On June 14, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, while speaking to a gathering of law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Indiana, defended the Trump administration’s practice of separating immigrant children from their families with a Bible verse frequently used to justify enslaving Black people in America.

Per The Washington Post:

“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.”


“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.”

The speech sparked backlash online, as people pointed out the hypocrisy of using religion to punish people, discussed other times this passage has been used to justify dangerous discrimination and debasement, and drew parallels between the nation’s border policy and the carceral system that disproportionately locks up Black, Latinx and Native American children.