Amid a flurry of executive orders issued by President Joe Biden on his first day in office was a repeal of the so-called “Muslim ban,” which prohibited entry to the United States by citizens of select countries mainly with majority Muslim populations.
Biden said in his revocation order: “The United States was built on a foundation of religious freedom and tolerance, a principle enshrined in the United States Constitution. Nevertheless, the previous administration enacted a number of executive orders and presidential proclamations that prevented certain individuals from entering the United States — first from primarily Muslim countries, and later, from largely African countries. Those actions are a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all.”
“Those actions are a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all.”
The new president said the controversial and contested travel bans contravened American values and undermined national security. “They have jeopardized our global network of alliances and partnerships and are a moral blight that has dulled the power of our example the world over. And they have separated loved ones, inflicting pain that will ripple for years to come. They are just plain wrong.”
Repealing the travel bans does not have to reduce national security, he added. “Where there are threats to our nation, we will address them. Where there are opportunities to strengthen information-sharing with partners, we will pursue them. And when visa applicants request entry to the United States, we will apply a rigorous, individualized vetting system. But we will not turn our backs on our values with discriminatory bans on entry into the United States.”
Biden’s first-day action made immediate headlines around the world. At home, the repeal was quickly applauded by religious liberty watchdog groups, including BJC and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
“Today’s repeal of the Muslim and African travel ban by President Joe Biden is a victory for faith freedom,” said BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler. “Since the first week of the Trump administration, we’ve seen various versions of this policy rooted in anti-Muslim bias, targeting individuals based on their religious identity. The specifics and wording changed over the years, but no aesthetic adjustments could alter the religious discrimination inherent in the ban.”
She added: “Religious freedom is threatened when our leaders use fear and othering to exclude entire groups of people from our country based on their religious identity.”
Americans United President Rachel Laser echoed Tyler’s sentiment: “President Biden’s swift action to end the Muslim and African Ban, which was driven by clear hostility toward Muslims and their faith, rights a terrible wrong. It is a crucial first step toward reuniting families and demonstrating President Biden’s commitment to protecting the rights of religious minorities.”
Both religious liberty leaders said repealing the ban is a good first step but not the only step necessary.
“It does not undo the damage this policy has done to religious freedom,” Tyler asserted. “If we want to truly preserve faith freedom for all, we as Americans must loudly and clearly denounce religious bigotry in all its forms — now and in the future.”