More than 600 members of United Methodist Church have filed a formal complaint accusing Attorney General Jeff Sessions of violating church rules over his role in implementing the government's "zero-tolerance" policy on immigration.
The complaint, filed by 640 Methodists on Monday, charges Sessions with child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination and "dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of doctrine of the United Methodist Church," according to Religion News Service (RNS).
"We, the undersigned laity and clergy of the United Methodist Church, issue a formal complaint against fellow United Methodist layperson Jefferson Beauregard Sessions," the letter read, as reported by RNS.
The complaint was sent to a church in Alabama and another copy was reportedly delivered to a church in the Washington, D.C. suburbs.
"While we are reticent to bring a formal complaint against a layperson, Mr. Sessions' unique combination of tremendous social/political power, his leading role as a Sunday School teacher and former delegate to General Conference, and the severe and ongoing impact of certain of his public, professional actions demand that we, as his siblings in the United Methodist denomination, call for some degree of accountability," the letter continued, as reported by RNS.
Sessions has drawn backlash for citing Romans 13 to defend the government's policy of separating children from parents along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The complaint also accuses the attorney general of misusing the verse to "indicate the necessity of obedience to secular law."
The charges could result in a church trial, but Rev. William Lawrence, an expert on the United Methodist Church, said that it is "highly unusual" for charges against the nation's attorney general to progress beyond the reconciliation stage. He expects Sessions, his local pastor and his bishop to seek a "just resolution" on the issue.
David F. Watson, academic dean and professor of New Testament at United Theological Seminary, noted that most complaints at the United Methodist Church have been directed against clergy who have performed or entered into same-sex marriages.
Church leaders from other denominations have also denounced the government's policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.
Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention voted in favor of a resolution that called for immigration reform that maintains "the priority of family unity."
Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have also denounced the policy through official statements or through letters signed by their respective leaders.
The Department of Homeland Security has reportedly confirmed on Friday that almost 2,000 children have already been separated from their parents at the border between April 19 — when the policy was implemented — and May 31.