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Excerpt: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday used a Bible verse to defend his department's policy of prosecuting everyone who crosses the border from Mexico, suggesting that God supports the government in separating immigrant parents from their children."

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (photo: Getty Images)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (photo: Getty Images)


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Jeff Sessions Cites Bible Passage Used to Defend Slavery in Defense of Separating Immigrant Families

By Julie Zauzmer and Keith McMillan, The Washington Post

15 June 18

 

ttorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday used a Bible verse to defend his department’s policy of prosecuting everyone who crosses the border from Mexico, suggesting that God supports the government in separating immigrant parents from their children.

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said during a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Ind. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.”

Government officials occasionally refer to the Bible as a line of argument — take, for instance, the Republicans who have quoted 2 Thessalonians (“if a man will not work, he shall not eat”) to justify more stringent food stamps requirements.

But the verse that Sessions cited, Romans 13, is an unusual choice.

“There are two dominant places in American history when Romans 13 is invoked,” said John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. “One is during the American Revolution [when] it was invoked by loyalists, those who opposed the American Revolution.”

The other, Fea said, “is in the 1840s and 1850s, when Romans 13 is invoked by defenders of the South or defenders of slavery to ward off abolitionists who believed that slavery is wrong. I mean, this is the same argument that Southern slaveholders and the advocates of a Southern way of life made.”

In May, Sessions announced a zero-tolerance policy in which the Justice Department would begin prosecuting everyone who crosses the Southwest border. Part of the policy shift meant that migrants traveling with children or unaccompanied minors end up detained instead of released; U.S. immigration law charges adults with a crime, but not the children, which means they’re held separately.

The Associated Press cited U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures from two weeks in May in which more than 650 children were separated from parents. Reports from the same month that the government lost track of 1,475 children sparked a national outcry; those reports were later disputed.

Sessions has said “we’ve got to get this message out” that asylum seekers or anyone else immigrating through unofficial means is not given immunity. He appealed to “church friends” later in Thursday’s speech in Fort Wayne, emphasizing that non-citizens who enter the United States illegally are breaking the law.

On the same issue, other religious groups and individuals have cited the Bible as well, to take the opposite side.

“Overwhelmingly, Scripture causes families to be kept together,” said Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. “Overwhelmingly Scripture causes us to defend families. As Evangelicals, we have a doctrine to be a pro-family-values people, you know. The Bible calls us to be pro-family, and I personally find it deeply lamentable that we are separating children from their parents at the border or anywhere.”

Likewise, on Thursday afternoon, the Migrants and Refugees Section at the Vatican tweeted a verse of Deuteronomy:

At a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Wednesday, the nation’s Catholic leaders strongly condemned the administration’s immigration policies as immoral, with one bishop going so far as to suggest that Catholics who help carry out the Justice Department’s policies are violating their faith and perhaps should be denied Communion.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a briefing Thursday that she hadn’t seen Sessions’s comments, but she backed his line of thinking.

“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible,” she said. “It’s a moral policy to follow and enforce the law.”

Fea, the American history professor, said that after the Civil War, historians don’t see many references to Romans 13 because the essence of the passage — submission to authority — is regarded as un-American.

“America was built and born on rebellion and a sort of radical resistance to authority,” Fea said. “Whenever Romans 13 was used in the 18th and the 19th century — and Sessions seems to be doing the same thing, so in this sense there is some continuity — it’s a way of manipulating the scriptures to justify your own political agenda.”

The chapter itself can be interpreted in varying ways.

“Romans 13 says that the purpose of government is to pursue what is good, and it says that the government should not be a terror for those who are doing good,” said Matthew Soerens, U.S. director of church mobilization for World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals.

“You cannot read Romans 13 without reading Romans 12,” Salguero said, pointing to the prior chapter, which in part suggests that love must be the guide instead of evil.

“Laws are good, and order is good, but that doesn’t mean that separating families from each other is a good law,” he said. “There are good laws, and there are bad laws, and separating families from each other is a bad policy. We’re not against the law, we’re against bad laws and bad policies.”

Besides, as Soerens points out, the person in the Bible whom Sessions referenced ran afoul of the law.

“The fact that the Apostle Paul, who wrote Romans, wrote several epistles from jail suggests that he was occasionally on the wrong side of an unjust law,” Soerens said.

The evangelical polling group Barna found that evangelical Christians’ attitudes toward immigration seem to be warming somewhat. In 2016, Barna found that 42 percent of evangelicals agreed with the statement “We allow too many immigrants into the country,” compared with 30 percent of American adults overall. By the next year, just 23 percent of adults overall and 31 percent of evangelicals agreed.


