Attorney General Jeff Sessions is facing massive backlash after citing a Bible verse in his defense of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. The policy has come under increased scrutiny this week as immigration officials attempt to deport undocumented illegals back to their country of origin.
Heartbreaking stories have emerged of children being separated from their families as the strict rules are enforced by authorities. Attorney General Sessions, the man with jurisdiction over the implementing of such controversial policy, has come under fire for citing scripture in an attempt to justify the action.
“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 them for the purpose of order,” Sessions said at a press conference Thursday in Fort Wayne, Indiana, according to SFGate. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”
Last month, the attorney general proposed the new “zero tolerance” policy that requires the immediate prosecution of any adult who enters the country illegally.
The passage of scripture referred to by Sessions is titled “Submission to Governing Authorities” and reads as follows:
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was quizzed about Sessions’ controversial remarks in a press briefing Thursday but refused to address his specific comments. She did, however, offer her own view on the issue.
“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law,” she noted. “That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible. It’s a moral policy to follow and enforce the law.”
“The separation of illegal alien families is the product of the same legal loopholes that Democrats refuse to close, and these laws are the same that have been on the books for over a decade, and the president is simply enforcing them,” she added. “We don’t want this to be a problem.”
Many reacted with outrage at the comments coming out of the Trump administration.
“The Bible I read talks about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. About showing compassion and loving your neighbor as – gasp! – yourself,” wrote Laurie Roberts at Arizona Central. “When we are willing to stand by and allow our government to separate innocent babies from their immigrant parents. When we stand by in silence as government officials bleat on and use the Bible as justification for this immoral act. That’s just vile.”
Krish Kandiah, the founder of Christian fostering and adoption agency “Home for Good,” also reacted with bewilderment at the latest comments from the senior Trump officials.
Dear Mr Sessions with all due respect please read your Bible before telling the world what it doesn't say. pic.twitter.com/lYbhcPtrXR
— krish kandiah (@krishk) June 14, 2018
“Dear Press Secretary Sanders I would love the opportunity to help you think through a biblical response to this issue. Christians are encouraged to resist unjust laws in order to serve Christ,” he noted in another tweet.
Others reacted with even stronger words.
“Note to Sarah Sanders and Jeff Sessions: If you are citing the Bible to justify torturing migrant children, consider the possibility that religion has not been a positive influence on your morals,” writer Matthew Chapman posted on Twitter.
Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of late evangelist Billy Graham, also lamented the awful scenes of children being torn away from their mothers at immigration holding centers across the country.
“It’s disgraceful. It’s terrible to see families ripped apart and I don’t support that one bit,” he told CBN News Tuesday.
But instead of criticizing President Trump himself, Graham highlighted the failure of previous administrations to adequately deal with the issue of immigration in a wise and constructive manner.
“I blame politicians for the last 20, 30 years that have allowed this to escalate to the point where it is today,” he said.
The U.S. director of church mobilization for World Relief, Matt Soerens, added that he was grateful for Graham’s comments on the Trump administration’s policy.
“His voice carries a lot of weight for the many Americans who admire him and his ministry, so I’m hopeful it might help compel our elected officials to resolve this situation,” he said.
Sessions, however, has made it clear that the criminal law regarding the illegal entry to the United States cannot be mitigated simply because parents have a child with them.
“If you bring a child, it is still an unlawful act,” he said in a speech in Montana last month. “You don’t get immunity if you bring a child with you. We cannot have open borders for adults with children.”
Many politicians from both sides of the aisle have spoken out against the “zero tolerance” policy, though others insist that upholding the rule of law should be of paramount concern to the government. One of those is Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, who tweeted a video of himself discussing the issue with a constituent.
“Typically, if you take any American, if they are picked up and they have a child with them and they have committed a crime, no matter what that crime is, the parents are separated from the kids,” he said during the recorded phone conversation. “With people that are coming in that don’t have legal status in the United States, if there are multiple entries especially, that’s not a misdemeanor anymore, that’s a felony. So they are going to be separated from their kids as they go through processing.”
“What I’m making a request to the White House on is that we keep families together as much as we can possibly keep them together and for as long as we can keep them together,” he concluded.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also condemned the policy Wednesday.
“Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma,” the group stated, according to the BBC. “While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety.”