The particular verse cited by Sessions suggests a religious rationale for obeying a government's laws. "Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes," the attorney general said Thursday.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders seemed to reinforce this idea, saying during Thursday's press briefing that such sentiments about the need to obey the law are "repeated a number of times throughout the Bible."
Jeff Sessions cites biblical verse in defense of immigration policies:— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 15, 2018
"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 His purposes." https://t.co/1R14jjijga pic.twitter.com/4hFTAsbuIl
This prompted some politicians and celebrities to weigh in with Bible verses of their own.
Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., posted on Twitter: "'For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome.’ Matthew 25."
‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome.’ Matthew 25. https://t.co/JBebPDF7gu— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) June 14, 2018
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., shared the same excerpt, adding, "Nothing in the Bible says to separate kids from parents. It teaches the opposite."
I guess Sessions forgot about the Gospels part of the Bible. Matthew 25:35 says "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me".— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) June 14, 2018
Nothing in the Bible says to separate kids from parents. It teaches the opposite. https://t.co/gP5QfRtWuK
Actress Mia Farrow, an outspoken critic of the Trump administration and avid Twitter user, shared a different Bible verse.
"For the Lord your God...loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt," she wrote, citing a verse in Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 10:18-19 – “For the Lord your God...loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) June 15, 2018
And in the opening monologue of his show on Thursday, late-night TV host Stephen Colbert warned, "Don't bring God into this."
Colbert said that while Sessions did accurately recite the passage from Romans 13:1, he urged viewers to "read a little bit further" to Romans 13:10, where it reads, "Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."
A Vatican office that focuses on migrants and refugees also responded, sharing the same verse as Farrow had.
"The Bible teaches that God 'loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt' (Deuteronomy 10:18-19). Pope Francis," the tweet reads.
“The Bible teaches that God ‘loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt’ (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).” Pope Francis pic.twitter.com/Yt8i7b39VN— Migrants & Refugees (@M_RSection) June 14, 2018
The day before Sessions' comments, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement "condemning" the separation of migrant families.
"While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral," Daniel Cardinal DiNardo said in the statement.
And although the TV drama "The West Wing" went off the air years ago, some Twitter users responded to Sessions by linking to a video of the show's fictitious president, Josiah Bartlet, who was Catholic, giving a speech about pronouncements in the Bible that would be illegal or at least nonsensical in modern life.
Bartlet began by referring to Exodus 21:7, which talks about parents selling children into slavery.