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.
Unbelievably the Bible is now being cited to justify this policy of separating kids from parents. This is a policy change this Administration put in place that is cruel and inhumane. Where are Republican voices in opposition? You own this. https://t.co/6eWh5zsWfX— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) June 14, 2018
I guess Sessions forgot about the Gospels part of the Bible. Matthew 25:35 says “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me”.— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) June 14, 2018
Nothing in the Bible says to separate kids from parents. It teaches the opposite. https://t.co/gP5QfRtWuK
Dear Jeff Sessions, are you aware that the argument you made today from Romans 13 was a central argument of the German Christian (Pro-Nazi) movement over and against the Confessing Church? Im not saying you are a Nazi, but you’re interpreting the Bible like one.— frsimmons (@frsimmons) June 15, 2018
If only everyone who claimed Christ acted like Him. https://t.co/F4CmGkV3T3— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) June 15, 2018
This is who they are. Who they’ve been. Who they be.— Greg Carr (@AfricanaCarr) June 15, 2018
We’ve been clear for centuries in this regard.
Attorney General blaming his god for his hate.
Propaganda Minister sneering.
While #MAGA fans cheer
And children don red hats to tour their capitol.
They won’t stop.
Will we act?
Dear Christians who are rightfully upset about your holy book being distorted to justify crimes against humanity. We feel you.— Aisha Sultan (@AishaS) June 14, 2018
— Muslims #Bible
This biblical passage was used by the Dutch Refomed Church in Apartheid South Africa. It was also used by some Christian denominations in Nazi Germany to justify accommodation with the Third Reich. https://t.co/gqFw90mneB— Liam Hogan (@Limerick1914) June 14, 2018
This is a reminder that mass incarceration and money bail separate parents and children in the U.S. every day.— Tananarive Due (@TananariveDue) June 14, 2018
if the brownsville children’s prison is shocking to you, not-friendly reminder that give or take 60,000 kids are incarcerated in juvenile jails and prisons every day in the US. in michigan, black kids are held hostage at a ratio of 4.2 to 1.— jonjon moore (@hoodqueer) June 14, 2018
Sessions’ comments are anathema to any person of faith. And those politicians & clergy who support him & this policy are accessories to these immoral crimes against children, families & humanity.— Rev. Dr. Barber (@RevDrBarber) June 15, 2018