Clergy & Congregations Doctrine & Practice Government & Politics Institutions News Politics

Jeff Sessions cleared in church complaint, perplexing some top Methodists

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions addresses reporters during a news conference at the Moakley Federal Building in Boston on July 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

(RNS) — United Methodist Church officials in Alabama have dismissed a complaint signed by more than 600 church members in July that chided Attorney General Jeff Sessions for implementing the family separation policy along the border and attempting to justify it with Scripture.

But the logic of the decision, which cited a distinction between personal behavior and the actions of public officials, is not sitting well with some Methodist leaders.  

The formal dismissal of the complaint by the Rev. Debora Bishop, district superintendent of the Alabama-West Florida UMC Conference, where Sessions’ home church resides, came in a letter on July 30. It amounts to a final decision on the charges of child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination and “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of doctrine of the United Methodist Church.”

The resident bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, David W. Graves, concurred with the opinion.

But other prominent UMC leaders argued that profound theological questions about the nature of church discipline are raised in the letter.

“A political action is not personal conduct when the political officer is carrying out official policy,” it read. “In this matter, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was carrying out the official policy of the President and/or the United States Department of Justice.

“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,” the letter concluded. “Therefore, your complaint is dismissed.”

The Rev. William B. Lawrence, a former president of the UMC’s Judicial Council, said Bishop’s logic was “problematic.”

Lawrence said Bishop was invoking a secular legal concept known as the principle of “superior orders” — the idea that an individual cannot be held accountable for illegal actions if they were ordered to enact them by someone else.

“I do not follow the logic that grants someone, even the president of the United States, the right to ‘superior orders’ with regard to church law,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence further noted that the “superior orders” defense has failed in U.S. courts. In the 1813 case United States v. John Jones, a privateer’s crew was tried for stealing from a Portuguese vessel during the War of 1812. The crew members insisted they were simply following their captain’s orders, but the judge dismissed their argument and found them guilty.

While Lawrence said that Bishop’s finding closes the Sessions case, the dismissal is not binding for other church leaders should they encounter a similar complaint about a political figure in the future.

“They may be informed by this decision but they wouldn’t be bound by it,” he said.

A copy of the UMC Book of Discipline rests on a table during an oral hearing on May 22, 2018, in Evanston, Ill. Photo by Kathleen Barry/UMNS

David Watson, academic dean and professor of New Testament studies at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, also challenged the letter’s attempt to delineate personal and political actions.

“I’m not aware of any distinction in the (Book of Discipline) between individual actions and political actions,” he said in an email to RNS. “It would be very helpful to know what passages of the Discipline or precedents in United Methodist Church judicial proceedings provide the basis for such a distinction.”

Representatives of the Department of Justice and the Alabama-West Florida Conference declined to comment.

As word spread of the dismissal of the complaint, other questions cropped up. William Willimon, a retired bishop of the North Alabama Conference who said he clashed with Sessions years ago over immigration issues, also bemoaned the “dichotomy between personal behavior and public political behavior.”

But Willimon also argued that the dismissal ignores an issue at the heart of the original complaint: Sessions’ attempt to justify the policy by invoking Christian Scripture, a move that prompted a backlash from American religious groups beyond the United Methodists.

“Do what you’ve got to do politically, but please don’t drag Jesus into it,” Willimon said, adding he believes Sessions “grossly misinterpreted” Scripture when he cited the Bible to justify the family separation policy.

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño of the California-Nevada Annual Conference agreed.

“It’s the wrong decision because they ignore that (Sessions) definitely spoke from a faith perspective,” she said, referring to the attorney general’s news conference at which he quoted Romans 13 to justify the family separation policy. “He’s disseminating information that is contrary to our doctrine and our belief.”

Carcaño voiced that her “greatest disappointment” was “there doesn’t seem to have been any effort to create a circle of just resolution” — a practice prescribed in the Book of Discipline in which both the accuser and the accused are counseled by a religious mediator to achieve resolution.

The architect of the original letter of complaint, University of Puget Sound chaplain Dave Wright, released a statement with two other Methodists objecting along similar lines. They insisted that it “avoids the most basic level of accountability – a pastoral conversation – and fails both Mr. Sessions and denomination.”

But Wright also sees the decision as at odds with Methodism’s overarching principles. “I really struggle to understand how this is an acceptable response for a faith that has talked about personal and social holiness,” Wright told RNS. He said the district superintendent did not speak with him before making the decision, and he added that the response “is worse than anything I’d imagined.”

Wright said that while he cannot appeal the decision, he and his cohorts are asking Methodists “to engage heart, mind and body, resisting not just Mr. Sessions but the policies, the culture and whenever we see our faith used to cause harm.”

In the meantime, Carcaño and others said they still believe the complaint was valuable, even though it was thrown out.

“I think those 600-plus people did a great service on behalf of the church,” the bishop said, “not just the United Methodist Church, but the greater church who stand with them in decrying this cruel, unjust and, I would say, illegal treatment.”

About the author

Jack Jenkins

Jack Jenkins is a national reporter for RNS based in Washington, covering U.S. Catholics and the intersection of religion and politics.


Click here to post a comment

  • It appears that one of the things that many Protestant and Catholic leaders do best is prevaricate and obfuscate. Somewhat unexpected, since Jesus did just the opposite.

  • There are two issues involved here. The first is Sessions enacting the Trump administration policy, and the second is his using Scripture to justify doing so. The “superior orders” defense might work as a rationale for obeying his boss’s directive, but I cant see how it can logically be used as a religious defense.

    Sessions’ mistake was in not keeping quiet. He’s a public official, not a Methodist theologian. Straying out of one’s lane rarely works out well.

  • “It’s worth noting that, while many UMC bishops have spoken out in other ways, none signed the complaint. Among the 600 who signed the letter, a disproportionate number are from the denomination’s Western Jurisdiction, an area that is geographically vast, numerically small and overwhelmingly liberal.

    “The sudden passion for church discipline among political liberals is a surprise, especially as progressive United Methodists have railed against the use of letters of complaint against clergy who have solemnized same-sex marriages in violation of church law.

