Feb 09, 2017

President Donald J. Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order restricting immigration to the United States from several Muslim-majority countries violates religious freedom rights and should remain on hold, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Attorneys with Americans United yesterday joined the Southern Poverty Law Center in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, Aziz v. Trump, which was filed on behalf of two Yemeni brothers who were forced to leave the U.S. after landing at Dulles International Airport the day after Trump’s order was signed.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has joined the suit as an intervenor/plaintiff, one of several states to challenge the federal government’s ban. AU previously filed a friend-of-the court brief in the case, State of Washington and State of Minnesota v. Trump, which also challenges Trump’s executive order and resulted in a temporary restraining order that prevents the government from enforcing the ban.

AU says the executive order violates the First Amendment rights of Muslims.

“America offers the promise of a nation where people have the right to practice their religious beliefs or to practice no religion at all. Trump’s order violates this fundamental promise,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Because the order clearly targets Muslims for disfavor, it flies in the face of our nation’s traditions.”

AU’s brief asserts, “Rather than undertaking a careful examination of existing federal immigration policy to determine what may be needed to ensure national security, the President did what he has been promising for over a year: He banned Muslims. Because the Executive Order is grounded in nothing more than religious animus, strict scrutiny cannot be satisfied. The government’s constitutionally and morally indefensible policy cannot stand.”

Although a federal judge in the Washington case issued a temporary restraining order against the ban, the federal government has appealed the judge’s order. AU’s brief notes that if the restraining order is lifted or limited just to the jurisdiction governed by the Western District of Washington or the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal government could reinstate the ban and jeopardize people with visas in Virginia and elsewhere in the United States.

AU’s brief concludes, “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. The preliminary injunction should be granted."