A few days ago, a reporter asked President-elect Donald J. Trump about whether recent attacks in Berlin and Turkey had caused him to rethink or reevaluate his plans for a Muslim ban or Muslim registry. He responded, “You know my plans. All along, I’ve been proven to be right.”
But Trump’s statements about his plans regarding Muslim immigrants have been anything but clear. And his staff, once again was forced to try to “clarify” that Trump’s plan is “not a complete ban” of Muslims.
Trump first announced a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” last year. More recently, he and his staff have called his proposal a ban on immigration from countries “compromised by terrorism” plus “extreme vetting”—whatever that is. Yet, Trump has never repudiated his call for a ban and in fact, his statement about the ban remains on his website.
Vice president-elect Mike Pence was right when he called this plan “offensive and unconstitutional” last year. Indeed, a government policy that openly discriminates against one religion would violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But even if it didn’t, it would betray our country’s legacy of religious liberty. Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus and atheists, among others, have all come to America because of our country’s promise of religious freedom.
On the campaign trail, Trump also said he would create a database to “register” Muslims in the country, though like many of his proposals, it’s absolutely unclear what he means. One of his advisers has proposed using the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), implemented after the 9/11 attacks. This discriminatory program required men from twenty-five countries entering or living in the U.S. to register (which included fingerprinting and interrogation) with the government. Disproportionately targeting Arabs and Muslims, it ran counter to fundamental American values of religious freedom and equal protection and harmed the families and communities directly affected by it.
AU supports religious freedom for all faiths and non-faiths.
Dismantling NSEERS was a welcome piece of good news. After all, no government policy should target people based on their religious beliefs (or lack thereof). And it means Trump can’t just restart an existing program. Rather, he’ll have to start over, going through the formal, potentially lengthy process of creating new regulations.
We know, however, this won’t stop Trump in his pursuit of policies that could harm religious freedom. But, we’ll fight back.
In fact, we already have. We supported the Freedom of Religion Act, which would ensure immigrants, refugees and international travelers will not be barred from entering the United States solely because of their religion. The FOR Act reflects not only our country’s fundamental commitment to religious freedom but also its long and proud history of providing safe harbor for members of communities fleeing persecution and seeking a better life.
We’ll be ready to support legislation in Congress (which starts back up in just a few weeks) like the FOR Act that protects religious freedom. And we’ll be ready on Day 1 to fight back against Trump’s policies that violate the fundamental principles of religious freedom. Join us.