    “The complaint is indicative of United Methodists’ anger and frustration that, writ large, has the denomination hurtling toward schism”

    — from Jacob Lupfer’s RNS article, “Liberals Run Risk in Weaponizing Church Discipline Against Sessions”, 06-21-2018

  • The superior action defense also failed at Neuremburg so much so it’s called the Neuremburg defense. I killed all those people because someone told me too. The people using the defense were all hanged. Your turn next Jeff!

  • “In this matter, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was carrying out the official policy of the President and/or the United States Department of Justice.”

    Didn’t go down so well at Nuremberg did it.

  • So a handful of liberals in one small part of a church which has come to regard Biblical rules and prohibitions as suggestions, not laws, now want to be strict constructionists and nail a Trump office holder. Do we see just a teeny bit of hypocrisy here?

  • “U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions”: NOT GUILTY.

    Yaay … Oops, I mean, nothing to see here and moving on.

  • I predicted they would drop this nonsense like the politically motivated nonsense it was.

    To do otherwise would suck the entire UMC into an Inquisition.

  • And so did they, too, on behalf of your Transgender Namesake long ago! Your point(lessness) being?

  • That’s a lie. He wasn’t “using Scripture”; the US Catholic Bishops were, and against him; they started it.

  • Oh a born-from-above, fired-up and die-hard follower of THE Christ Jesus of the gospels, epistles and revelation, arencha so cutesy that way.

  • A lie is an intentional misrepresentation of the truth. Is that what you are claiming I’m doing?

  • You don’t know me and you don’t know my intentions. That makes calling me a liar both ignorant and uncharitable. You might consider that in a moment of quiet reflection.

    As for me, I know what I meant and my conscience is clear. I don’t enjoy rancorous conversation, so I’m moving on now. Have a pleasant evening.

  • They had carried out the policy of the state as dictated to them – generally by instructing others to act in a manner that caused unnecessary harm to captive human beings.

  • “Following orders” is widely known as “The Nuremberg defence”.

    There are non-atheists with a decent level of general knowledge – they would know this a swell as I.

  • He didn’t need a religious defense.

    He did not commit an offense under the United Methodist Church’s disciplines.

  • I think he was implying you might be intentionally misrepresenting the truth, or your grasp of the issues is impaired, not calling you a liar.

    For someone who doesn’t enjoy rancorous conversation, you seem to set off a lot of them.

  • Seriously?! You’re equating brutal death camps like Dachau with the holding centers for illegal aliens, which provide healthy meals, medical care, protective child day-care separated from possible traffickers, etc.? The comparison is ludicrous and beneath contempt.

  • I agree with those who were outraged by Sessions’ use of the beginning of Romans 13, but maybe for a different reason—–namely that that theme in Romans is total baloney now and on every day since Paul wrote it. A Christian should not embarrass the church by dredging up cockeyed scripture and pretending that his denomination dwells on it. Rulers are in power because they conquered something and rule by force, or because the people of a place “ordained” their leadership by electing them. We need to be realistic about history and about our own country. There is NOTHING to be gained in the 21st century by implying that God ordains ANY ruler ANY place.

  • Heads up, atheists! The Nuremberg defense was, in fact, an atheist invention!

    “The Nuremberg Trials, which prosecuted the Nazi officials for their war crimes, almost came to a close because the Nazi lawyers attempted to convince the court the Nazis were simply ‘following orders’. Superior orders, often known as the Nuremberg defense is a plea in a court of law that a person, whether a member of the armed forces or a civilian, not be held guilty or responsible for actions which were ordered by a superior officer or a public official. It wasn’t until Robert Jackson stated: ‘The Charter of this Tribunal evidences a faith that the law is not only to govern the conduct of little men, but that even rulers are, as Lord Chief Justice Coke put it to King James, ‘under God and the law.’ Jackson blatantly stated God’s laws are superior. He proceeded to quote from ‘Warfare as a Problem of Organization’, a top secret document dispatched by the Chief of the High Command to all commanders on April 19, 1938: ‘If decisive successes are expected from any measure considered as a war necessity, it must be carried through even if it is not in agreement with international law.’ The high ranking leaders all knew what they were doing was wrong! They had decided to wipe God out and view morals through the lens of Atheism: 100% personal preference. … [And so, was it really] just following orders [as they claimed]? Without God, this is just their ‘cup of tea’ in regards to the value of human life.”

    Source: Ali R, “Morality: Objective Law or Subjective”, Medium, June 6, 2016.

  • There is NOTHING to be gained in the 21st century by implying that FriendlyGoat makes ANY sense in ANY post.

  • What a load of BS. “They made me do it” is one of the most immoral defense claims ever no matter who or what originated the claim.

  • Note to Methodists, you are more than welcome in the Episcopal Church, with the notable exception of Jeff Sessions.

  • I have to agree that the reason for dismissing the complaint is ludicrous, being a government official does not give you a free hand to carry out whatever orders you’re given so long as your superiors order it. OTOH the complaint itself was ludicrous, and IMHO those that dismissed the complaint were looking for a way to do so without judging the validity of the complaint itself — probably because they would have had to dismiss it anyway, and wanted to avoid the firestorm that would have been caused by pointing out the complaints flaws.

  • Because you don’t think putting children in concentration camps and holding them hostage was wrong. OK. I believe the Nazis used that defense as well.

  • Nope. You are the one equating them with brutal death camps like Dachau. But bear in mind the only modern instance we have of separating children from parents and detaining them in concentration camps comes from regular practice by Nazis.

    Saying, “at least we are not acting like one of the most murderous regimes in history” is not much of an excuse for acting badly here. It shows a very low moral baseline on your part.

    They are being abused (including several instances of sexual molestation) in those camps and held hostage to force parents to give up their legal rights to asylum claims. There is nothing defensible to the practice. You are far too late for the “for their own protection”, “they are really being trafficked” bullsht. The Courts agreed, hence the order to stop the separations and reunite the families. (Which the administration is violating)

  • Duh!

    Abraham, allegedly, was going to kill his son because not to do so would have been disobeying an order. The Amalekites were slaughtered because a psychopathic god decided that genocide was OK and instructed the Israelites to destroy them.

