Today, Congress is taking another step toward addressing its constitutional duty to provide oversight of the executive branch. The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship are holding a joint hearing on oversight of the “Muslim” travel ban.
Banning Muslims is an affront to our American ideals of religious freedom for all.
A true test of our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is how we continue to respond to the “Muslim ban,” called for in 2015 by then-candidate Donald Trump and implemented as a travel ban by his administration. I’ve spoken out in opposition to the ban at every step of its existence as an American who values our Constitution and because of my faith as a Christian. Today, I’m writing to urge my fellow Christians to oppose to any policy that is rooted in anti-Muslim bias.
The history of the ban is one of trying to pass off discrimination with a thin veil of legal legitimacy. On Dec. 7, 2015, Trump called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on.” His intent to target people based on their faith — an obvious violation of our nation’s commitment to religious freedom — was stated from the beginning.
According to President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, the president asked him to make his campaign pledge a reality but not violate the Constitution. "I’ll tell you the whole history of it: When he first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban,'" Giuliani said on Fox News. "He called me up, he said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’"
The president issued Executive Order 13769 on Jan. 27, 2017, and it was immediately blocked by the federal courts. He then tried a second time with a revised version, Executive Order 13780 on March 6, 2017, and finally a third time on Sept. 24, 2017, with Presidential Proclamation 9645. Three executive actions with different numbers, details, and legal maneuvering all serving one purpose: to dress up unconstitutional motives and policy with a legal facade.
After being consistently blocked by lower courts, the president’s travel ban finally made it to the Supreme Court in April 2018. The organization I lead — Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) — argued that the ban, in all its iterations, remained unconstitutionally based in religious animus toward Muslims.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to uphold the travel ban. I agree with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote in dissent that the majority opinion “repeats tragic mistakes of the past and denies countless individuals the fundamental right of religious liberty.”
After the Supreme Court’s decision, I spoke out against the ruling. Now, I’m asking you to join me in renewing our commitment to defend religious freedom for all. I encourage you to advocate against the travel ban. You can call your member of Congress and tell them you support repealing the president’s travel ban.
If you are a Christian as I am, also consider signing the Christians Against Christian Nationalism statement, going on the record with your opposition to a political ideology which suggests that to be a “true American,” one must be Christian. One line from the statement, which has been signed by more than 15,000 Christians across the United states, reads: “Whether we worship at a church, mosque, synagogue, or temple, America has no second-class faiths.”
To continue our country’s longstanding commitment to religious liberty, we must ensure that everyone shares this freedom.