We already knew Attorney General Jeff Sessions was condemned by leaders of his own religion, the United Methodist Church, for separating immigrant children from their families at the Mexican border.
Now those leaders have brought charges against him under church law.
More than 600 United Methodists, including members of the clergy, are accusing Sessions of violating a specific statute of the sect’s Book of Discipline. Most notably, the charges include allegations of child abuse for his handling of kids who are brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents as well as racism.
The group claimed in a June 18 statement that Sessions, a member of a Mobile, Alabama, church, violated Paragraph 2702.3 of the denomination’s Book of Discipline.
Specifically, the group accuses him of child abuse in reference to separating young children from their parents and holding them in mass incarceration facilities; immorality; racial discrimination and “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrines” of The United Methodist Church.
All are categories listed in 2702.3 as chargeable offenses for a professing member of a local church.
It’s a pretty unprecedented move, especially considering churches are generally known for protecting their members from charges of abuse. This Christian denomination, however, decided there were extenuating circumstances since Sessions tried using the Bible to justify the cruel policy.
“I really never would have thought I’d be working on charges against anybody in the Methodist connection, much less a lay person,” said the Rev. David Wright, a Pacific Northwest Conference elder and chaplain at the University of Puget Sound in Washington State, and organizer of the effort to charge Sessions.
But Wright said the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy as enforced by Sessions, combined with Sessions’ use of Romans 13 to justify the policy, led him and others to conclude that more than a statement of protest was needed.
Sessions did not immediately respond to a request for comment left with his press office. In recent speeches, he has said the zero tolerance policy on [illegal] immigration is in the national interest and will protect children by discouraging immigrant parents from taking them on dangerous journeys to cross into the U.S.
While church charges like this against lay members have historically not gone very far, it’s important that leaders of Sessions’ own religion are standing up to him and protesting. The people who actually understand his interpretation of the Bible better than he does are saying he’s both wrong and cruel.
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