Urging him to stand by the tenets of his faith and care for people in need, two clergy members interrupted attorney general Jeff Sessions on Monday as he was beginning a speech. Sessions was addressing the topic of “The Future of Religious Liberty” at the Boston Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society, a conservative group.
Soon after the attorney general started speaking, the Rev. Will Green of Ballard Vale United Church in Andover, Massachusetts, stood and recited portions of Matthew 25: “Remember the words of Jesus,” Green said. “I was hungry and you did not feed me. I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me.”
Protesters Ask Sessions to Follow His Faith
Before being escorted out of the room, Green continued: “Brother Jeff, as a fellow United Methodist, I call upon you to repent, to care for those in need, to remember that when you do not care for others, you are wounding the body of Christ.”
In response, Sessions said, “Thank you for those remarks and attack, but I would just tell you we do our best every day to fulfill [our] responsibility to enforce the laws of the United States.”
As Green was led away, another pastor rose to defend him. The Rev. Darrell Hamilton II, pastor of Boston’s First Baptist Church of Jamaica Plain, said pastor Green “represents the Christian tradition, the faith that everyone here professes to believe in, actually sharing the words of Jesus himself, the words of Jesus that are represented in the book of Isaiah.”
Audience members booed Hamilton as he, too, was escorted out by security. “I thought we were here to protect religious liberty,” he responded. “I am a pastor of a Baptist church, and you are escorting me out for exercising my religious freedom. That is very hypocritical.”
Before continuing, Sessions said he wouldn’t let a “heckler’s veto” prevent him from speaking as planned. “I don’t think there’s anything in the Scripture and my theology that says a secular nation-state cannot have lawful laws to control immigration in its country,” he said. “[It’s] not immoral, not indecent, and not unkind to state what your laws are and then set about to enforce them, in my view.”
The Pastors Explain Their Motives
Afterward, Green defended his actions, saying the attorney general’s “entire political agenda is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” As a fellow Methodist, Green says he has a “responsibility to call [Sessions] to account about the harm he’s doing.” His challenge to Sessions, he added, was “in the Methodist, Wesleyan tradition as an expression of social holiness.”
Referring to Sessions calling Green’s statements an attack, the pastor said, “Sometimes when we encounter Jesus, it does feel like we are being attacked because…we can see clearly that what we are doing on this earth is an obstacle to Jesus.” He added, “You really can’t do religious liberty without taking into account how people practice their religion, which includes social witness and social action.”
Faith in Action, a group that specializes in grassroots organizing for social causes, later said Green was working with them.
Hamilton, who maintained that “Jeff Sessions is not a champion of true religious liberty,” said protests are part of his faith tradition, too. “As a Baptist preacher, in the long legacy of Baptist preachers such as Roger Williams and John Leland, I disrupted Jeff Sessions to defend the protection of both soul and religious freedom of all people as a true witness of Christian religion practice.”
Immigration Issues Are at the Forefront Again
This latest opposition to Sessions likely stems from the so-called migrant caravan heading from Central America through Mexico and reportedly to the American border. President Trump has cast aspersions about the types of people traveling in the group, saying, “These are not angels.” According to news reports, the president is ordering up to 15,000 U.S. troops to the border to keep migrants out.