- Over 600 clergy and lay members of the United Methodist Church filed a formal complaint against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, accusing him of violating church law.
- In a letter released Monday, signatories charged Sessions with child abuse and other offenses regarding the Justice Department’s controversial family separations policy.
- A national, formal complaint of this manner is unprecedented in the history of the Methodist Church and could lead to Sessions’ expulsion from the religious body.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions could be expelled from the Methodist Church after more than 600 clergy and lay members filed a historic formal complaint charging him with violating church law over the Justice Department’s controversial “zero-tolerance” immigration policy of separating families who illegally cross the US-Mexico border.
Over 600 people, including 318 reverends, signed a letter invoking a rarely used procedure to file a formal complaint against Sessions. The complaint accuses him of perpetuating child abuse, immorality, and racial discrimination.
The letter also said Sessions citing the scripture verse Romans 13 to justify the separations policy counted as the “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of doctrine of the United Methodist Church.”
“As members of the United Methodist Church, we deeply hope for a reconciling process that will help this long-time member of our connection step back from his harmful actions and work to repair the damage he is currently causing to immigrants, particularly children and families,” the letter says.
Sessions is a devout Christian and a member of Methodist congregations in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama and in Arlington, Virginia. The letter is addressed to the reverends of both congregations and copies the presiding bishops and superintendents.
While any lay member can file church law charges against another, most come in the form of complaints to individual pastors and are usually resolved at the district level.
Methodist pastors speaking to the United Methodist News Service said that such a public and formal complaint against another member that moved beyond that level was unprecedented in the church.
“I’m not aware of any circumstance in the 50-year history of The United Methodist Church when a complaint against a lay person moved beyond the stage of its resolution by a district superintendent or a pastor,” Rev. William Lawrence told UNMS.
If the formal charges lodged against Sessions are not resolved through mediation and discussion with a member of the clergy, they could lead to an ecclesiastical trial and possibly his expulsion from the church.
UNMS reports that multiple pastors have both publicly spoken out against the policy and reached out to Sessions on their own to criticise the policy, and encourage him to re-consider the family separations in light of the teachings of the Methodist Church.
The Justice Department implemented the “zero-tolerance” policy in April, which began prosecuting parents who cross the border illegally with children. Since mid-April, at least 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and detained in shelters.
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