American flag waving in blue sky

Written by Don Byrd

[UPDATE 2/16: The Trump administration has announced plans to replace the current Executive Order with a new order, rather than appeal the 9th Circuit’s ruling, according to Associated Press.]

[UPDATE 2/10: The 9th Circuit rejected the administration’s request for an emergency stay of the judge’s restraining order.]

[UPDATE 2/4: A federal judge in Washington State has issued a temporary order halting enforcement nationwide of certain provisions of the President’s Executive Order (EO) on immigration. The Judge’s written ruling does not discuss the merits of the case. The order does, among other things, specifically restrain the government from enforcing the EO in a way that “prioritizes the refugee claims of certain religious minorities.” The White House announced the Justice Department will file an emergency appeal of the ruling.]

President Trump today issued an exceedingly troubling Executive Order on immigration. In an interview prior to the signing, the President described his policy as one in which Christian refugees would be given priority. [UPDATED: The full order is now available on the White House website]

Echoing his calls during the campaign for “extreme vetting” and a “temporary ban” on Muslims entering the country, the Order temporarily halts immigrant and non-immigrant entry into the United States of individuals from seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, all of which are Muslim-majority countries.

It also implements a 120-day suspension of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, adding this (my emphasis, and updated):

Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality

While not mentioning Muslims by name, this extraneous clause is simply a Muslim ban by another name.

BJC Executive Director Amanda Tyler calls it like it is in a statement on the President’s apparent order:

Today’s action is a back-door bar on Muslim refugees, telling an entire faith group that they are not welcome on our shores. Any attempt to ban Muslim refugees based on their religion betrays our values and sends the un-American message that there are second-class faiths. Our country, founded by immigrants who established religious freedom as a bedrock principle, is better than this. A threat to anyone’s religious liberty is a threat to everyone’s religious liberty, and we as Baptists stand with those facing religious persecution around the world, regardless of their faith

I am proud to say that The Baptist Joint Committee has consistently spoken out against the idea of a ban on Muslim immigration since President Trump first proposed it as a candidate. Then-executive director of the BJC Brent Walker called it “un-American, unworkable, counter-productive and embarrassing.”

He was right then, and Amanda Tyler is right now. 

Even on a temporary basis, defining a refugee’s admissibility based on his or her religious status within their own country is a blight on our national commitment to religious liberty for all, and our global standing as a beacon of religious freedom. Of course, we should – and do – carefully screen all individuals seeking entry as a refugee. But America’s doors should never contain a religious entrance test.