Rev. William Barber: Jeff Sessions Using Religion to Justify Family Separations Is “Biblical Heresy”

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More than 300 Catholic bishops have blasted the Trump administration’s immigration policies, calling for an end to the separation of migrant children from their parents and condemning Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s policy of ending the right of domestic violence survivors to seek asylum in the United States. On Thursday, Sessions quoted the Bible to justify his department’s immigration policies. Sessions was speaking to an invitation-only crowd in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “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,” stated Sessions. Critics seized on his reference to Romans 13, noting it was a favorite passage of defenders of the Confederacy used to justify slavery. We speak to the Rev. William Barber.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your comment on the separating of children from their parents, the imprisoning of migrant children. More than 300 Catholic bishops have blasted the Trump administration’s immigration policies calling for the separation of the children from their parents, condemning Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ policy of ending the right of domestic violence survivors to seek asylum here in the U.S. On Thursday, Sessions quoted the Bible to justify the Trump administration policies. He was speaking to an invitation-only crowd in Fort Wayne, Indiana. This is what he said.

ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS: 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.

AMY GOODMAN: Critics seized on Sessions’ reference to Romans 13, noting it was a favorite passage of defenders of the Confederacy used to justify slavery. Reverend Barber, your thoughts?

REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: That’s why we—another reason why we’ve got to get in the streets, why we’ve got to have this massive, nonviolent, moral civil disobedience. Clergy and others have to come out of our sanctuaries. People have to come into the street, because this administration seems to be the administration of meanness. It decided to be the administration of lies. And now it’s being the administration of theological heresy. And I don’t just blame Sessions. I blame the congresspeople that are not challenging him, the extreme so-called Christian nationalists that will be quiet on this kind of stuff, who probably sent him that scripture.

Let me just say this, Amy. First of all, he’s misinterpreting that text. Paul actually was arrested by the government, because Christians challenged the government. That’s one of the reasons Paul ends up getting killed. So that’s the first thing. Second of all, the Bible is clear, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, that one of God’s primary concerns is that we care for the stranger, that we do not rob children of their rights, and mothers of their children, that we welcome the stranger and make sure that the stranger, the immigrant, the undocumented person, is treated like a brother or sister. You cannot find anywhere where Jesus or the prophets would say anything like what Sessions said.

Now, he is operating from a playbook. That’s the same kind of heresy that was used to support the genocide of Native Americans. It’s the same kind of biblical heresy that was used to support slavery and used to support Jim Crow. “It’s the law.” And that’s why movements broke it. And remember, Dr. King said any law that’s against God’s law and against the law of justice, we have a responsibility to challenge that law. America has a long history of having laws that do not line up with the moral demands of our Constitution or—

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Barber, we have to wrap the show. June 23rd, what’s happening? You have 10 seconds.

REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: Come June 23rd, on the west side of the Capitol, in the lawn, 10:00. We are having a massive call to action, the final launch of the 40 days of this campaign. We will continue. Bring everybody you know. The people will be speaking. We will be talking about what we do going forward. But we will not turn around. Somebody is hurting our people, and it’s gone on far too long.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Dr. William Barber, thanks so much for being with us.

This breaking news: The Trump administration is reportedly withdrawing the U.S. from the U.N.’s Human Rights Council. Reuters reports the decision is imminent.

That does it for the broadcast. We want to thank the Reverend Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.

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