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+10 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-06-15 16:07
Phew!! When will this misfit be fired. If the media keeps up its drone attack on Sessions, he will be driven out of office. It has not worked yet against Scott Pruitt, but maybe Sessions is a lower hanging fruit because the stakes are higher and more visible.

It will be a relief to see this bigot gone.
 
 
+4 # PeacefulGarden 2018-06-15 21:56
It is just like a chess game, right? But with people who don't have a single emotion about other people. Just hanging fruit.
 
 
+2 # AldoJay69 2018-06-16 12:09
According to Tony Schwartz, who wrote The Art of the Deal for Donald Trump, Trump lacks a soul and lacks a heart and is just a void of emptiness...
 
 
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-06-17 07:43
Very likely this is true, but it is also true of many others in Trump's position. Hillary, Obama, Bush -- they all seemed voids of emptiness to me.

We have a real problem in the way our society rewards and promotes people like this. It also discourages people with real hearts and souls. I wish this could become a litmus test for every election.

Sometimes, a politician is a good faker. This was Obama's case. So it would always be hard to tell.
 
 
+3 # lfeuille 2018-06-16 00:34
Trump could override him if he was so inclined. He is doing Trumps bidding.
 
 
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-06-17 07:47
Ife -- agree and that is why he has not fired Sessions. This is Trump's policy.

But it is more than than too. Every since the early 2000s, there has been in Washington and the media a strong push to end the "catch and release" policy of ICE. Even the derogatory name shows how much of official US opinion dislikes releasing a captured suspected immigrant without proper document with only a summons to appear in court. That's how it should be done. No one should sit in pre-trial detention. They have lives to live and children to care for. But the "law and order crowd -- which includes the Clintons -- hate "catch and release."

So now we are where we are. When parents are put in jail, children are sent to foster care.
 
 
+2 # chrisconno 2018-06-16 01:55
How can the stakes be higher than global climate disruption?
Admittedly, Sessions is a pretty rotten apple and would like to annihilate non whites, but the climate could wipe us all out.
 
 
+2 # AldoJay69 2018-06-16 12:04
"Funny, he wasn't citing Romans to obey govt when the black guy was POTUS.
Also, Paul isn't Jesus.
Also, the people Paul wrote this to were the ones who eventually beheaded him.
Also, if you believe that Joseph & Mary fled & hid out in Egypt then Jesus was an undocumented child."
-John Fugelsang
Note: Don't argue the Bible with John Fugelsang!
 
 
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-06-17 07:49
Aldo -- "Also, if you believe that Joseph & Mary fled & hid out in Egypt then Jesus was an undocumented child."


yeah, and look what they did to him.
 
 
+7 # lfeuille 2018-06-16 00:32
Mr. Sessions, You are aware, aren't you, that the Bible is not the Constitution. Ever hear of "separation of church and state"? Keep you flaky religious opinions out of our government.
 
 
+7 # barbell1941 2018-06-16 08:14
Why would God's admonition to obey the laws of government not apply to Trump and his cabinet? That special place in hell Navaro refers to is really reserved for these idiots.
 
 
+4 # Kootenay Coyote 2018-06-16 08:15
St. Paul’s comment clearly presupposes good government, & thus hardly applies to the Trump Gang. & this is in the Bible too:

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing…. You shall not pervert the justice due to the poor in their lawsuits…. You shall not oppress a resident alien,; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
Exodus 23/1,2,6,9
 
 
+3 # Diane_Wilkinson_Trefethen_aka_tref 2018-06-16 12:03
My problem with so many vocal Christians is that they have no compunction about claiming that words in the Bible mean whatever they want them to mean on one issue but then they ignore those words on other issues, or worse, they claim those same words mean something else. So regarding Romans, which is it? Obey regardless of whether a law is just or unjust or obey only when YOU think a law is just?

For the record, what Sessions said about Romans 13 is not true. He said it commands us, “to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.” However, verse 1 states, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” So while Paul makes it crystal clear that the powers that be are GOD’S POWERS, Sessions misappropriates “powers that be” to mean “the government”.

If you have any doubt about what “powers that be” means, here is verse 2. “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” If Sessions’ interpretation were correct, then Paul is telling us that to disobey the LAW condemns one to damnation. Really? Disobeying a law condemns one to Hell? Every law? Even laws that prohibit discrimination against gays? Like the one that requires a baker to bake a wedding cake for all customers, not just Christian ones? Hmmm. . . why do I think not.
 

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