In response to the Supreme Court upholding Donald Trump‘s Muslim travel ban — technically, a ban on several Muslim-majority countries for purported reasons of security — a number of secular groups have spoken out against the decision, calling it a form of religious discrimination.
To put it another way, a whole bunch of atheists are defending Muslims and religious freedom, because discrimination on the basis of religion should concern all of us.
Here’s Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America:
By upholding President Trump’s travel ban, the Supreme Court has legitimized bigotry and threatened the rights of all Americans. This travel ban is nothing more than a thinly-veiled religious test and the fulfillment of President Trump’s repeated pledge to institute a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.’ Any reasonable observer assessing the travel ban in light of President Trump’s 2016 campaign will see it for what it is — an assertion of Christian privilege, anti-Muslim bigotry, a rebuke of our First Amendment, and a grave threat to religious freedom.
Americans of all faiths and none must recognize the danger of the majority’s opinion. If the Trump Administration can disparage and single out Muslims, it can do the same to any of us. This reckless ruling undermines a founding principle of our country, that the United States government will show no favor or disfavor to any religion. The Court’s decision today is disappointing, but it is only one part of a larger fight against the flagrant religious favoritism of the Trump Administration. We will continue to condemn religious bigotry wherever it rears its ugly head, even at the highest levels of our government. We cannot allow demagogues to divide us by employing scare tactics and appealing to religious prejudices. It is up to us to elect lawmakers who will work to dismantle this religious test, strengthen our secular government, and uphold the ideals of inclusion and equality.
FFRF was more blunt on Twitter, calling the ruling “disgraceful”:
A disgraceful decision today by the Supreme Court. https://t.co/lRgfVYIhzE
— FFRF (@FFRF) June 26, 2018
In a longer explanation, they said the ruling ignored very clear constitutional limits:
The travel ban blatantly disregards the Establishment Clause, as FFRF demonstrated in its “friend of the court” brief it filed before the Supreme Court against the ban. The Trump administration’s history of excluding from entry to the United States immigrants and non-immigrants from selected majority-Muslim countries violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, FFRF had contended. The travel ban also contravenes Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits a religious test for office or public trust.
“This decision is shocking on two fronts. First, America is not supposed to have an imperial presidency. The Supreme Court failed its duty to check the president’s unconstitutional decision,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Second, its judgment will cement the notion of second-class status for those belonging to minority religions or no religion at all.”
FFRF Co-President Dan Barker adds that “religious discrimination is un-American.”
“This ban is about religious discrimination, and to claim otherwise is completely absurd,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “As far back as 2015, Donald Trump has made no secret of his desire to see Muslims banned from the United States, and promised to carry out this ban once in office. He followed through, and the Supreme Court, unconscionably, is letting him get away with it.”
“Chief Justice Roberts is a brilliant man who is playing dumb,” added Little. “He knows very well that this is not about other countries’ vetting processes or the scope of presidential authority. This is about fomenting fear of Muslims.”
“The fight to reverse this outrageous ban is not over,” promised Little. “Secular and religious communities alike must and will stand together to oppose religious bigotry and discrimination, especially when it emanates from the White House itself.”
Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, also spoke out against the religious bias:
“The Supreme Court today has forsaken one of our most foundational and cherished values — that our government must never single out any one religion for discrimination. Our hearts break for the millions of Americans who, because of the Muslim ban, will continue to be separated from their loved ones and face peak rates of hate crimes and maltreatment.
“We refuse to be Americans divided. We are Americans united in the belief that people of all faiths, and with no religious affiliation too, all deserve equal treatment in America. We know well that when it comes to religious freedom, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, ‘Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.’ We call on all Americans to rise up and repudiate the politics of fear, hate and division coming out of this administration.”
American Atheists’ interim executive director Ed Buckner also chimed in:
Singling out any group of people for disfavor, or favor, on the basis of their religious beliefs is un-American, unconstitutional, and is something that American Atheists will not stand for. Religious neutrality and equal protection under the law are the promises of our Constitution, and today the Supreme Court fell far short of those promises.
A number of the groups also noted the hypocrisy of this ruling compared to the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision. The Court sided with the baker in the latter case saying that a commission in Colorado was biased against him based on public comments made by members. Yet, despite Trump’s open desire for a Muslim ban, his desire for faith-based bigotry were ignored.
Incidentally, a 2017 poll from PRRI found that a majority of only one religious group supported a temporary travel ban like the one Trump signed.
Can you guess which one? (You get one guess.)
That’s right! 61% of white evangelical Christians backed the ban. It’s a reminder of how the most powerful religious denomination in the country doesn’t give a damn about what is arguably the most maligned religion in the country.
(Image via Shutterstock. This article has been updated with additional statements.)