We now have an answer questions about the appeals court’s legal reasoning in throwing out President Trump’s seven-nation travel and immigration ban. The judges did so, in part, by invoking his campaign speeches that he would ban entry to America for all Muslims. This shows, they said, that the intent of the ban was to discriminate against Islam. Even though nearly all of the world’s Muslims were unaffected by the ban and can still enter the country. Just not citizens of seven countries with a history of terrorism.
Politicians say things all the time without their being relevant to interpreting actual laws. Are we to interpret JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you” in such a way that it limits welfare applications?
But the courts were following a Supreme Court precedent. In 1993, a Florida city passed an ordinance forbidding the slaughter of animals. Lawmakers at the time themselves said that this would be a way to get rid of the Santeria religion, which practices the sacrifice of chickens and goats. The court ruled that the ordinance forbidding the public killing of animals was a violation of the Santeria followers’ freedom of religion. So this, in the minds of appeals court justices, justifies rejecting the seven-nation ban, because of what Trump said about all Muslims.
But these cases are not remotely similar, are they? Not being allowed to sacrifice chickens to prevent all Santerias in the community from practicing their religion. Not allowing citizens of seven nations into the USA does not affect all Muslims, as Trump was originally saying. Trump clearly changed his earlier focus from religion to national origin. If he had listed all Muslim nations, religion being the basis for categorizing them, yes, that would be religious discrimination. But here nations associated with terrorism is the criterion.
Whether you are pro-immigration or anti-immigration, for Trump or against him, can’t we agree that this legal reasoning is specious?
Photo: Santeria sacrifices by James Emery from Douglasville, United States (Santeria Sacrifice) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons