Hundreds of members of the United Methodist Church filed a complaint against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, himself a member, for the Trump administration’s policy of separating illegal immigrant families at the border in June. They accused him of child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination and “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of the doctrine of the United Methodist Church.”
The family separation policy stood “in stark contrast” to the church’s commitment to “supporting freedom of conscience and resistance to unjust laws," the members continued.
On Wednesday, however, District Superintendent Rev. Dr. Debora Bishop announced that those charges were now dismissed. They've realized Sessions was acting in his political capacity, not his personal one.
The AG "was carrying out the official policy of the President and/or the United States Department of Justice,” Bishop explained in her letter. Therefore, it was outside the church’s disciplinary scope.
“In this matter, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was carrying out the official policy of the President and/or the United States Department of Justice,” Bishop wrote. “It was not an individual act. I believe this type of conduct is not covered by the chargeable offense provisions of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016 for laypersons.”
In May, Sessions informed the public that the Trump administration would demonstrate "zero tolerance" at the border.
"The parents are subject to prosecution while children may not be," he explained. "So, if we do our duty and prosecute those cases, then children inevitably for a period of time might be in different conditions."
Those conditions included centers where the children were cared for by Health and Human Services.
Following severe backlash from all sides, who called the separations inhumane, President Trump signed an executive order in June to put an end to the practice. The administration has also reunited nearly 2,000 families, but many more remain apart.