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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Cited The Bible To Defend Separating Families At The Border

The Trump administration continues to face backlash for its recently-implemented “zero-tolerance” immigration policy — which prosecutes everyone who crosses the border from Mexico, resulting in hundreds of children being detained alone — and Attorney General Jeff Session’s defense of the policy on Thursday certainly didn’t help. 

“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 in Indiana. “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.”

According to the Washington Post, Sessions also appealed to “church friends” in his speech, “emphasizing that non-citizens who enter the United States illegally are breaking the law.”

Religious groups and leaders around the globe have since condemned Sessions’ comments. 

“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,” the Post reported. 

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, also issued a statement: “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. Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. 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. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

The specific verse Sessions cited has drawn criticism in itself. According to John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, “There are two dominant places in American history when Romans 13 is invoked,” — during the American Revolution and in the 1840s and 1850s by defenders of slavery.

Fea told the Post, “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.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders ended up doubling down on Sessions’ use of the bible to justify the administration’s immigration policies. CNN’s Jim Acosta asked Sanders if separating children from parents is rooted in the Bible, and Sanders replied, “It is very biblical to enforce the law, that is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.”

The back-and-forth between the two continued. 

“Can you imagine the horror these kids must be going through when they come across the border?” Acosta asked. “They’re with their parents and they’re suddenly pulled away from their parents ― why is the government doing this?”

“Because it’s the law and that’s what the law states,” Sanders responded.

Acosta said that it doesn’t have to be the law. “You don’t have to do that.”

Another reporter, Brian Karem, also pressed Sanders on the matter. “You’re a parent, don’t you have any empathy?” Karem asked. “Come on, Sarah, you’re a parent. Don’t you have any empathy for what these people are going through? They have less than you do. Seriously, Sarah, seriously. These people have nothing.”

Sanders dismissed Karem as simply looking for “more TV time.” 

Follow Allison on Twitter @AllisonMCrist.