Hundreds of congregants and clergy from the United Methodist Church are bringing church law charges against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a fellow United Methodist, over the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy that includes separating migrant parents from their children at the U.S. border.
In the letter, the group of more than 600 churchgoers accuses Sessions of child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination and dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of the doctrine of the United Methodist Church.
“While other individuals and areas of the federal government are implicated in each of these examples, Mr. Sessions — as a long-term United Methodist in a tremendously powerful, public position — is particularly accountable to us, his church,” the letter reads, noting that Sessions is a member of Ashland Place United Methodist Church, in Mobile, Ala. “He is ours, and we are his. As his denomination, we have an ethical obligation to speak boldly when one of our members is engaged in causing significant harm in matters contrary to the Discipline on the global stage.”
The signees accused Sessions of child abuse in reference to separating children from their parents and holding them in “mass incarceration facilities.”
They also said his “misuse of Romans 13 to indicate the necessity of obedience to secular law, which is in stark contrast to Disciplinary commitments to supporting freedom of conscience and resistance to unjust laws,” constituted spreading false doctrine.
He is accused of racial discrimination for his alleged attempts to criminalize Black Lives Matter and other racial justice groups and targeted incarceration of those perceived as Muslim or Latinx.
Sessions unveiled the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy at the border last month, directing border agents to separate children from their parents at the border and prosecute the adults. The administration has framed the new policy as a deterrent to stop migrants from attempting to enter the country.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, has called on the Trump administration to end its “zero-tolerance” policy, calling the practice abusive.
“The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” al-Hussein said during an address in Geneva, The New York Times reported.
Al-Hussein highlighted a statement from the president of the American Association of Pediatrics, who said that detaining children separately from their parents was “government-sanctioned child abuse” that could cause permanent and irreversible harm to children.
He also cited a report by U.S. immigration officials who claim to have separated 2,000 children from their families over a six week period.
The United Nations human rights office earlier this month demanded that the Trump administration “immediately halt” its policy of tearing migrant children away from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, declaring that the practice “always constitutes a child rights violation.”