Written by Don Byrd

A group of 33 constitutional scholars, including the Baptist Joint Committee’s Holly Hollman, argue in a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court that President Donald Trump’s travel ban proclamation is unconstitutionally based in religious animus toward Muslims. “[T]he Establishment Clause forbids officials from exercising governmental power on the basis of a desire to suppress, harm, or denigrate any particular religious sect or denomination,” the brief states.

The Proclamation at issue in Trump v. Hawaii is the third version of the White House’s attempt to limit immigration from certain countries, following two Executive Orders that were halted by courts on various grounds, including improper religious discrimination. The brief emphasizes that marginal changes in the latest iteration do not save it from being ultimately reflective of the President’s impermissible motivation.

Here are some excerpts from the brief:

President Trump’s Proclamation and the oft-repeated campaign promise it fulfilled were based on a desire to exclude Muslims from this nation. While the Proclamation does not exclude all Muslims, and does not single out Muslims by name, the clear and widely-noted goal of the Proclamation is to ban a large number of Muslims from the United States in satisfaction of President Trump’s promise to do just that.

Even acknowledging that he is entitled to deference on matters of immigration and national security, it is hard to imagine a clearer instance of official action motivated by animus toward a religion.

The First Amendment protects speech, but it does not allow candidates or politicians to evade accountability if their words reveal that an unconstitutional purpose motivated their official actions.

BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman, who also serves as an adjunct professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center, had this to say about the key constitutional principle at stake:

“This case is important because it implicates an essential aspect of religious freedom in this country: The government cannot enact laws designed to harm a religious group. A threat to the religious liberty of one group is a threat to religious liberty of others.”

This case began when President Trump issued his first ban in January of 2017. Click here for a post that links to the BJC’s previous statements on this and other iterations of the travel ban.

Oral arguments in this case are set for April 25.