September 18, 2017 – Lambda Legal joined allied religious and civil-rights organizations and members of the clergy today in telling the U.S. Supreme Court that President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban is an unconstitutional violation of religious freedom.
“As longtime advocates for access to immigration and asylum for LGBT people and everyone living with HIV, we denounce the Trump Administration’s efforts to shape immigration policies based on fearmongering and prejudice against Muslims,” said Lambda Legal Director of Constitutional Litigation Susan Sommer. “The LGBT community has suffered a continuing history of stigmatization and rejection as outsiders. We know all too well that official government discrimination against a vilified group endorses and fuels irrational persecution and violence. The Muslim ban does just that. Our country is better than this.”
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed today, Lambda Legal and allies explained that Trump’s executive order banning immigration from six Muslim-majority countries is unconstitutional because it singles out one group of people – Muslims – for disfavor based solely on their religion.
“Religious freedom is about fairness. We don’t treat people differently because their beliefs are different from ours,” said Americans United Legal Director Richard B. Katskee. “President Trump’s Muslim ban is anathema to the Constitution. When the Supreme Court hears this case next month, we urge the justices to come down on the right side of history by holding that the ban violates America’s fundamental promise of religious freedom.”
“(B)y design and in actual effect the challenged Executive Order denigrates, maltreats, and fuels discrimination against Muslims, just for being Muslim,” the brief states. “This official denominational preference and the harms that it causes cannot be squared with the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious freedom.”
Joining the brief were the religious and civil-rights organizations Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, Lambda Legal, People For the American Way Foundation and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Also joining were The Riverside Church in the City of New York and seven faith leaders from Colorado, Florida, Minnesota and New York.
“As Jews, we understand personally what it is to be a religious minority in this nation and the pain that religious discrimination causes; we will not stand idly by as such discrimination is made into law,” said Bend the Arc CEO Stosh Cotler. “The Trump Administration’s attempts to scapegoat Muslims, immigrants and refugees betray fundamental American – and Jewish – values and make us less safe by promoting hatred and division. We urge the Supreme Court to put a stop to this unconstitutional, un-American policy.”
“There’s simply no credible argument that the Trump administration’s order is anything other than a Muslim ban in a not very good disguise,” said People For the American Way Foundation Senior Fellow Elliot Mincberg. “This kind of government action directly contradicts the core values laid out in the First Amendment. It’s critical that Americans of all backgrounds make clear that we won’t accept this kind of unconstitutional attack on our friends and neighbors.”
“Long before Donald Trump became president, he made his hostility toward immigrants, refugees and Muslims abundantly clear,” said SPLC Deputy Legal Director Naomi Tsu. “As president, his Muslim ban blatantly discriminates against travelers to the United States on the basis of religion – a violation of the First Amendment. It also encourages a climate of harassment that allows peopleto be singled out for their religion, language, skin color or dress. A policy that so brazenly violates our nation’s fundamental principles cannot stand.”
Americans United joined by Bend the Arc, the SPLC, the Riverside Church and members of clergy, had previously filed friend-of-the-court briefs with lower federal courts in both cases now being argued before the Supreme Court – Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project and Trump v. State of Hawaiʻi.
Americans United, the SPLC and Muslim Advocates also represent the plaintiffs in Universal Muslim Association of America v. Trump, a federal lawsuit that focuses on how the ban harms the American Muslim community.