Amid increasing scrutiny of President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, criticisms have been lodged against the policy of family separation at the border by, among others, members of his own party and otherwise stalwart Christian right allies of the GOP. One Christian ally of the White House, though, came out swinging in favor of taking children away from their parents: Capitol Ministries.

Ralph Drollinger, the head of the private Christian group, which leads Bible study sessions for Republican lawmakers and senior members of Trump’s Cabinet, led the charge to defend the administration even as photos and stories emerge showing children crowded into cages and snatched from their mothers.

“It follows that when someone breaks the law of the land that they should anticipate that one of the consequences of their illegal behavior will be separation from their children.

“No one, especially my personal friend, the kind-hearted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, desires that a mother or father be separated from their children,” wrote Drollinger, in a message to supporters on Friday. But, the Capitol Ministries leader said, there are “three classifications of people in every country, as was true in ancient Israel in the Old Testament.” In Drollinger’s interpretation, there are citizens, legal immigrants, and foreigners — the latter were known as being “illegal,” he said — and the Bible only forbids family separation for citizens and legal immigrants.

“It follows that when someone breaks the law of the land that they should anticipate that one of the consequences of their illegal behavior will be separation from their children,” Drollinger wrote. “Such is the case with thieves or murderers who are arrested and put in jail.”

Sessions attracted controversy after citing a Bible verse to defend the administration’s “zero-tolerance” border enforcement strategy. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” the attorney general declared during a speech in Fort Wayne, Indiana, last Thursday.

Despite the support from a right-wing Christian group that’s especially close to the administration, other conservative Christians are pressuring the Trump administration to change its practices. Earlier this month, a group of evangelical pastors signed a letter harshly condemning the child separation policy. “The traumatic effects of this separation on these young children, which could be devastating and long lasting, are of utmost concern,” stated the letter, which was signed by the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who gave an opening prayer at Trump’s inauguration and is reportedly close to the president, among other evangelical leaders.

Drollinger, who has become immensely influential following the 2016 election, believes Sessions correctly invoked the scripture.

“The passage the Attorney General cited, Romans 13, bespeaks of this: there are and there should be serious, known consequences for breaking the laws of the land — otherwise the law becomes toothless and inconsequential and it is no longer a deterrent to harmful behavior, which is what God designed it to be,” Drollinger wrote, citing his own Bible study on illegal immigration, published on the Capitol Ministries website two years ago.

“To procedurally exclude foreign individuals who might be criminals, traitors, or terrorists, or who possess communicable diseases is not racist in the least!”

In the 2016 Bible study, Drollinger wrote that “immigration laws of every nation should be Biblically based and strictly enforced — all with the utmost confidence that assurance that God approves such actions by the nation’s leaders.” He added, “To procedurally exclude foreign individuals who might be criminals, traitors, or terrorists, or who possess communicable diseases is not racist in the least!”

Drollinger, a former college basketball star turned spiritual adviser to conservative politicians, has quietly amassed power in Washington, D.C., through his Monday evening Bible studies with conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Several Cabinet members, including the vice president and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, pray on a regular basis with Drollinger’s group. As the minister recently told a German newspaper, he provides the administration with “the high-protein diet of the Word of God.” In the past, Drollinger bashed gay rights and called Catholicism the “world’s largest false religion.”

As The Intercept first reported, shortly after the presidential election, Drollinger could barely conceal his excitement that members of his inner circle would soon occupy the White House. He published a press statement celebrating the fact that Trump’s appointments for his administration were drawn from “long time sponsors of the Members Bible Studies.”

“It follows then that the sudden rise of Pence, Sessions, and Pompeo — all men who are disciples of Jesus Christ — serve to vividly illustrate the truth of 1 Timothy 2:1-4!” Drollinger announced, referring to a Bible verse that calls for prayer “for kings and all who are in authority.”

Drollinger’s controversial interpretations extend to other areas of GOP orthodoxy. Capitol Ministries claims “that Islam and its Koran are nothing more than a plagiarism of OT truths” — a reference to the Old Testament — “and a non-chronological, sloppy one at that — topped off with a falsified diminution of Jesus Christ.”

Top photo: Clergyman and retired professional basketball player Ralph Drollinger at the Capitol Hill Club, in Washington, D.C. in October 2017.