First up from the God Machine this week is a faith-based angle to the controversy over Donald Trump’s family-separation policy, which has left Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an awkward position.
The White House’s “zero tolerance” immigration measures have created no shortage of problems for the embattled attorney general, but NBC News reported this week that hundreds of leaders from the United Methodist Church – Sessions’ denomination – have argued that the Alabama Republican violated church laws.
A group of more than 600 United Methodist clergy and church members are bringing church law charges against Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration crackdown — chiefly the policy that has separated thousands of children from their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The group accuses Sessions, a fellow United Methodist, of violating Paragraph 270.3 of the denomination’s Book of Discipline. He is charged under church law with child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination and “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of doctrine of the United Methodist Church.”
In a letter addressed to Sessions’ pastors, 640 clergy members and laity urge “some degree of accountability” for the top law enforcement official in the country, who they say is affiliated with United Methodist churches in Alabama and the suburbs of Washington.
While Sessions may be accustomed to defending his position in federal courts or on Capitol Hill, responding to accusations of violating church law may prove to be more complicated.
If found guilty of breaking his denomination’s laws, Sessions could theoretically be expelled following an ecclesiastical trial, though few expect this controversy to reach such a level.
In fact, Washington Post analysis concluded that it’s likely the attorney general will simply brush the Methodists’ concerns aside: “It is not yet clear how Sessions responded to the letter from his fellow Methodists, but the likelihood of him changing his mind after getting pushback from individuals he does not know seems low, considering the affirmation he is getting from Christians who believe in what he does.”
Also from the God Machine:
* While daily prayers in Congress rarely generate much attention, Senate Chaplain Barry Black said during one of his nondenominational prayers this week, “As children are being separated from their parents, remind us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to protect the most vulnerable in our world.”
* The latest ouster from the Catholic Church: “Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former head of the Archdiocese of Washington, has been removed from public ministry by the Vatican following a ‘credible and substantiated’ allegation of sexual abuse involving a teenager from nearly 50 years ago. As the move was announced, Roman Catholic Church officials in New Jersey revealed that McCarrick, 87, also had been accused of sexual misconduct by adults three times in the past. Two of those accusations resulted in secret settlements, officials said.”
* Another interesting opportunity for voters in Ireland: “On the heels of two historic referendums in Ireland – last month’s repeal of the abortion ban and the 2015 referendum establishing marriage equality – the country is gearing up for a new referendum that would advance religious freedom: Voters soon will decide whether to eliminate Ireland’s constitutional prohibition on blasphemy.”