More than 600 members of Sessions' church filed complaint against him

1 year 4 months 4 weeks ago Tuesday, June 19 2018 Jun 19, 2018 Tuesday, June 19, 2018 3:01:00 PM CDT June 19, 2018 in News
By: Daniel Burke, CNN

WASHINGTON, D.C. - More than 600 members of the United Methodist Church have issued a formal church complaint against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a fellow church member, charging that his "zero tolerance" policy on immigration violates church rules and may constitute child abuse.

Officially, the complaint charges Sessions with violating the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline, its code of laws and social principles. Such charges could lead to a church trial, though few expect that to happen to the attorney general, the country's top lawman.

Instead, the 640 Methodists charging Sessions, who include both clergy and lay members, have asked for a "reconciling process that will help this longtime member ... step back from his harmful actions and work to repair the damage he is currently causing to immigrants, particularly families and children."

The complaint is addressed to the pastors at two churches Sessions attends, in Mobile, Alabama, and Clarendon, Virginia. It charges Sessions with violating church rules or principles on child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination and "dissemination of doctrines contrary" to those of the United Methodist Church.

"While other individuals and areas of the federal government are implicated in each of these examples," the complaint reads, "Mr. Sessions -- as a long-term United Methodist in a tremendously powerful, public position -- is particularly accountable to us, his church."

The complaint was reportedly spearheaded by the Rev. David Wright, a chaplain at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.

"The goal is to hopefully get Attorney General Sessions to talk to his pastors and church leaders, bring his position in line with the church's doctrines and social principles, and end the damage he is causing," Wright said.

Wright said he does not want Sessions to be removed from the church. "That would be a tragedy. We are a big-tent denomination."

A 'publicity stunt'?

Founded 50 years ago, the United Methodist Church has about 7 million members in the United States and is one of the country's most ideologically diverse Protestant bodies. Hillary Clinton and former President George W. Bush are both members.

The Rev. William Lawrence, a former professor at Perkins School of Theology and an expert on the United Methodist Church, said it would be "highly unusual" for any charges against Sessions to move beyond the stage of reconciliation, in which Sessions, his local pastor and his local bishop would seek a "just resolution" to settle the matter.

"In 50 years of the United Methodist Church, I am not aware of any complaint against a lay person moving beyond that stage," Lawrence said. Most often, church trials in recent years have been used for pastors who break church rules by officiating at same-sex weddings.

A spokeswoman for Sessions said the attorney general has no comment. Mary Catherine Phillips, a spokesperson for Bishop William Graves, who leads the area that includes Sessions' congregation in Mobile, Alabama, said he has no comment. Phillips noted that Graves released a statement on Monday decrying the "unjust acts" of separating children from their parents at the border. Sessions' United Methodist pastors in Alabama and Virginia, where he now lives, did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

Mark Tooley, a United Methodist and president of the conservative Institute on Religion & Democracy, called the charges a "publicity stunt."

"It's not going to go anywhere in terms of church action, but it is getting a lot of attention," Tooley said. "If they stopped to think about it, most United Methodists would probably be very troubled by the idea of that someone who dissented from the political statements of the church could be faced with a formal complaint or even expulsion."

Trump administration officials have said they do not want to separate children from their parents, but have also vigorously defended the policy over the last week as it has come under growing scrutiny and a number of religious groups have called for an end to the practice.

In a remarkable speech on Thursday, Sessions responded to the criticisms from "church friends," citing Romans 13, a passage in the New Testament that calls on Christians to obey secular authorities.

"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."

Suffer the children

The United Methodists' complaint against Sessions lists four charges: child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination and "dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of doctrine of the United Methodist Church."

On the last charge, the complaint accuses Sessions of "misuse of Romans 13 to indicate the necessity of obedience to secular law."

On the child abuse charge, the complaint says Sessions has advocated for and implemented "practices that indefinitely separate thousands of young children from their parents" and "holding thousands of children in mass incarceration facilities with little to no structured educational or socio-emotional support."

The US government has separated at least 2,000 children from parents at the border since implementing a policy that results in such family separations, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed Friday.

Doctors, religious leaders, the United Nations and politicians on both sides of the aisle have criticized the administration's use of family separations.

The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics told CNN the practice is "nothing less than government-sanctioned child abuse."

Administration officials have flatly denied that characterization.

