Debate Crowd Cheers as Buttigieg Attacks Christian Republicans, Trotting out 'Kids in Cages' Lie

On Thursday night during the second round of the first 2020 Democratic presidential debate, Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., tried to shame Republican Christians into silence by attacking immigration policies that the Trump administration either never employed or that the Obama administration also employed.

"The Republican Party likes to cloak itself in the language of religion," Buttigieg, a member of the liberal mainline Episcopal Church, began. "Now, our party doesn’t talk about that as much largely for a very good reason — which is we are committed to the separation between church and state and we stand for people of any religion and people of no religion."

"But we should call out hypocrisy when we see it," he added. "And for a party that associates itself with Christianity, to say that it is okay to suggest that God would smile at the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages, has lost all claim to ever use religious language again."

Buttigieg has long directed his liberal Christian ire against conservative Christians who follow the clear teachings of the Bible on sexuality. My church actually withdrew from his denomination because the Episcopal Church started saying that Jesus was not the only path to salvation, and because it was rejecting the Bible on sexuality issues. It is ironic for Buttigieg to slam conservative Christians as insufficiently Christian when he does not follow the Bible on these issues.

Yet there is an even larger problem with Buttigieg's declaration. His attempt to shame Republican Christians into silence on immigration focused on the Obama administration's immigration policies.

First, the narrative that Trump's administration put "kids in cages" is misleading. The infamous photos of "kids in cages" by the border came from 2014 under the Obama administration, not under Trump. Photos showing immigrants sleeping on the concrete floor also date from Obama's tenure, in 2015. Children have been kept in caged areas under Trump, but it did not start with Trump.

Secondly, the Obama administration also separated families at the border, refusing to place children in detention centers with their parents. Democrats have demonized these policies, conveniently forgetting that Democratic presidents have also used them.

As PJ Media's Paula Bolyard put it, "By extension, Pete Buttigieg said Obama has 'lost all claims to use religious language again' because he caged kids at the border."

As for Christianity and the law, Romans 13 encourages Christians to follow the law, not encourage lawbreaking. However, there is no clear Christian policy on immigration. It is not out of step with Christianity for a government to restrict immigration or to detain lawbreakers while not detaining their children.

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.