Metro Weekly

Lambda Legal and allies oppose Trump’s Muslim travel ban

Coalition says singling out one religion for disfavor violates the First Amendment

A protest at San Francisco International Airport against Trump’s proposed ban on immigration from Muslim-majority countries – Photo: Quinn Norton, via Wikimedia.

Lambda Legal has allied itself with religious and civil rights organizations and clergy members in submitting a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court explaining the coalition’s opposition to President Trump’s ban on travel from Muslim-majority countries.

The brief submitted by the coalition highlights why the opponents of the ban believes it to be both discriminatory against Muslims and an unconstitutional violation of religious freedom. It argues that Trump’s executive order banning immigration from six Muslim-majority countries is unconstitutional because it singles out a specific religious group for disfavor based solely on their religion.

“[B]y design and in actual effect, the challenged Executive Order denigrates, maltreats, and fuels discrimination against Muslims, just for being Muslim,” the brief reads. “This official denominational preference and the harms that it causes cannot be squared with the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious freedom.”

Joining Lambda Legal in the brief were Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Ben the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, People For the American Way Foundation, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Riverside Church in New York City and seven faith leaders from Colorado, Florida, Minnesota and New York have also signed onto the brief.

“As longtime advocates for access to immigration and asylum for LGBT people and everyone living with HIV, we denounce the Trump Administration’s efforts to shape immigration policies based on fear-mongering and prejudice against Muslims,” Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation at Lambda Legal, said in a statement.

“The LGBT community has suffered a continuing history of stigmatization and rejection as outsiders. We know all too well that official government discrimination against a vilified group endorses and fuels irrational persecution and violence. The Muslim ban does just that. Our country is better than this.”

Americans United, Bend the Arc, the SPLC, the Riverside Church, and clergy members previously filed amicus briefs with lower federal courts in both cases challenging the travel ban, which have now made their way to the Supreme Court. Americans United and the SPLC were also previously involved in a third, separate lawsuit focusing on how the ban harms American Muslims.

“As president, [Trump’s] Muslim ban blatantly discriminates against travelers to the United States on the basis of religion — a violation of the First Amendment,” Naomi Tsu, deputy legal director of the SPLC, said in a statement. “It also encourages a climate of harassment that allows people to be singled out for their religion, language, skin color or dress. A policy that so brazenly violates our nation’s fundamental principles cannot stand.”

“Religious freedom is about fairness. We don’t treat people differently because their beliefs are different from ours,” Richard Katskee, legal director of Americans United, added. “President Trump’s Muslim ban is anathema to the Constitution. When the Supreme Court hears this case next month, we urge the justices to come down on the right side of history by holding that the ban violates America’s fundamental promise of religious freedom.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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