Springfield city councilors announce plan supporting church sanctuary

Western Mass News Photo

Springfield City Councilors announced the steps they're taking to try and block the mayor's actions after a Peruvian woman and her children are taking sanctuary inside a church.

The council will be voting on an order next week which calls on city employees to not interfere with activity at the South Congregational Church.

That action directly contradicts the mayor's orders.

"This is a melting pot of western Massachusetts and for the mayor to attack a defenseless woman is so disrespectful, it's shameful," said Springfield City Councilor Adam Gomez.

On Monday, Gisela Collazo and her two children took sanctuary in the South Congregational Church.

[READ MORE: Woman from Peru seeks sanctuary at Springfield church]

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has ordered city departments to inspect the church property, seek out any code violations, and begin challenging the church's tax-exempt status.

Some city councilors announced their plan to oppose what the mayor is doing.

"The purpose is to remind the cities. One of the essential freedoms of this state, and this country, is the right of religious freedom," said Timothy Ryan, Springfield City Councilor At-Large.

Collazo and her two children have remained at the church since Monday. She can not leave the space and is wearing an ankle bracelet.

Councilors said that what the mayor is doing is wrong.

"No matter where one stands on immigration, it's not appropriate, respectful, or constitutional to threaten a well established religious institution in our community," said Springfield City Councilor Jesse Lederman.

Meanwhile, the pastor of the South Congregational Church said he is afraid for the soul of Mayor Sarno.

Mayor Sarno released a statement that read in part: First of all, like many others, I fully believe in and support legal immigration. Again, our city's stance is based on the law and local, state and federal regulations and statutes on public health, safety, housing and property tax assessment. The controversy in Springfield contrasts with the open arms that greeted another immigrant Lucio Perez who has sought sanctuary in an Amherst church.

Last May, Amherst adopted the sanctuary community by law aimed at offering protection to undocumented immigrants.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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