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Why Is the Media Silent a Week After Methodists Dismissed 'Child Abuse' Charge Against Jeff Sessions?

In mid-June, 640 United Methodists drafted a letter asking the United Methodist Church to sanction Attorney General Jeff Sessions over immigration policy, police policy, and comments he made about Romans 13. They used buzzwords like "child abuse" "immorality," and "racial discrimination." This was a big story, and The New York Times, USA TODAY, TimeCNN, and other outlets rightly covered it. (The Washington Post had no fewer than three stories about it two days after it broke.)

On July 30, a Methodist Church leader dismissed the attempt to "discipline" Sessions in a brief, one-page letter. Crickets.

One week later, only a few major online outlets — the Christian Post and AL.com — reported the story. None of the mainstream outlets that had rushed to report the budding sanctions against the U.S. attorney general thought it merited a follow-up story to admit that the charges were dropped.

Instead, a few outlets (here's the Houston Chronicle's editorial board) even castigated Sessions after he announced the Department of Justice's new religious liberty task force last week — suggesting he was not a Methodist in good standing because of the aborted "discipline."

The 640 United Methodist ministers sent a complaint to Sessions' pastor in Mobile, Ala., and the pastor of a church he attends in Alexandria, Va., on June 18. The complaint charged Sessions with "child abuse" for the family separation involved in the "zero tolerance" policy enforcing immigration law, "immorality" in supporting violence against children in these circumstances, "racial discrimination" in enforcing border laws, and "dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of doctrine in the United Methodist Church."

Some outlets covered the story that very day, while most had it on June 19 or June 20.

The Rev. Dr. Debora Bishop, superintendent of the Mobile District in which Sessions' home church (Ashland Place United Methodist Church) is located, wrote that "the judicial process of the United Methodist Church cannot be used in the matter of United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions to address political actions." She argued that Sessions' activities were "carrying out the official policy of the President" and that this type of conduct does not fall under the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Dr. Debora Bishop wrote this letter on Monday, July 30. A photo of that letter was posted on Facebook on Friday, August 3. On Saturday, August 4, United Methodist News Service covered the story. On Sunday, August 5, Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), covered the story in Juicy Ecumenism.

As of Tuesday evening, the mainstream media outlets that had rushed to get out the original story had still not covered the follow-up. Perhaps it was inconvenient for their narrative.