The head of a Baptist religious liberty watchdog agency voiced disappointment with Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision upholding President Donald Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.
“We are deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to repudiate policy rooted in animus against Muslims,” Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, said in response to the 5-4 decision upholding a temporary ban on refugees and immigrants from eight foreign states, six of them with populations that are predominantly Muslim.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said Trump acted “squarely within the scope of presidential authority” when he issued a proclamation restricting the entry of aliens deemed “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
The majority rejected arguments that the policy singles out Muslims for disfavored treatment, thus violating the First Amendment provision that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” President Trump has made several statements critical of Islam and in his first attempt to implement the policy called it a “Muslim ban.”
Tyler said in giving such broad deference to the Executive Branch, the Supreme Court neglected “its duty to uphold our First Amendment principles of religious liberty.”
“Safeguarding religious liberty requires the government to remain neutral with regard to religion, neither favoring one religion over another nor preferring religion or irreligion,” she said. “More than ever, preserving American religious freedom requires the active involvement of all citizens to denounce religious bigotry in all its forms.”
BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman joined more than 30 constitutional scholars in a friend-of-the-court brief in March arguing the travel ban was “motivated solely by anti-Muslim animus” and consistent with Trump’s campaign promises to voters that if elected he would ban Muslims from entering the United States.
In a dissenting opinion joined by Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the decision “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.”
She accused the majority of “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.”
President Trump called the Supreme Court ruling “a tremendous victory for the American people and the Constitution.”
“The Supreme Court has upheld the clear authority of the President to defend the national security of the United States,” Trump said in a statement. “In this era of worldwide terrorism and extremist movements bent on harming innocent civilians, we must properly vet those coming into our country.”
Trump described the ruling as “a moment of profound vindication following months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country.”
“As long as I am President, I will defend the sovereignty, safety, and security of the American People, and fight for an immigration system that serves the national interests of the United States and its citizens,” he said. “Our country will always be safe, secure, and protected on my watch.”