    (OK I know that neither story is true, as in actually happened, but the concept was known whilst the stories were still a Bronze Age oral tradition).

    Just because the term “Nuremberg defence” is used as a shorthand description doesn’t mean the concept it describes originated in 1945.


  • And puts children in the hands of sexual predators! Don’t forget to mention all that these “holding centers” have to offer. Not to mention the psychological trauma inflicted.

    The issue is whether it is right or wrong to follow an order from a superior that is morally, ethically, legally wrong/illegal.

    The excuse I was just following orders doesn’t hold in war crimes tribunals and it shouldn’t hold here.

  • It seems to me the decision was a way of dodging the moral question to avoid political heat – whether the policy of separating children from parents who are attempting to enter the US without authorization (whatever their reason for wanting to be here – and I don’t doubt there was good reason) violates Christian principles. If it doesn’t violate them, no problem. If it does, then this defense is as ridiculous and dangerous as they come. Of course I wouldn’t equate what has been happening at the border with the Holocaust in degree, but it’s the same principle – how can we not hold government officials accountable for actions against morality? In that case, they’re basically agreeing with Sessions’ interpretation of Romans 13, and the church has lost whatever moral authority it may have had. It was an artful (well, clumsy) dodge.

  • I wonder how Alabama-West Florida Methodists dealt with the issue of slavery when Methodists in the South chose to split the Methodist church in the U.S. over that question.

    Wait, I already know how they dealt with the issue of slavery: they joined the split and defended slavery.

    I’m not in the least surprised to find their descendants giving mulligans to Beauregard Sessions and his white supremacy — while attacking the rights of immigrants, poor folks, and LGBTQ people. Slaveholding religion keeps on doing what it does best: standing resolutely on the opposite side of history’s moral arc at every juncture at which it’s given the chance to demonstrate that it’s gospel-rooted, instead.

  • That was precisely what you did by bringing up Nuremberg war crimes trial, by implication smearing Sessions/POTUS/DOJ as the modern equivalent of Nazis. But you don’t have the honesty to admit it.

  • The crux of the matter is that the order was not morally. etc., wrong, as I stated in my first response to dog. I am NOT arguing that it is right to follow an order that is morally wrong. This is just not one of those cases.

  • Children are separated from their parents every day in our legal system. Said parents should not expose their children to that sad circumstance by engaging in illegal activities. Cry me a river.

  • You are deflecting and full of it. You are a scumbag for supporting the practice.

    Donald Trump Is Still Setting Up Concentration Camps on American Soil

    Why it’s fair to use the controversial phrase in the debate over U.S. immigrant detentions.

    Call them what they are: The Trump concentration camps of 2018

    The whole point of them was to strong arm parents into giving up asylum claims by coercion. The children were being held hostage.

  • You are a lying sack of crap. Children are never detained in camps as regular part of our legal system. They are put in foster care. There is a huge difference between the two.

    Plus the charges brought against the parents were largely garbage which could not be effectively prosecuted. The prosecutors considered them bogus.

    BTW you already lost the chance to pretend the policy was legal, rational and well intentioned. The Court system already called out that nonsense when the administration couldn’t cough up legitimate reasons for the policy.

  • Foster care is an appropriate venue for the children of Americans who are incarcerated. Illegal alien children should be safely detained in a secure location where they cannot simply “disappear” prior to deportation. Ideally they should be detained together with their parents prior to deportation or admission, as their case may merit.

  • Now you are left with flinging poo. Oh well. Caught you lying in defense of an indefensible atrocious action by our government,.

  • “Children are separated….”

    the theory has been that it is done only as a last resort . not as a policy imposed to send a signal .

    “Cry me a river.”

    that has already been done by the children and their parents . that it means nothing to you suggests a lot about you . little about what would be a better policy for our borders .

  • so far the idea of “a secure location” for them has had the substance of a p.r. blitz by the administration to say that they have a good system when they don’t .

  • Foster care is for the children of anyone incarcerated. It was also the policy for children involved in prior civil immigration issues prior to Trump’s hostage taking efforts. You are trying to make crap up to cover up your obvious dishonest canned response. Those children are not being safely detained or safely anything. Again, the Court already called out your garbage here, which is why they ordered family reunification forthwith. You are arguing against facts already established.

    Plus if the children involved were illegal aliens, then the Trump administration would not be so keen to get the parents to waive their rights to make asylum claims. The attempt to circumvent the due process rights of the families involved was obvious as was he phony nature of the criminal charges which prompted the separation in the first place.

    Ideally, Trump should have not tried to hold kids hostage as political pawns for a second time. But then again using government to mistreat people of color for its own sake seems to be the regular practice of them.

  • how so ? do you know who precisely came up the “nuremberg defense” ? how do you know whether they were german lutherans ? catholics ?

    in fact do you know anything here other than you want to tar “Dawg” ?

  • you understated the case to start with : “You’re equating brutal death camps like Dachau with the holding centers….” which no one did . they spoke of the defense tactic, not any criminal activity .

    that now Spuddie overstates the case makes you guys about even . eye rolls totally unnecessary .

  • Children got separated under Mr. Obama. To this day, not all have been found. So let’s put the Dachau label on “Herr Obama” as well.

  • You’re essentially inviting the Methodists to jump from Gay Goliath’s frying pan straight into Gay Goliath’s fire. Methodists better stop messing up!!

  • Maybe if you people just stopped demonizing minorities, including LGBTQ+ people, you wouldn’t be in this position, now, would you?

  • No they didn’t. They were unaccompanied minors. You can stop pretending Trump acted in any way other than a sleazy racist POS here.

    He wanted the kids held hostage to force parents to give up their due process rights. Sorry but holding kids hostage is what terrorists do, not our god.

  • You seem to be confused about the levels of child abuse and neglect in these detention centers, which have already killed at least one child and misplaced hundreds.

  • Mr. Potato Head: “Trump something something hostage taking something something people of color something something racist something something…”

  • You got nothing. I got that already. You can’t sound any dumber right now.

    I caught you lying and you already proved to be a scumbag who makes excuses for putting kids in concentration camps.

    There us nothing more that needs to be said.

  • Yes, the tears of regret shed by those who break the law over the consequences of what they did don’t move me at all. Sorry.

