Written by Don Byrd

Despite statements made by President Trump as both a candidate and as President expressing his desire to implement an immigration policy that excludes Muslims from entering the United States, the Supreme Court today ruled 5-4 that the most recent “travel ban” is a permissible exercise of executive authority. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, rejected arguments by the plaintiffs that the purpose of the President’s Proclamation was not to further national security, but to promote a discriminatory policy of religious animus directed at Muslims.

Roberts emphasized that the text of the challenged presidential Proclamation is neutral with respect to religion, and “has a legitimate grounding in national security concerns, quite apart from any religious hostility.” As a result, the Court ruled, the deference accorded a President in making such determinations requires  that “we must accept that independent justification.”

Justice Breyer argued in dissent that the ban should remain halted while the lower court investigates further the allegation that it is being used to propagate religious discrimination, while Justice Sotomayor, in a blistering dissent, claimed the policy merely “masquerades behind a facade of national security concerns.” The majority, according to Sotomayor, “failed to safeguard” the principle of religious neutrality in government.

Following today’s decision, the Baptist Joint Committee’s Amanda Tyler issued a statement condemning the ruling. “In giving such broad deference to President Trump,” she stated, “the Court neglects its duty to uphold our First Amendment principles of religious liberty.” Below, you can watch her deliver that message on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court after the release of the opinion.

You can read the opinion here.

The Baptist Joint Committee’s general counsel, Holly Hollman, and more than 30 other constitutional scholars signed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that the ban is unconstitutionally based in religious animus toward Muslims.