"We have high standards," Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said. "We give them meals and we give them education and we give them medical care. There are videos, there are TVs."

More News

Grid
List
KANSAS CITY (AP) — Hundreds of containers — many carrying hazardous materials — have floated into Missouri since flooding in... More >>
5 minutes ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 12:19:03 PM CST November 18, 2019 in News
DUNCAN, Oklahoma (AP) — Two men and a woman were fatally shot Monday outside a Walmart store in southwestern... More >>
16 minutes ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 12:08:00 PM CST November 18, 2019 in News
OSAGE BEACH - Police arrested two people Friday after searching a room at the Osage Village Inn and finding drugs... More >>
1 hour ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 10:51:00 AM CST November 18, 2019 in News
ST. MARTINS (AP) — Authorities say one person has been wounded in a road-rage incident in central Missouri. ... More >>
4 hours ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 7:44:00 AM CST November 18, 2019 in News
MOBERLY - A Moberly man is facing charges after police say he harmed a 10-month-old child. Prosecutors charged the... More >>
8 hours ago Monday, November 18 2019 Nov 18, 2019 Monday, November 18, 2019 4:20:00 AM CST November 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - After years in the making, Columbia City Council will be one step closer in deciding the final steps... More >>
17 hours ago Sunday, November 17 2019 Nov 17, 2019 Sunday, November 17, 2019 7:05:00 PM CST November 17, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY—The Department of Planning and Protective Services in Jefferson City declared the first building with tornado damage as “dangerous”... More >>
18 hours ago Sunday, November 17 2019 Nov 17, 2019 Sunday, November 17, 2019 6:03:00 PM CST November 17, 2019 in News
SWEET SPRINGS - In some parts of Missouri, rural health care is on life support. A bright green handwritten... More >>
18 hours ago Sunday, November 17 2019 Nov 17, 2019 Sunday, November 17, 2019 5:31:00 PM CST November 17, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA — As the hunting season begins hunters are being encouraged to share their harvests to help fellow Missourians. ... More >>
18 hours ago Sunday, November 17 2019 Nov 17, 2019 Sunday, November 17, 2019 5:29:00 PM CST November 17, 2019 in Continuous News
COLUMBIA - A new Missouri law will honor five veterans from Boone County killed in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.... More >>
19 hours ago Sunday, November 17 2019 Nov 17, 2019 Sunday, November 17, 2019 5:03:55 PM CST November 17, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - The Missouri Department of Conservation is urging hunters to stay safe after an incident Saturday night. One... More >>
19 hours ago Sunday, November 17 2019 Nov 17, 2019 Sunday, November 17, 2019 4:59:00 PM CST November 17, 2019 in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — A Kansas City school district is increasing the pay of its substitute teachers in a... More >>
22 hours ago Sunday, November 17 2019 Nov 17, 2019 Sunday, November 17, 2019 1:49:00 PM CST November 17, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA – From showcasing hand-carved wooden canes to hosting a silent auction for a local food bank, the annual art... More >>
1 day ago Sunday, November 17 2019 Nov 17, 2019 Sunday, November 17, 2019 7:03:00 AM CST November 17, 2019 in News
BOONE COUNTY - Officials confirmed there was a hunting incident Saturday night. Boone County Sheriff's deputies and several medical... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, November 16 2019 Nov 16, 2019 Saturday, November 16, 2019 6:43:00 PM CST November 16, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - One person has been detained following a police chase that ended at the Taco Bell on Providence Road... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, November 16 2019 Nov 16, 2019 Saturday, November 16, 2019 5:11:00 PM CST November 16, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA — Police arrested one person after a report of shots fired on Quail Drive Saturday afternoon. Earl Tramail... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, November 16 2019 Nov 16, 2019 Saturday, November 16, 2019 4:41:00 PM CST November 16, 2019 in News
BOONE COUNTY - Deputies were dispatched to the Midway Travel Plaza on Saturday for a reported bomb threat, but they... More >>
2 days ago Saturday, November 16 2019 Nov 16, 2019 Saturday, November 16, 2019 12:24:00 PM CST November 16, 2019 in News
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Former Kansas City Chiefs football player and eight codefendants have had additional charges filed against them... More >>
2 days ago Saturday, November 16 2019 Nov 16, 2019 Saturday, November 16, 2019 8:51:00 AM CST November 16, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 49°
1pm 50°
2pm 52°
3pm 52°
4pm 51°