  • It was givethedogabone who by implicastion first raised the spectre of Dachau by bringing up Nuremberg.

  • Wanna know the real difference between Abraham and Nuremberg? Oh about a 4,000-year time difference. Look up the English word anachronistic. That’s what your atheism has been of late, now that Richard Dawkins, whose proud parrot you’ve been for his anachronistic version of The Nuremberg Defense, has been kept at a distance and time-machined outta here by fellow atheists. About 4,000 years behind the times, you are. Catch up, wydoncha, Dawg.

  • ORIGIN – and no “a load of BS”, either: Robert H Jackson, “Opening Statement before the International Military Tribunal: Second Day, Wednesday, 11/21/1945, Part 04”, in “Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal. Volume II. Proceedings: 11/14/1945-11/30/1945”, International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, 1947, pages 98-102.

  • Robert H Jackson didn’t crack a “funny” joke once during the entire “Opening Statement before the International Military Tribunal: Second Day, Wednesday, 11/21/1945, Part 04”, in “Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal. Volume II. Proceedings: 11/14/1945-11/30/1945”, International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, 1947, pages 98-102.

  • Per Oxford University Dictionary, “tar [means] cover [someone] with tar … a dark, thick flammable liquid distilled from wood or coal, consisting of a mixture of hydrocarbons, resins, alcohols, and other compounds. It is used in road-making and for coating and preserving timber.”

    You mean that kind of “tar”-ring?

    Oh but I do know this, though: Robert H Jackson, “Opening Statement before the International Military Tribunal: Second Day, Wednesday, 11/21/1945, Part 04”, in “Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal. Volume II. Proceedings: 11/14/1945-11/30/1945”, International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, 1947, pages 98-102.

  • Check out today’s article in Esquire “Trump and Sessions Never Had a Plan—Except Cruelty
    The United States’ current policies towards asylum-seekers are morally repugnant.”

    Deliberate cruelty! Totally Nazi tactics! The #1 terrorist in the world today is Donald Trump!

  • “…those who break the law….”

    the american law on immigration is that which has been broken . the vast majority of those who are coming, without papers, into this country mirror your ancestors and mine . looking for a chance to work, support their families and become a part of the fabric of this land .

    fix our laws and don’t blame those coming to america for the problem that republicans and democrats together created . and maybe allow a little compassion for the kids we have messed over .

  • your spectre alert is far too sensitive . the “nuremberg defense” is used far and wide in legal proceedings and in politics to refer to those who try to excuse bad, criminal or sociopathic behavior as something the person was ordered to do .

    it is hard to believe that you don’t know that . and it is hard to believe that you knowing it did not use it as a way to short-circuit an argument that otherwise you were not likely to succeed in .

  • “Esquire”? Hmm, kinda ring a bell, don’t it. Oh yeah right – THIS “Esquire” mag, you mean?

    (1) “Journalist Giles Coren has come under fire after writing that he doesn’t care what profession his son chooses – ‘as long as he isn’t fat.’ The 48-year-old restaurant critic called his son ‘fat’ in his latest column for Esquire, before comparing him to ‘a Gavin and Stacey-era James Corden.’ Readers have been quick to criticize the esteemed writer, with some accusing him of fat-shaming his four-year old.”

    (2) “Esquire’s 1934 Cover Features Offensive Portrayal of a Black Boy … In June 1934, the magazine featured its then-mascot, Esky, trying to hit a golf ball out of a sand trap. At the top of the hill, however, one can see a stereotypical and seemingly offensive portrayal of a Black boy lying on the grass. Critics also pointed out that while Esky was dressed in nice golf attire, the Black character was seen in a T-shirt, ‘high-water pants’ and had no shoes on.”

    (3) “Lieutenant William Calley Jr., a U.S. Army platoon leader who was convicted of murdering 109 unarmed, innocent South Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai Massacre, posed with Vietnamese children for the November 1970 cover of Esquire magazine.”

    Source: (1) Olivia Petter, “Giles Coren Accused of Fat-Shaming His Son in Esquire Article”, The Independent, November 10, 2017. (2) Taylor Gordon, “8 Controversial Magazine Covers That Were Accused of Being Racist”, Atlanta Black Star, March 16, 2015. (3) Michael Nati, “12 More of the Most Controversial Magazine Covers”, Oddee, May 21, 2014.

  • Funny in that Nazis were not even close to atheists. It took a pretty wild stretch of apologetic logic to get to your conclusion. 🙂

  • Except they totally are. Hence your lame response. I give you news articles. You give me sneering.

    Scumbags who make excuses for such malicious and atrocious actions don’t like honest presentation of facts.

    You got nothing.

  • Ah poor baby didn’t bother to read the links I left you. They is why you are flailing about trying to fling poo.

    Wouldn’t expect anything less from a lying scumbag apologist for such actions. No decent person lies and makes excuses for locking children up and holding them hostage.

  • In his “Opening Statement before the International Military Tribunal” on November 21, 1945, Robert H Jackson offered this explanation as to why, in their so-called Nuremberg Defense, Nazi war criminals sought “refuge in superior orders [and] in the doctrine that [their] crimes were acts of states”:

    It was because of their “predominantly anti-Christian … ideology” that they had been practising the deadly State-sponsored kind of atheism against the Christian “faith that the law is not only to govern the conduct of little men, but that even rulers are, as Lord Chief Justice Coke put it to King James, ‘under God and the law.'”

    I have to agree with brother Robert H Jackson on this one argument.

  • The order was morally wrong! That is the crux of the issue! This is exactly one of these cases.

  • It’s always good to know that fall is coming early – the nuts have begun falling from the trees.

  • Remember – you oppose substituting morality for legality.

    Unless, of course, we’re talking about YOUR morality.

  • Yes, whether the order was morally wrong is indeed “the crux of the issue”. And on that question we disagree.

  • floydlee you’re a calvinist, therefore not a Christian. Consequently you have no grounds, reason, or right to comment on these matters.

  • Putting children in public schools puts them in the hands of sexual predators. Not to mention the psychological trauma inflicted.

    As an atheist what system do you use – or propose to use – to measure what is right or wrong, moral, or ethical?

