Happy (belated) Juneteenth! This week, as the United States commemorated the official end of slavery in 1865, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions used a Bible verse often employed to defend human bondage to advocate for the Trump administration’s family separation policy. On this week’s State of Belief, Interfaith Alliance’s radio show and podcast, we’ll look at the issue of separating families at the border – and the administration’s attempts at damage control. Later, we’ll continue to investigate the quickly shifting demographics and politics within the Southern Baptist Convention.
Under its so-called “zero tolerance” immigration policy, the Trump administration has separated more than 2,300 children from their parents across the southern border with Mexico. The loudest voices of opposition to this horrendous practice have been those of faith leaders, which may be why in an attempt to defend the administration, Attorney General Sessions cited Romans 13, which says, “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. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” Sickeningly, Romans 13 was also used to defend slavery in the mid-1800s. Now, a group of 600 United Methodists has filed a formal Church complaint against Sessions for breaking church rules. Jack Jenkins, national reporter at Religion News Service, will join State of Belief host Rev. Welton Gaddy this week to discuss the religious response to the administration this week and what it means for the future of faith-inspired activism.
The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, has been embroiled in controversy since Paige Patterson was forced to step down following allegations that he counseled abused women to stay with their husbands and mistreatment of women who had been sexually assaulted. Last week, the controversy came to a head at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, which included the election of a new denominational president and a controversial appearance by Vice President Mike Pence. Following the meeting, some observers are noting a monumental shift away from its historically insular and conservative ideology. This week, Welton will speak with the Rev. Dr. Bill J. Leonard, a professor at Wake Forest University, about what happened at the annual meeting and what it means for the future of the Southern Baptist Convention.
There is no shortage of organizations in this country advocating for the administration’s most divisive and un-American policies. Sadly, many of them do so in the name of religion. And yet, faith voices have been some of the loudest voices in opposition to the administration’s policy of separating and indefinite detention of families. We are always warning of the risks of religion meddling in our government, so where’s the line? How do we ensure we are protecting the boundaries between religion and government, even when we agree with the policy pushed by a faith group? Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance, will be on State of Belief this week to try to answer these questions and more.
Finally, we’ll have a Word from Welton on the family separation crisis, evolving nature of news and our capacity as Americans to respond to self-generated crises.