Last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions inserted the Bible, the most cherry-picked tome ever, where it didn’t belong, at least when it comes to government policy — at the foundation of the Trump administration’s immigration policy. Specifically, the horrendous decision to take the children of migrants away from their parents, who are crossing the Southwest border illegally, and putting them into soulless detention centers while their parents are taken to jail to face prosecution.
Last week, Sessions defended the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy by invoking a biblical verse previously used to justify other atrocities.
At a news conference, Sessions said: “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 them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”
Religious leaders accused Sessions of bastardizing the meaning of the verse. To add insult to injury, the verse, critics said, has been appropriated at different times in history by defenders of slavery in the American South, Nazi rule in Germany and apartheid in South Africa.
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Now, separating children from the parents by U.S. Border agents brings the latest incantation. And now, with Texas detention centers filled to capacity, about 1,000 migrant children have been transported to a compound in Homestead. Monday, it was unclear whether the children were separated from their parents or were unaccompanied minors.
We believe that the separation of church and state must hold firm. It’s the U.S. Constitution that binds us all. We also believe in the rule of law, leavened, when justified, by discretion, common sense and compassion.
We encourage anyone aggrieved by the administration’s policy to cherry-pick themselves — and alert the attorney general, at 202-353-1555, to more-fitting passages of the Bible that he should consider:
▪ Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
▪ Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.
▪ When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard.
You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner.
▪ Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
▪ Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
And as the moral battle and political finger-pointing over the treatment of illegal immigrants and their children continue, this last, from James 5:1, should be particularly resonant to believers:
As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.