  • Ah yes, blame the greatgrandchildren for the greatgrandparents’ sins, or vice versa.

    Classical half-baked theology at it its worst.

    The only “history’s moral arc” is the one created by Jesus Christ’s entry into human history.

  • Get over YOURSELF, Susan.

    You pontificate ad nauseum ad infinitum, but you’re completely unable to back anything up.

    Why would the world want your unsupported opinions on morality?

  • Jackson was a judge/lawyer, not a theologian. It would be decades before people owned up to the entanglement and dependence Nazis had with Christianity.

    Of course not being Christian is not the equivalent of atheist either. Except to a fundamentalist Christian.

  • I see “fling poo” is back.

    Wouldn’t expect anything less from a lying scumbag apologist.

  • “…history’s moral arc…” Human history has no moral arc, Theodore Parker notwithstanding.

  • your point about abraham proves Givethedog… position . it took jews and christians about 4000 years to come up with the understanding that you don’t do evil just because you are ordered to . orders by god or orders by your commanders do not excuse .

    as a christian i believe that perhaps god was not testing abraham on his loyalty–the traditional interpretation, but on the maturity of his moral judgement . and abraham failed miserably .

  • rather than insult people, Rick Brant, why don’t again explain why you think that mistreating children is good national policy .

  • now that you have tried to poison the well so that you would not have to deal with the point of the article, why not circle back and defend your position . if you can .

  • as one from a catholic viewpoint, i don’t understand your comment at all . i disagree with calvin’s theology a great deal, but neither you nor i have the right to read him or his group out of the christian community . as they don’t you or i .

  • There are lots of “Real differences” – one being the difference between demonstrable historical fact (Nuremberg) and an unevidenced bedtime story for kids.

    Richard Dawkins is a red herring introduced to cover your inability to make a rational argument.

    As to catching up – I’m not the one who believes in the deity whose shifting characteristics are based on ideas first passed down as an oral tradition by Bronze Age nomadic herders with no facility to understand the world they inhabited. Do you understand the concept of irony?

  • Because I don’t think that. I think children should be detained together with their parents, receiving healthy food, sound shelter, and necessary medical care (all at my -the taxpayer’s -expense) until such time as they are either deported or admitted, as their individual cases may warrant.

    As for insults, Charlotte is the Queen of Insults, and posts little else. Any attempts at discussion or reasoning with her are simply replied to by her with insults and name calling, so now I simply cut to the chase an reply in like manner.

  • True, like he himself had said, Robert H Jackson’s point:

    (1) Wasn’t that, like atheists, “the Nazi themselves were irreligious”;

    (2) But that, like atheists, “the Nazi Party always was predominantly anti-Christian in its ideology.”

    (3) And that, just as there is for atheists in a similar situation, “there is [also a] legal responsibility on high-ranking men [at these Nuremberg Trials] for acts which I have described [as ‘War Crimes’ … as well as a] standard in the law for a deliberate and reasoned judgment on such conduct”.

    (4) The crux of the problem, however, was that, like atheists, these Nazi war criminals inventing and playing the so-called Nuremberg Defence card (i.e. claiming legal “refuge in superior orders [and] in the doctrine that [their] crimes were acts of states”) were all without belief, having absolutely zero “faith … that even rulers are … ‘under God and the law.'”

  • “(1) Wasn’t that, like atheists, “the Nazi themselves were irreligious”;”

    Not actually true. Religion played a big part in the regime. Catholicism, Lutheranism and even Islam were all used to encourage collaboration with the Nazis.

    “(2) But that, like atheists, “the Nazi Party always was predominantly anti-Christian in its ideology.”

    Also not true. Atheism is not anti-any given religion. It is just no religious belief. Only self-absorbed Christians think it is predominately against themselves.

    “3) And that, just as there is for atheists in a similar situation, “there is [also a] legal responsibility on high-ranking men [at these Nuremberg Trials] for acts which I have described [as ‘War Crimes’ … as well as a] standard in the law for a deliberate and reasoned judgment on such conduct”.”

    And….? None of which is based on religious concepts, but instead on centuries of accrued agreement, treaty and legal discussion outside of religious views. Laws of war were some of the most obviously secular out there.

    “4) The crux of the problem, however, was that, like atheists, these Nazi war criminals inventing and playing the so-called Nuremberg Defence card”

    Complete fiction. Morality is not a function of God or religious belief. In fact religious belief is primarily used to circumvent moral thinking.

  • LOL. Insofar as I have never lynched anyone, I cannot stop doing what I have never done. But that never seems to prevent you from telling me to stop doing what I have never done. Of course emoting, not rational thought, is your modus operandi.

  • You’re telling me you weren’t referencing Richard Dawkins when, like him in this quote, you were accusing Abraham of playing the Nuremberg Defence card?!?!?!?!?!

    “God ordered Abraham to make a burnt offering of his longed-for son. Abraham built an altar, put firewood upon it, and trussed Isaac up on top of the wood. His murdering knife was already in his hand when an angel dramatically intervened with the news of a last-minute change of plan: God was only joking after all, ‘tempting’ Abraham, and testing his faith. A modern moralist cannot help but wonder how a child could ever recover from such a psychological trauma. By the standards of modern morality, this disgraceful story is an example simultaneously of child abuse, bullying in two asymmetrical power relationships, and the first recorded use of the Nuremberg defence: ‘I was only obeying orders.’ Yet the legend is one of the great foundational myths of all three monotheistic religions.”
    – Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

  • You shouldn’t need to be told that putting kids in the hands of sexual predators is wrong, regardless of your religious beliefs.

  • No – not consciously – just seemed glaringly obvious – like the reference to the Amalekites which, apparently, is not quoted by Dawkins. It is quite some years since I read The God Delusion. Nice to know that Dawkins thinks the same way that I do!

    I know that religion is structured and demands that one accept authority and dogma as the price of membership – but atheism is too simple for that.

    Even though of us who take atheism to the extreme – Humanism – aren’t excluded if we don’t follow a detailed party line. Atheism, Thinking for yourself and doing the least possible harm is about as dogmatic as we militants get. No priests, no rituals, no scriptures and no tithing – what’s to dislike?

