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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 22, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 25
Jeff Sessions charged with child abuse by his church
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Jeff Sessions charged with child abuse by his church

Trump's attorney general could be expelled if found guilty

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been brought up on charges of 'child abuse' and 'immorality' by his religious denomination, the United Methodist Church.

Six hundred and forty church members signed a letter charging Sessions with violating church law over his decision to separate asylum seekers from their children at the US border. According to MSNBC, more than 2,000 children - including infants and toddlers - are now in detention camps separated from their parents.

'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,' the church posted on its website.

Sessions provoked the church charges by citing scripture, Romans 13:1-3, to justify his actions. In the passage, St. Paul urges Christians to submit to government authority. In the mid-19th century, the same passage was used to justify slavery in the American South.

Experts say bringing charges against a layperson is almost unprecedented.

'I really never would have thought I'd be working on charges against anybody in the Methodist connection, much less a layperson,' said the Rev. David Wright, a Pacific Northwest Conference elder and chaplain at the University of Puget Sound, in a press release.

Wright was one of the leading organizers of the effort to charge Sessions.

According to Rev. William Lawrence, professor emeritus at the Perkins School of Theology and an authority on Methodist history, the charges would have to go through several steps before the church can discipline Sessions.

First, the pastor of Sessions' home church in Mobile, Alabama, would have to 'counsel' the attorney general on why his behavior is decidedly not Christian.

'I'm not aware of any circumstance in the 50-year history of the United Methodist Church when a complaint against a layperson moved beyond the stage of its resolution by a district superintendent or a pastor,' Lawrence said.

'I hope his pastor can have a good conversation with him and come to a good resolution that helps him reclaim his values that many of us feel he's violated as a Methodist,' Wright said. 'I would look upon his being taken out of the denomination or leaving as a tragedy. That's not what I would want from this.'

Bishop David Graves of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, Sessions' home base, declined to comment to reporters about the charges, but he did release a statement about Sessions' order for immigration agents to take children away from their parents.

'I implore Congress and the current administration to do all in their power to reunite these families,' he said. 'Changes to these laws need to be addressed starting today. Let us join our voices in prayer for the separated families, for those working to end this injustice and for our nation's leaders.'

The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, issued a statement on behalf of the church that criticized US government policy and Sessions' attempt to justify it.

'To argue that these policies are consistent with Christian teaching is unsound, a flawed interpretation, and a shocking violation of the spirit of the Gospel,' she said in a statement.

Former First Lady Laura Bush, also a Methodist, sharply criticized the administration yesterday in an op-ed in the Washington Post.

'I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral,' Bush wrote. 'And it breaks my heart.' It is lawful under both US and international law for foreign citizens to enter the US seeking asylum.

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