesday (April 15) to band together and stand up to what it said has been racial and religious persecution of the Latino community stemming from arrests made at a Prescott, Ariz., campground.
The press conference Tuesday stemmed from an incident April 12 when 12 males, including an 11-year-old, from the Christian church Christiana Agape were detained at the White Spar Family Campground in Prescott.
The group of 35 church pastors and leaders accused Arizona law-enforcement officials of racial and religious persecution after members of a Valley church were subsequently detained in Prescott over the weekend, resulting in the deportation of seven men, according to The Arizona Republic.
The coalition, the Alliance of Religious Leaders, claimed in a press conference that the men were targeted because of their skin color.
"Every leader of every faith in our community, in this state, needs to speak out at this time," said Juan Ricardo Aguero, a pastor and a member of the alliance.
The church leaders said they feared for their congregations. Many churchgoers happen to be undocumented immigrants, the group said. By targeting the immigrants, officials are violating the constitutional freedom of religion, the group said.
Aguero said if religious leaders do not speak out and allow their congregations to be "hunted down" by law enforcement, the concept of religious freedom would be lost. Aguero even alluded to Nazi Germany in describing the current plight of the Latino community.
Regarding the campground incident, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Department said its deputies were responding to a noise complaint and initially thought nine of the men were undocumented after asking for identification. Representatives of the church group said the men were not causing a disturbance.
Seven of the men have voluntarily returned to Mexico, officials said, and authorities released another man after learning that he was in the country legally. The ninth man, the church's pastor, was still in custody. His legal status was to be challenged in court. The remaining men in the group were released at the campsite.