    Just another reason why atheism is not a religion (and, FWIW, Humanism isn’t either – it’s a non-faith worldview).

    Edited to add
    You do realise, don’t you, that knowing the quote from The God Delusion means that quoting from Ali Razvi, “Morality: Objective Law or Subjective” approvingly places you you in a very dubious moral and ethical position – does it not?

  • I’m a born-again Christian student of atheism (movement), and here’s what two of my atheist mentors have to say about no such thing as “a non-faith worldview” of atheism. It’s worth repeating, reposting & realerting because it explains how the Nuremberg Defence was essentially an atheist invention.

    (1) “In a move as useful as it was overdue (a few people have tried this, but to my knowledge none nearly as successfully), [Stephen LeDrew in The Evolution of Atheism] demolishes one of the most widely held myths that atheists have about themselves, namely, the belief that atheism is simply a matter of not believing in any gods. Atheism is in fact ‘a complex term with an even more complex history’ and ‘cannot be reduced to one single all-encompassing definition.’ [CJ Werleman in The New Atheist Threat: The Dangerous Rise of Secular Extremists] remarks that ‘on its own,’ atheism ‘is a non-positive assertion.’ Unbelief, however, is rarely ‘on its own.’ As LeDrew points out, with the rise of evolutionary theory, atheism ‘moved from simple negation of religious beliefs to an affirmation of liberalism, scientific rationality, and the legitimacy of the institutions and methodology of modern science—and thus from religious criticism to a complete ideological system.’ Atheism, then, is ‘a form of belief—rather than a lack of belief—shaped by its socio-historical context’ and ‘inextricably bound up with’ a plethora of principles that emerged from the Enlightenment.”

    (2) Your argument for the “non-faith worldview” of atheism is essentially a Nuremberg Defence itself, for which, in its original version, the Nazi war criminals – not Richard Hawkins and his Straw Man by the name of Abraham – were arguing for! And that’s precisely the crux of the problem faced head on by Robert H. Jackson in his “Opening Statement before the International Military Tribunal. For like atheists, see, these Nazi war criminals inventing and playing the so-called Nuremberg Defence card (i.e. claiming legal “refuge in superior orders [and] in the doctrine that [their] crimes were acts of states”) were all without belief, having absolutely zero “faith … that even rulers are … ‘under God and the law.'” Their trump card, in other words, was very much like your “non-faith worldview” of atheism; for your sake and edification, Robert H. Jackson would even call it the “non-faith worldview” of Nazism, I’m sure.

    Source: (1) David Hoelscher, “New Atheism, Worse Than You Think”, CounterPunch, January 29, 2016. (2) Robert H Jackson, “Opening Statement before the International Military Tribunal: Second Day, Wednesday, 11/21/1945, Part 04”, in “Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal. Volume II. Proceedings: 11/14/1945-11/30/1945”, International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, 1947, pages 98-102.

  • The rights of immigrants — those aliens granted permanent residency status — aren’t under attack. Neither are the rights of nonimmigrants — those permitted to temporarily reside in the US, for work, schooling, or just tourists. And undocumented aliens have no right to be in this country at all.

  • “Catholicism, Lutheranism and even Islam were all used to encourage collaboration with the Nazis.”

    You’ve been shot out of the saddle on this before.

    The largest single opponent of Nazism was Christianity.

    “Atheism is not anti-any given religion.”

    You’ve also been shot of this saddle before as well.

    Name one atheist country, current or past, which is/was not anti-religion.

    “… instead on centuries of accrued agreement, treaty and legal discussion outside of religious views.”

    International law is primarily based on natural law.

    “Morality is not a function of God or religious belief.”

    It’s certainly not a function of anti-religious belief.

  • All people develop an ethical/morals/value system based on what they are taught by their parents but perhaps more importantly the behavior of their parents (whether they practice what they preach). As we grow and move out into the world we add to our basic system what we learn from friends, neighbors, teachers and preachers, store people and business leaders and politicians.Again it isn’t just what they tell us but what they actually do themselves that is the most important. Then everything that we read, listen to, watch on TV or movies or the internet, every experience we have, what we observe in watching other people (you can also learn what not to do by watching others)–all of this goes into or perhaps a better word gets incorporated into out belief system, our system of morals, ethics and values.

    I measure what is right and wrong based on four main understandings. As I pointed out earlier in another post the understanding that humans are all made of the same stuff. Skin color, ethnicity, the clothes we wear or don’t wear, gender, sexual orientation or identity, all of these are superficial (only skin deep)–on the inside we have the same needs, and wants and desires–AND most importantly it is what is on the inside, the content of our character which shows itself to the world by how we behave–our day to day words and actions–how we treat other humans, how we treat other living things, plants, animals and our planet, and how we treat ourselves. All the doctrines and dogmas are distractions that lead us astray.

    The second main understanding is that we are all in this together. i can’ get off of this planet and neither can anyone else. My health and well being as well as yours is dependent on a healthy planet, which is dependent upon healthy plants, animals and humans and social systems and societies. WE can either learn to set aside our differences and work together for the common good or WE can constantly be at war with each other and our planet. The choice is ours to make.

    Third is the growth of our groups. Global communication systems and transportation systems and the internet have enlarged for me “my group” so that it includes everyone, not just those that are just like me.

    Fourth our understanding of the world and how it works, of people and how they work, of societies and how they work have grown and our social systems, values, morals and ethics must also grow as we grow.IF that is we want to create a world where all can live in peace and have a chance to thrive not just to survive!

  • you so love tangents . your above comment, second above, quotes an avi razvi saying of the nazis : ” They had decided to wipe God out and view morals through the lens of Atheism….”

    which proved little . the germans believed in total war going into world war ii . just as the allies and the axis did in world war i . just as sherman did in his civil war scorched earth policy . most all would have considered themselves christians .

    besides who is avi razvi and why should we pay attention to him ? the nazi’s were evil and many of them did evil things . but many christians also have done evil things . avi and you both try to prove too much and thus destroy your own arguments .

    and ??? james was a pharisee and traitor ? what are you talking about ?

  • “All people develop an ethical/morals/value system based on what they are taught by their parents but perhaps more importantly the behavior of their parents (whether they practice what they preach).”

