Pastor Ballinger gave a heartfelt testimony at today’s House hearing for legislation that would restore access to a driver’s license for all Minnesotans, regardless of their immigration status.  The testimony received rousing applause from both those in the hearing room and in the overflow.

His words are transcribed below:

“Good morning. I am the Rev. Oby Ballinger. I serve as pastor of Edina Morningside Community Church, a congregation of the United Church of Christ in Edina. In my ministry I have seen the grief and loss caused when a driver’s license is taken away. Without a license, one person has to settle for the minimum wage job that’s within walking distance. Another has lost the freedom to attend worship or get groceries independently. Children become chaperones as their parents talk about the loss of dignity that comes without a license. None of these people are new to Minnesota, but theirs is the experience of any immigrant who was here when drivers’ licenses were taken away, causing untold grief, job-loss, and harm to human decency.

We start worship every Sunday by saying, “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” We do so not because it’s a politically-correct, warm-and-fuzzy thing to say. We do so because the God we follow and serve has made all people welcome, has made us welcome, and has called us to offer that welcome to every person in Christ’s name. Like Jesus, we believe each person is made in the image of God with creativity, purpose and joy, regardless of what they look like, where they were born, or what boundaries they have crossed or stayed inside. Indeed, our Savior broke laws and fearful customs that denied God’s image in others by denying them health, dignity and safety. He healed on the Sabbath, ate with the disrespected, spoke with outcasts and caring for those who were not like him. Christ taught us that the greatest commandment—the purpose of all the other laws—is to love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.

It is past time to restore the right to drive to immigrants who bear the image of God just as you and I do. The current law must change, so that the higher law of honoring God’s image in each person can be fulfilled. “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” God has made it so; let us follow. Thank you.”