Editor’s Note: This week and next, “The Wall of Separation” blog will run a series of special posts examining the policy proposals in AU’s “Agenda to Restore and Protect Religious Freedom.” Developed by Americans United’s Public Policy Department, the agenda lists 10 proposals the incoming administration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris can take to undo the damage done to church-state separation during the Trump years.
President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign was anchored in xenophobia and the idea that we should be afraid of certain people because of how they look, where they come from or how they worship.
On the stump, Trump denigrated and railed against immigrants and vowed to find ways – whether through the construction of giant walls or government policies – to keep them out of the country.
Trump’s assaults on Muslims were aggressive. He called for surveilling mosques and a government-run database to track Muslims. He even spread the grotesque lie that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Trump talked openly about banning Muslims from entering the United States. But any attempt to bar people from the country based solely on their religion was doomed to failure, so once in office, Trump came up with a different plan: He restricted travel from several Muslim-majority nations, added a few non-Muslims countries and called it a “travel ban.” It took a few tries, but eventually, Trump’s lawyers came up with a policy the Supreme Court was willing to uphold.
The semantic changes didn’t fool anyone. Trump’s policy remained a Muslim Ban. It is a cruel and short-sighted policy. It separates families and prevents people whose talents we could use from coming to America. And it corrupts our Constitution’s promise of religious freedom – that our government will treat everyone equally, regardless of their religious or nonreligious beliefs.
Several groups challenged the Muslim Ban in court, Americans United among them. While we were not ultimately successful in persuading the high court to strike it down, we did highlight several stories of people who suffered real harm because of the ban. Those efforts helped Americans understand that the ban was unjust.
President-elect Biden has promised to get rid of the Muslim Ban early in his presidency. That’s good news. The ban is an affront to American constitutional values and simple decency. It is time for it to go.
You can help Americans United restore and protect religious freedom by joining us today!