    So, you’re saying your parents hated religion and those who adhered to religions?

    And that’s your excuse?

    What is interesting is that if someone wants to, say, pass a law, and they base it on a non-humanist or non-atheist belief, you’re manning the barricades.

    “I measure what is right and wrong based on four main understandings. As I pointed out earlier in another post the understanding that humans are all made of the same stuff.”

    And I pointed out that justified essentially zero judgments on right and wrong.

    And you were never able to explain why it meant anything.

    Basically, you have some opinions.


    Let’s just recognize that is all they are.

    And so does everyone else.

  • “…these Nazi war criminals inventing and playing the so-called Nuremberg Defence….”

    the concept behind what is now commonly called the nuremberg defense predates world war ii and the nazis by centuries . there is one well attested case of a knight on trial for killing people under his authority and him claiming that the ruler over him had ordered him to do so in the 1400’s . there were 3 australian soldiers in world war i with a like defense .

    the only thing that world war ii did that was new was to contribute the name “nuremberg” to the concept .

  • Me & Givethedogabone (whom you’ve been a Disqus-sion parasite on) had wrapped up our Disqus-sion just now. Go over it all. If you have any questions, just address them to her & me. How can we help you, moresteps?

  • Ah yes but atheists on calling it The Nuremberg Defence, then accusing Abraham & Sessions of playing The Nuremberg Defence card. Now why is that? You have a theory on that? You already know mine and reject it, so let me hear your theory.

  • Get over it Bob. Your lies and false accusations are tiresome and just show that YOU are the one that lacks any values, morals or ethics.

  • Get over it, Susan.

    The website is Religion News Service, not Atheists Pummeling Religion.

    You jump up and down if folks with religious beliefs, even natural law, dare to opine, but you have no problem pontificating on the right and wrong of this, that, or the other based on parental indoctrination a half century ago.

    If you dish it out, you have to take it.

    If you can’t stand the heat, you shouldn’t be in the kitchen.

  • because some of us theists as well as some atheists will call things by what they are currently labelled . the use of newer words or phrases is not anachronistic . it is the way the language works .

  • Jackson didn’t mention the word atheism once. He said that the Nazis were either irreligious (what we would call a None) or pagan. But even if he had called them atheists, that doesn’t make Superior Orders an atheist argument.

  • Not sure if Dawkins covered this, but there many signs in the text that Isaac never recovered from the trauma — if he was neurotypical to begin with.

  • thank you for that . i am not surprised .

    judaism has had a much more robust dialogue with its scriptures than christianity has had, and thus is able to tease out meanings, and more profound understandings of our origins .

    and how we might use the scriptures today as honest jews and christians .

  • Bob you can’t “dish” anything to a person who is bigger than you are. If you haven’t noticed this site is open to a wide variety of believers and non-believers. For better and WORSE religion affects us all! IF people wouldn’t try to impose their beliefs on others we wouldn’t have these problems!

    As you say, if you can’t stand the heat, you shouldn’t be on this site!

  • Given your non-stop attacks on those with religious beliefs, nittering negativism, and pontificating, one would never know that a wide variety of people of views that are contrary to yours even exist.

    And it is YOUR imposing your beliefs on others that prompted the comments to which you responded:

    “Get over it Bob. Your lies and false accusations are tiresome and just show that YOU are the one that lacks any values, morals or ethics.”

    As you say, if you can’t stand the heat, you shouldn’t be on this site!

    And for the love of Mike stop whining.

  • Why don’t you stop posting? I don’t whine or complain. I put up with your gibberish because with each post you are showing the true character of yourself and your religion!

  • I will keep on posting.

    I will keep on pointing out how inconsistent you are in demanding rights for yourself and denying them to others.

    I will point out how you cannot support the simplest of your arguments.

    And you will continue to be upset by it.

  • You will keep lying about me Bob.I demand equal rights for everyone and you know that!

    I am really glad I continue to upset you. That shows the “cognitive dissonance” you create for yourself is getting to you! You are a seriously flawed man.

  • “I demand equal rights for everyone and you know that!”

    Odd, you just took the position that some folks were not allowed to exercise their religious rights.

    In fact you argued that even though the Supreme Court said that Hobby Lobby had a right not to pay for contraceptives, in your opinion they should not exercise that right.

    I don’t like to point it out, but taking a position that contradicts a position you took just minutes ago seems to indicate some cognitive flaw, and not at this end of the conversation.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”, but don’t think SOME sort of consistency is not too much to ask for?

  • Bob grow up! Societies have always struggled with how to deal with the dilemma raised when one person’s rights and freedoms interfere with another person’s or groups rights and freedoms. It isn’t easy finding the middle road position which is that you live your life as you see fit as long as it doesn’t interfere with my right or others rights and freedoms to live their life/lives as they see fit.

    The Hobby Lobby folks think they have the right to interfere with other people’s rights. They don’t. Their action is immoral.

  • Speaking of growing up, you cannot – repeat – cannot try to proscribe the Hobby Lobby owners’ rights under clear law – so clear that the Supreme Court of these United States point blank stated they had the right – to not pay for something which goes contra to their religious beliefs, and state at the same time you support everyone’s rights.

    As an avowed and rather loud atheist what you’re doing is trying to interfere with others’ rights and freedoms to live their life/lives as they see fit but saying you don’t because religious beliefs are special case which you believe are not worthy of being respected.

    The law is, and the rights are, on Hobby Lobby’s side.

  • If you had gone to school where and when I was a child you would not have faced such things. That would have been unheard of. Of course, that was not in some Midwest redneck Okie town. Hopefully you do not live in such a place now as was described in the link. If so, get out of that miserable area; there are plenty of other places which would welcome you.

    Although I have no way of corroborating what you say about your childhood, I will take it at face value and, in light of it, will not trouble you with any further posts.

  • No Bob that is the difference between you and me. I can tell the difference between right and wrong, good and bad and you can’t!

  • No, Susan, that is the difference between you and me.

    I don’t think every thing that I particularly like is right, while believing every thing I dislike is wrong.

    I put the time into figuring out which is which, even if sometimes I don’t care for the result and it produces hardship for me.

