8 December 2019 | On December 5, far-right publication Breitbart News reported that a guest speaker at Adventist-owned Andrews University had recently told students their churches should protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. According to Breitbart, he told students at the Berrien Springs, Michigan-based school they should be hiding them in their churches.

Referencing a report by right-leaning publication Campus Reform, the controversial platform claimed guest speaker James Standish, former communications director for the South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists, even compared ICE deportations to conditions under the Nazi regime in Germany.

“In the law, there is a doctrine called equitable estoppel. Equitable estoppel means that you can’t watch somebody invest and build something and wait until they built it, knowing they exist and they come in and take it away from them,” Breitbart reported Standish as saying in reference to the forceful removal of undocumented immigrants.

Breitbart reported that Standish told students ICE policy allegedly prevents raids of religious buildings.

“This is my challenge to you: why not open your church as a sanctuary? Why not say to people that have good reason to be afraid, ‘If you are afraid, come and live in our church? We will turn our sanctuary into a real sanctuary,” Standish said. “Enough with the blah blah blah; people are being hurt right now across this country. Many of them are our brothers and our sisters. And we stand by with our churches empty…”

Independent Adventist publication, The Compass Magazine, provided more context on the October 17 Standish presentation. Although his call to shelter undocumented immigrants in Adventist churches was echoed by Compass, the publication’s report shows that Standish also addressed abortion and education, as well as what he portrayed as a greater need for Christians to be active in the field of public policy.

The original article in the conservative Campus Reform publication referenced by Breitbart was written by Andrews Political Science major Jonathan McCormick, who made mention of the fact that the speech was made at a University Forum meeting. While attendance at the speech was not mandatory, students are required to attend a certain number of the forums each semester. His piece also contains video of the original speech.

In addition, McCormick’s article contains a statement to Campus Reform from Andrews University, clarifying that the institution “invites guests from a variety of viewpoints to present to its student body, at times addressing issues on which the University may not have taken an official position.”

The statement added that the institution used its Forum series to help students “develop critical thinking skills and to hone their perspectives on contemporary issues in the light of their personal faith and/or values.”

Andrews University is an Adventist university located in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Founded in 1874 as Battle Creek College, it was the first higher education facility started by the denomination and is widely recognized as the flagship university of the church. It has over 3,000 students on campus. The institution offers approximately 130 undergraduate programs and 70 graduate programs.

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