The White House Bible study group that influenced Trump’s family separation policy – ThinkProgress


Attorney General Jeff Sessions sparked a public theological debate last week when he used the Bible, especially Romans 13, to justify the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents on the U.S. border. He was probably inspired by the White House Bible Study (WHBS), a weekly Bible study for members of the president’s office hosted by Ralph Drollinger of Capitol Ministries.

According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, considerable staff time and resources are spent coordinating the Bible study each week. Documents also show Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who defended the policy at a press conference on Monday, is heavily involved in the WHBS. In fact, she is the only firm representative whose direct email address appears on electronic invitations to WHBS.

The day before the Sessions remarks last Thursday, the White House Bible Study held a meeting focused on “The importance of parenthood and the course of the nation. “The first paragraphs deal with” obedience to the laws of a nation “and quote Proverbs 28: 4 and Romans 1: 32[2] . (There are a number of spelling and bible citation errors in the package, including “1 Corinthians 9: 27a”, as well as Romans 1:32, which may be a typo intended to quote Romans 13: 2, the Sessions chapter used to justify the separation policy.)

Screenshot, Capitol Ministries
Screenshot, Capitol Ministries

The Bible course on parenting advocates [sic] punishment for wrongdoing ”because it“ is abundant in all scripture ”. Biblical parenting requires that a parent dominate their child from an early age: “A parent must establish authority from the start… It is done through spanking. If you spare the cane, you spoil the child.

This Bible-based course also encourages parents to break the will of their children so that they do not become “rebellious against God.” So many people are rebellious today because “The child never learned the value and fruits of correction at a young age. No one has ever broken his own will and as a result he now carries a rebellious spirit. “

It’s easy to see how a Trump Cabinet discussion on Wednesday morning about punishing children and the importance of obeying the law gave way to a public justification for a policy to take children away from their parents. This seems even more likely given Drollinger’s influence in the Trump cabinet, as well as his history of creating Bible study material that uses Christianity to justify the punishment of undocumented immigrants.

The influence of the preacher

Drollinger, a former basketball player with a bachelor’s degree in geography, has no education or training in public service, public policy, government or immigration policy. Despite his inexperience, he has gained unprecedented access to the highest levels of government, far more than any lobbyist. While his work raises a host of state church concerns and concerns about lobbying prohibitions, given his connections (he also leads Bible studies for the House and Senate), these concerns are unlikely to be investigated.

“Jeff Sessions [will] go out the same day I teach him something and he will do it in front of the camera. And I just think, man, these guys are loyal, available, and teachable. “

Drollinger’s work is not an influence, but a manipulation detached from any valuable education or expertise. The sessions were often at the center of this manipulation. With Vice President Mike Pence and others, Sessions is a sponsor of the White House Bible Study, the first endorsing – approving The Drollinger Senate Bible Study in early 2016.

In 2017, Drollinger Recount Christian Broadcasting Network that the people in his Bible study “are so teachable.” Then he boasted on how “Jeff Sessions [will] go out the same day I teach him something and he will do it in front of the camera. And I just think, man, these guys are loyal, available, and teachable. “

White House Bible Study Examines ‘Our Problem With Illegal Immigration’

The sessions proved the veracity of Drollinger’s boasting last week, when the Biblical justification he provided for family separation reflected the same theological arguments espoused by a 2016 Bible study written by Drollinger and titled “What the Bible says about our problem of illegal immigration ”.

According to documents obtained via a FOIA request, an earlier version of the study was written in response to President Obama’s famous November 2014 discourse on immigration. There are even elements of these ideas, including the rationale for Romans 13, in a 2012 Bible study, which was further expanded in 2013.

When Sessions was criticized for using the Bible to justify barbaric practice, Capitol Ministries rushed to its defense. There is currently a theological explanation for the child separation policy on the Capitol Ministries home page. This justification explicitly mentions the policy: “It follows that when someone breaks the law of the land, he must anticipate that one of the consequences of his illegal behavior will be separation from his children.” The defense quotes Romans 13 several times and concludes by citing verses 1 through 4 in full.

Screenshot, Capitol Ministries home page
Screenshot, Capitol Ministries home page

The cover of 2016 Bible study booklet on Illegal Immigration features an image of a young child on his father’s shoulders and begins with a dose of fear, listing “the terrorist assassinations in Brussels, Paris, San Bernardino, California and Orlando, FL and the added threat of ‘a terrorist incursion into America due to a naive or misinformed understanding of what the Bible actually teaches about immigration… ”(The San Bernardino gunman was born in illinois and his wife arrived legally and was a permanent resident; the Orlando shooter was born at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York.)

The zero tolerance policy itself is never explicitly mentioned in the 2016 Bible study, but the justifications for the policy – the same justifications regurgitated by Sessions and Sarah Huckabee Sanders – are explicit.

Romans 13 occupies an important place in the study of the Bible. It is even the “verse of the week” from the Capitol Ministries Bible, which is referred to several times, including to justify the idea that undocumented migrants must bear all the consequences of violating the law. law, whatever they may be: “It is not an exaggeration to reason from this passage [Romans 13:1-7] that immigration laws, like all laws of a nation, should stem from a desire to protect the nation and its citizens. This protection should deter a myriad of intrusions by illegals… ”Deterrence is the declared objective of the child separation policy, as well as a lever for negotiation.

Crucially, the study also used the passage to justify the punishment of “illegal immigrants” in terms that now sound familiar: “Again, in Romans 13: 4, God intends governments to carry the sword with regard to the application of justice. They must be an avenger who provokes the wrath of the one who practices evil. This means that the government is sanctioned, held and responsible for punishing those who break the law… including illegal immigration… ”

“[I]n Romans 13: 4 God intends governments to carry the sword in the application of justice. They must be an avenger who attracts anger on the one who practices evil. “

Drollinger specifically applies this reasoning to immigration over and over again: “In terms of immigration, for a government to be pleasing to God and to receive his blessing, it has no choice but to protect its citizens from it. illegal immigration according to Romans 13: 4 and 1 Peter 2: 13-14. It must always protect its borders and punish those who enter illegally. Any government response less than this violates God’s clearly revealed intention for government and invites chaos (as we now see on our southern borders).

Screenshot, Bible study 2016
Screenshot, Bible study 2016

Although the policy of separation of children is never explicitly mentioned, the Bible study alludes to the parent-child relationship on several occasions: of the legislator too, should be informed by the Word of God on this subject. And God’s Word says he disapproves of illegal immigrants – just like he says he disapproves of the children running the roost! “

Overall, the Bible study is an attack on Obama-era immigration law enforcement policies. He mentions the increase in the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border and the subsequent increase in legal and relief services for them. Specifically, Drollinger calls this service provision “biblically uninformed thinking.” The study even includes a defense that draconian immigration policies are “not racist.”

“God’s Word says he disapproves of illegal immigrants, just as he says he disapproves of the children running the roost!

Although the family separation policy originated from White House adviser Stephen Miller, according to the The New York Times, undoubtedly, Drollinger influenced government officials, providing the balm to the consciousness of Sessions.

“To do evil, a human being must first believe that what he is doing is right,” wrote the Russian novelist and historian Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Drollinger, with his unrestricted access to our highest levels of government, has given Sessions the justification to feel that he is not just doing a good job, but the work of God.

This article has been updated to include links to documents obtained through the FOIA request.

Andrew L. Seidel is constitutional attorney and director of strategic response at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national nonprofit, state church watchdog with more than 33,000 members. Seidel defends the wall of separation between state and church and is currently completing his first book, which examines and exposes the myths underlying Christian nationalism.


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