    You, on the other hand, make no distinction at all between your likes, your opinions, and “moral” judgments despite the fact that when pushed you can’t justify them beyond knowing what you like and don’t.

  • Sorry Bob you have showed us time and time again you can’t tell the difference between right and wrong and your statement above (actually it does) about my comment that (having the right to do something doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do).

    We have the right to freedom of speech. YET the courts have upheld that it is wrong to yell FIRE in a crowded theatre. The courts have held people accountable for another person’s death when they didn’t actually kill the person BUT there words led another to kill the person.

    So Bob I repeat: Having the right to do something doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do!

  • Blah, blah.

    Basically everyone has rights, in your extremely humble opinion, except those who assert religious beliefs.

    They should go home, or to church, temple, synagogue, mosque, or other place with walls and a roof and get out of your way and the way of people who agree with you.

    When you’re pushed you have been universally unable to explain your position beyond that.

    Your examples proved that you have no idea how to formulate a moral position.

  • Blah blah blah.

    No lies, which is why you never cite any.

    You hate religious beliefs, but like to pose as in favor of rights, and speak unctuous meaningless nonsense.

    Speaking of growing up and getting a life, of course.

  • But all these atheists say the same thing, though. You go figure. Not my problem, but yours, your atheism’s!

    (1) Terry Eagleton, Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, Yale University Press, 2009.

    (2) Daniel Fincke, “Why I Criticize My Fellow Atheists”, Camels with Hammers, June 17, 2013.

    (3) Jurgen Habermas, “A Conversation About God and the World”, in “Time of Transitions”, Polity, 2014.

    (4) Sikivu Hutchinson, Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars, Infidel Books, 2011.Stephen LeDrew, The Evolution of Atheism: The Politics of a Modern Movement, Oxford University Press, 2016.

    (5) Frank Pasquale, Secularism & Secularity: Contemporary International Perspectives, Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC), 2007.

    (6) CJ Werleman, The New Atheist Threat: The Dangerous Rise of Secular Extremists, Dangerous Little Books, 2016.

  • Esquire accusing “Trump and Sessions [of] Cruelty … towards asylum-seekers” was “accus[ed just last year] of fat-shaming [the] four-year old” son of their own columnist. Back in the day Esquire put out a magazine “Cover Featur[ing] Offensive Portrayal of a Black Boy” and “a U.S. Army platoon leader … convicted of murdering 109 unarmed, innocent South Vietnamese civilians”.

    And you’re asking, Who’s “poison[ing] the well” here, really?

  • you have nothing . you repeat same garbage as above : a 48 year old cover, a 84 year old cover and a would be comic writer for the english edition of esquire speaking of his 4 year old son (hint : the boy won’t be able to read it for a few more years) .

    the article, ‘trump and sessions never had a plan–except cruelty’, has a point . it was written by charles p pierce.[ work quickly ! maybe you can try to dig something on him . maybe he got a parking ticket and you can hint that pierce is not to be trusted .]

    really, trump and sessions never did have a plan . at least beyond the statement that sessions made that he thought if they separated parents and children the word would get out that american were really mfers and you really do not want to mess with them . ah. the land of the free and home of the brave indeed . we’ll break up families .

    as our bully-in-chief likes to say : “sad” .

  • “I’m a born-again Christian student of atheism (movement), and here’s what two of my atheist mentors have to say about no such thing as “a non-faith worldview” of atheism”

    1 – You have a self-admitted faith-based position which means that your objectivity is, at best, compromised.

    2 – Atheism is not a “non-faith worldview” – it is the absence of belief in god(s). Technically it does not preclude irrational belief in the benefits of homeopathy or the silliness of flat-earthers.

    3 – Humanism is a “non-faith world view”.

    4 – Humanism is an atheistic “non-faith world view”. Humanists seek answers to their questions through the exercise of the scientific method rather than supernatural, and therefore untestable, belief.

    5 – Historically – during the “Age of Enlightenment” the term atheism was used in a manner different to current non-historical academia usage. (Just as the early Christians were regarded as atheists for refusing to acknowledge more than their single god (not the same as the term meant during the Enlightenment) . The word prove used to mean test – that’s why the, on the face of it, silly statement “it’s the exception that proves the rule” was not always daft. Language, like life, evolves.

    6 – Not my problem – just trying to neutralise the bs that some religious doubters employ to try to boost their “faith” by refusing to admit that human beings can exist perfectly well without religious belief. The thought that they may be wrong about needing faith is often disturbing and the easiest way to control such anxiety is to deny its possibility.

  • And neither have yourself. Cant even look in a mirror. You just scream “YOU’RE ANTI- RELIGOUS!!! LAH LAH LAH LAH LAH LHAH!!!”
    Pathetic man. You are literally asking for Tolerance of the intolerant.

  • the law obviously is on the hobby lobby side since the strange supreme court decision .

    hobby lobby gave certain salaries and benefits to their employees . they then want to dictate what legal items their employees may spend their salary and benefits on .

    hobby lobby wanted and got in that decision the legal approval to set their religious rights over the rights of their employees .

  • To the points:

    1 & 6. It doesn’t matter. What matters is next.

    2-5. My scholarly atheist circle still finds your pop atheism disagreable. And embarassing. You gotta do something about that. A university in Florida is offering an Program in Secularism & Atheism. Try that.

  • Scholars often have an interest in maintaining out-of-date and exclusive interpretations – it goes with the need to publish and the requirement to be “serious”.

    I don’t have to do anything about a bunch of dinosaurs – they can exist in their ivory towers – I’m out on the street.

    Perhaps they should acknowledge that their scholarly writings, whilst relevant to past circumstances, are not reflective of current thought. After all, as the then Professor of History at South Wales University said (in a second class overnight sleeper train between Edinburgh and Carstairs in 1976(?)) the only reason for studying history is that one enjoys so doing – drawing lessons for today from the past is dangerous since the circumstances are never identical. FWIW he’d just spent 20 minutes explaining how the resolutions of the successive power vacuums in (now) northern Germany which followed the withdrawal of the Roman legions led to the inevitability of WWII if a strong right wing leader surfaced in in Germany during the 1920s; and I’d asked if he agreed with Henry Ford.