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Voices of faith respond to Supreme Court’s travel ban decision

Voices of faith respond to Supreme Court’s travel ban decision

In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court upheld Donald Trump’s travel ban today, attacked by many as targeting Muslims (from Al Jazeera, those countries include Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen), and prompting protest in D.C. and statements from a number of communities of faith.

From the New York Times:

In a 5-to-4 vote, the court’s conservatives said that the president’s power to secure the country’s borders, delegated by Congress over decades of immigration lawmaking, was not undermined by Mr. Trump’s history of incendiary statements about the dangers he said Muslims pose to the United States.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that Mr. Trump had ample statutory authority to make national security judgments in the realm of immigration. And the chief justice rejected a constitutional challenge to Mr. Trump’s third executive order on the matter, issued in September as a proclamation.

Justice Sotomayor wrote the dissenting opinion, with the support of Justice Ginsburg:

In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor lashed out at Mr. Trump, also quoting many of the anti-Muslim statements. She noted that, on Twitter, he retweeted three anti-Muslim videos as president and tweeted that “we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries.”

“Let the gravity of those statements sink in,” Justice Sotomayor said. “Most of these words were spoken or written by the current president of the United States.”

The text of her dissent, which can be found on National Public Radio’s website here:

The United States of America is a Nation built upon the promise of religious liberty. Our Founders honored that core promise by embedding the principle of religious neu­trality in the First Amendment. The Court’s decision today fails to safeguard that fundamental principle. It leaves undisturbed a policy first advertised openly and unequivocally as a “total and complete shutdown of Mus­lims entering the United States” because the policy now masquerades behind a façade of national-security con­cerns. But this repackaging does little to cleanse Presi­dential Proclamation No. 9645 of the appearance of dis­crimination that the President’s words have created. Based on the evidence in the record, a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus. That alone suffices to show that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their Estab­lishment Clause claim. The majority holds otherwise by ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent, and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the Procla­mation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens. Because that troubling result runs contrary to the Constitution and our precedent, I dissent.

Protests came together quickly after the decision was released. From The Independent:

Progressive and religious organisations released statements calling for public resistance against the travel restrictions almost immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision was announced. A coalition of nearly 24 advocacy groups arrived outside of the Supreme Court for a demonstration on Tuesday afternoon, including Islamic organisations like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Justice for Muslims Collective and the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Other civil rights groups also joined the protest, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Public Citizen…

…Linda Sarsour, Muslim advocate and one of the organisers behind the historic Women’s March, slammed the Supreme Court for taking “the side of Trump and his white supremacist administration” in a Facebook post calling for a protest in New York City’s Foley Square on Tuesday night.

The Reverend Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, issued the following statement (reproduced completely below and linked here):

Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow … (Jeremiah 22:3).

I am dismayed by the Supreme Court’s recent decision concerning the president’s authority to restrict travel into the United States. It applies to travelers from certain countries based on those countries’ inability to provide information necessary for immigration vetting. Strong vetting procedures have already been authorized by Congress and reviews of applications for possible links to terrorism are also in place. Therefore, restricting all travelers from certain countries simply because they are citizens of those countries is deeply troubling. In the past, we have seen the sometimes horrific effects of excluding and marginalizing (or worse) whole classes of people based on their ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender identity or other characteristics.

Our social statement, “For Peace in God’s World,” provides theological guidance for the church to respond by offering wise words of caution:

Citizens need to give careful attention to how we in the United States perceive our national interest and interpret our national identity, since what states do depends in large measure on their views of their own interests and identity. Sin’s power often makes itself felt in arrogant and self-righteous views of national identity, and in narrow, short-term, and absolute views of national interest.

We expect expressions of our nation’s identity to build on the best of our traditions, to respect others’ identity, and to open up paths for mutual understanding. For the sake of a greater good or for reasons of conscience, citizens may need to oppose a prevailing understanding or practice of national identity and interest.

With this court decision, we are again reaching a point where the assertion of “national security” by the executive branch of government results in the rejection of all other considerations in national policy discussions. Our social statement also reminds us: “In bondage to sin, we fall captive to fear.” Jesus taught us to love one another. The social statement calls us to “a dynamic vision of difference in unity.”

In a time … when an idolatrous allegiance to one’s own community endangers our oneness, we must voice with clarity the powerful vision of difference in unity. This vision calls us to engage differences, not to ignore or fear them. The hope for earthly peace challenges people to strengthen their own particular communities in ways that promote respect and appreciation for people in other communities, for all share a common humanity.

Let us recall that all people are created in God’s image and, therefore, rather than have suspicion be our assumption, let us attribute to them honor and respect as God does.

New York City-based Auburn Seminary tweeted the following thread, and its president, the Reverend Katharine Henderson attended a protest in New York City:

Episcopal Migration Ministries has posted this on its Facebook page:

Muslims expressed fear at increased attacks, echoing post-9/11. From Al Jazeera:

Since Trump took office, reports of crimes against Muslims in the country saw a greater spike to that following the September 11, 2001 attacks, said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman of Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“I think not only will the ruling increase Islamophobia, it is an expression of Islamophobia,” Hooper said at the rally outside the Supreme Court.

“This is a culmination of years of Islamophobia exploited by candidate Trump and now President Trump.”

From the Washington Post:

Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said, “The only way to actually fix the Muslim ban is not to have a Muslim ban. Instead, President Trump has recommitted himself to religious discrimination, and he can expect continued disapproval from both the courts and the people.”

We will continue to add to this post.


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Philip B. Spivey

I can only wonder where the maelstrom of Trump’s cult of death is taking us. I think every social revolution for liberation begins with some ‘flash point’: Some moment in time that explodes into an inexorable march toward liberation. For the modern Black civil rights movement, it was the murder of Emmitt Till in 1955. For women, although feminists may disagree, I think the flash point was the accretion and subsequent momentum of a woke consciousness, led by the feminist authors of the 60s and 70s. For the gay community, as we were recently reminded, the revolution began at a little dive bar, called The Stonewall, in Greenwich Village in 1969.

The flash point I am seeking, however, is very much more ecumenical. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, from some fifty years ago. —- “We may have come here on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

I believe, and hope, that our church will have the courage to speak prophetically about just what is at stake now.

Prof Christopher Seitz

“…the policy covers just 8% of the world’s Muslim population and is limited to countries that were previously designated by Congress or prior administrations as posing national security risks.”

Prof Christopher Seitz

What I find offensive and religiously racist is ignoring that there are 56 Muslim majority nations in the world. To call this a Muslim ban takes a major world religion and reduces it to those countries whose protocols for background checks cannot be verified and trusted. I saw the (practicing Muslim) head of a liberal muslim think-tank call this liberal patronising and a disservice to Muslim dialogue in the US. It selectively calls ‘Muslim’ what is a gross misrepresentation. In effect it uses “the Muslim card” as just one more of its pretended causes.

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