No Jeff Sessions, You Can’t Use the Bible to Justify Family Separation

Saira Bhatti
5 min readAug 1, 2018

As Americans, we have many a controversy to keep up with whether it’s dealing with our President’s behavior with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki to hoping we don’t go to war with Iran over a tweet. However, we cannot forget the ongoing issue of child separation.

Of the 2,654 children separated, only 508 have been reunited. The government had missed a previous deadline to reunite families and now have missed a second deadline on July 26th to reunite all families. Beyond separation, some children as young as 1 have had to present themselves to immigration court without their parents or proper representation. Many of the migrants detained, both kids and adults, describe the deplorable conditions including spoiled food, dirty water and the spread of illnesses like chicken pox.

A mother and son reunited after 10 months (Christ Chavez / Texas Monthly)

That the current administration still have a policy in place of separating children at the border from their parents after escaping violent horrors back home is undoubtedly cruel and inhumane with worldwide condemnation and shock. Even on a personal level, several of my relatives from abroad asked me what on earth was going on in my country expressing concern on the treatment of these children.

A father and son from Honduras are taken into custody near Mission, Texas (John Moore via Getty Images)

In any case, one of the more disturbing factors of this whole situation (besides the blatantly obvious separating kids from their moms and dads) is one of the justifications for it — religion.

When asked on the issue Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited Romans 13:1, claiming the Bible justifies child separation because illegal entry is breaking the law of the United States. The verse is as follows: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” When asked about it later in a press conference, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated “It is very biblical to enforce the law.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions (via Getty Images)

Clearly, this verse explains the importance of obeying the law of the land. But as comedian Stephen Colbert smartly pointed out on his show The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, if Sessions had just read a bit further, he would have found Romans 13:10 which says “ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

As an American Muslim, I am used to a constant battle to prove that terrorism done in the name of Islam is not justifiable by the Quran and verses are used out of context. But here was the Attorney General blatantly and openly using his religion out of context to justify trauma.

Last time I checked, we aren’t a theocratic state. This is not Saudi Arabia nor Iran. We aren’t the Christian Republic of America. We’re a secular state despite out problematic history, founded on common values of justice and ethics that people of all faiths can mutually agree on. But we don’t make legislation based on holy texts.

It’s utterly bizarre to me that as a nation, we want to use religious texts to justify cruelty while painting ourselves as just and righteous and where you can get the “American Dream.” The same country which has panic attacks over the non existent threat of Sharia law being used to take over the U.S. to the point that 201 anti-Sharia law bills have been introduced in 43 states to ban it from ever becoming of legislative influence.

And yet the Bible was used by high level government officials to justify terror against innocent children and their families. If that doesn’t sound like something from religious extremists like ISIS or the Westboro Baptist Church, I don’t know what does.

People in power using the Bible to legitimize such inhumanity creates a dangerous precedent and slowly erode our constitution’s separation of church and state. It may influence some of the populace to actually believe these acts are divinely justified under God while encouraging others with political power to push their religious agenda at the expense of the rest of the country.

Reunited families in El Paso, Texas (Monica Ortiz Uribe /NPR)

Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee Sanders should realize no matter what, we can’t rip children from their parents. No we can’t put them in cages. No we can’t say we won’t separate families and then put them in cages. Period. And we most certainly should not and cannot use holy texts like the Bible, Quran or Torah to justify violence of any sort. No religion allows such behavior.

Being Muslim myself, I’m smart enough to know that just because someone says their unjust actions are justified because God said so, chances are they’re using it for manipulation of morality.

But religion can also ignite us to do good and be our source of activism. Just like Romans 13:10, love is the fulfilment of the law. Justice is enjoined upon us so we do good works through supplications and our hands to lift our society up. We need to have the compassion as people of faith and no faith alike that people who seek refuge at our border are doing so to flee violence that some of us cannot even fathom. Who are we to use faith to keep those in desperate need out? We have not only the ability but the duty to come to their aid.

“Verily, Allah requires you to abide by justice, and to treat with grace, and give like the giving of kin to kin; and forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and transgression. He admonished you that you may take heed.” (Quran, Surah al-Nahl; 16:91)



Saira Bhatti

Writer. Reader. Almost multilingual. Always learning. Still figuring it out.