Members of Sessions' church accuse him of 'child abuse' on family separation

PHOTO: Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at an event at the Justice Department on April 12, 2018 in Washington.PlayWin McNamee/Getty Images
WATCH Jeff Sessions cites biblical verse in defense of immigration policies

Members of Jeff Sessions' own church filed a formal complaint against the attorney general, accusing him of "child abuse," "immorality," and "racial discrimination" and the “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrines” of the United Methodist Church.

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The letter, which was signed by more than 600 members of the United Methodist Church including clergy and church leaders, comes as the White House weathers a chorus of bipartisan condemnation over the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy that has led to children getting separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

"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. "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.

Last week, Sessions cited the Bible in his defense of the administration's border policy separating children from their parents after they enter the U.S. illegally, which he issued last month.

"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," he said on Thursday. "Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful."

In the letter, church members took issue with this characterization, criticizing Sessions' "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."

A representative in the Justice Department's public affairs office told ABC News on Tuesday that DOJ has no comment and said that Sessions' scripture citation was not used to justify the policy.

As the White House remains defiant in blaming the policy on Democrats, Sessions did not repeat this claim but adamantly defended the administration's position.

"We're doing the right thing. We're taking care of these children," he told Fox News on Monday. "They are not being abused. The [Department of] Health and Human Services holds them in good conditions. They work hard at it."

According to the letter, Sessions is a member of the Ashland Place United Methodist Church in Mobile, Ala., and a member of the Clarendon United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Va. Those who signed the letter are members of the United Methodist Church across the country-- including some from the churches in Virginia and Alabama.

Members of the United Methodist Church are not the only religious body to speak out against the family separation policy.

Franklin Graham, who is a staunch Trump supporter called the practice “disgraceful," a group of evangelical groups — who have often been supportive of Trump — wrote a letter to the White House calling out the “traumatic effects” of separation.

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