By Michael d’Oliveira
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently used a Bible verse to justify the Trump administration’s policy of forcibly-separating undocumented children from their parents. Sessions, according to NBC and other media outlets, quoted Romans 13: “Obey the laws of government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”
CNN’s Jim Acosta asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about Sessions’ statement. “Where in the Bible does it say that it’s moral to take children away from their mothers?” Sanders followed Sessions’ in citing the Bible. “It is very Biblical to enforce the law . . . It’s a moral policy to follow and enforce the law.”
But it’s never moral to just follow a law for the sake of following a law, especially a bad one. The history of mankind is filled with unjust, immoral, and sometimes just plain bad laws. To say we should just follow the law, without any thought as to morality, is servile and contemptuous of common sense.
Was it Biblical to follow the Nuremberg Laws that restricted the rights of Jews in 1930s Germany? One law prohibited Jews from being admitted to the municipal hospital in Dusseldorf. Would Sessions or Sanders have thought it was Biblical to deny medical care to an injured or sick human being?
Was it Biblical to follow the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 which forced Northern states to return runaway slaves to the South? Would Sessions or Huckabee-Sanders have thought it was Biblical to force another human being to go back to a place where they were owned and had no rights?
There’s also our own fight for independence from England. The American colonists who declared their independence openly defied the authority of the British monarchy and Parliament. Would Sessions and Sanders have thought it was Biblical for the colonists to just keep enduring the violation of their rights as English subjects? Would they have condemned the Founding Fathers for taking up arms in violation of the law?
That’s the problem with using the Bible to say that laws are ordained by god. You can justify any law that way. Laws have to judged based solely on how well they serve the people they are meant to govern. If a law negatively impacts society, it should be repealed. If it protects and enriches society, it should be kept.
Sanders also blamed the Democrats for allowing the (non-existent) law separating families to continue.
Aside from the fact that there is no such law, the Republicans control the White House and have majorities in the House and Senate. They passed the tax cuts without strong Democratic support. They should be able to do the same with this non-existent immigration law. Blaming the Democrats for this law is just an attempt to deflect responsibility. And even if the law did exist, officials in the Trump administration could choose to ignore it if they wanted. Last week, the administration decided to stop defending some provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
What Sessions and Sanders said is a matter of law is really a matter of choice.