Feb 06, 2017

President Donald Trump’s recent executive order temporarily banning immigration from several Muslim-majority countries is effectively a Muslim ban and should immediately be put on hold, according to a legal brief filed today by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

Americans United and the SPLC early this morning filed a friend-of-the-court brief in response to the federal government’s appeal and request for a stay of the temporary restraining order issued in State of Washington v. Donald Trump, a case brought in a Seattle federal court by the states of Washington and Minnesota. The groups argue that the executive order subjects Muslims to discrimination for no reason other than their faith.

“Trump’s executive order targets members of a minority religious group for harassment and ill-treatment based on stereotypes and unfounded fears,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “The order strikes at the heart of religious freedom, and it must not be allowed to stand.”

“The executive order singling out and punishing Muslims is not only contrary to this nation’s founding principles, it violates the U.S. Constitution, which forbids discrimination on the basis of religion,” said Naomi Tsu, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “We urge the federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reject the government’s attempt to enforce this unconstitutional order.”

The brief notes that the government is required to treat people equally, no matter what religion, if any, they follow. “Ignoring this clear constitutional command, the government has singled out one religious group – Muslims – for official disfavor and maltreatment,” reads the filing before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  “By instituting a wide-ranging, punishing ban on Muslim immigrants, the government runs roughshod over core First Amendment protections.”

The brief also asserts: “The Executive Order is what President Trump promised all along: a ‘Muslim ban.’ No amount of rebranding can change that. People are excluded, detained, and deported for no reason other than their deity and preferred holy book. The Executive Order is an insult to the fundamental principles of religious freedom enshrined in our Constitution. It cannot stand – even for a day.”

A federal court on Friday issued a temporary restraining order that placed the Trump order on hold nationwide. The Trump administration has asked the appeals court to lift the restraining order and put the ban back into effect.

The AU-SPLC brief notes that during the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly promised to block entry of Muslims into the United States.

“The Executive Order thus communicates that Muslims are a disfavored caste in this country,” asserts the brief. “That is not a message that the government can or should convey.”   

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, seewww.splcenter.org.