U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited the Bible in defense of the Department of Justice’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that has resulted in the separation of thousands of families along the southern border.
“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 in a speech Thursday. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent, fair application of law is in itself a good and moral thing and that protects the weak, it protects the lawful. Our policies that can result in short-term separation of families are not unusual or unjustified.”
The verse –“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.” — is infamous for its origins as a popular defense of slavery, authoritarian rule in Nazi Germany, and South African apartheid.
Sessions’ biblical defense of the draconian immigration policy comes after multiple faith groups and leaders have spoken out against the separation of families.
The Migrants and Refugees Section at the Vatican cited a verse from the book of Deuteronomy to take the opposite side.
“The Bible teaches that God ‘loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt’ (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).” Pope Francis pic.twitter.com/Yt8i7b39VN
— Migrants & Refugees (@M_RSection) June 14, 2018
“Overwhelmingly, Scripture causes families to be kept together,” Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition told the Washington Post. “Overwhelmingly Scripture causes us to defend families. As Evangelicals, we have a doctrine to be a pro-family-values people, you know. The Bible calls us to be pro-family, and I personally find it deeply lamentable that we are separating children from their parents at the border or anywhere.”
In a statement to CNN, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the organization, said, “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.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered a similar defense of family separation at the press briefing Thursday afternoon without all the chapter-and-verse.
“It’s very biblical to enforce the law,” she said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan received praise from the media for “breaking with Trump” on the family separation policy. He stated on Thursday that he doesn’t “want kids to be separated from their parents” and wants the practice to stop through legislation. The “compromise” bill Ryan is proposing in the House is being marketed by Republicans as a way to prevent family separation at the border, when in reality it would just allow the Department of Homeland Security to detain children for a longer period of time with their family.