The Supreme Court Failed Us

Tuesday is a dark day for American jurisprudence and the values we hold dear as a nation. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld President Donald Trump’s travel ban. Under the false guise of protecting national security, the justices sanctioned a policy that targets people because of their religion.

The ruling is an example of what happens when the government bases a policy on prejudice and bigotry and the court fails to stop it. 

As children, Americans are taught that the role of the Supreme Court is to check the power of the president and Congress. It is supposed to defend the Constitution and stay above politics and bitter partisanship. This duty is especially important at a time when an autocratic president is attacking our basic norms and institutions.

Sadly, in issuing this decision, the court abdicated that responsibility. The five justices ruling in the majority performed a routine of judicial acrobatics to construct a legal argument sanctioning religious discrimination.

During his campaign, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslimsentering the United States.” He made good on that promise during his first days in office with an executive order that banned people from seven predominantly Muslim countries. He then adjusted the list of nations subject to his ban as several courts repudiated his order as unconstitutional. The current ban — applying to five Muslim-majority nations and North Korea and Venezuela — is no less the result of anti-religious animus than the previous bans.

As Justice Sonia Sotomayor points out in Tuesday’s opinion, the Supreme Court failed to heed evidence that “a reasonable observer would conclude that the proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus.” Instead of applying the reasonable person standard, political affiliation seemed to carry the day with the five Republican-appointed justices.

In the days before the decision, the ACLU commissioned a poll to find out what a reasonable observer might think. Seventy-seven percent of Democrats surveyed said they believed it was a Muslim ban, while 69 percent of Republicans said it was not.

Sadly, the Supreme Court vote broke down the same way. The justices appointed by Democratic presidents saw a Muslim ban. The justices appointed by Republicans did not. Even Sotomayor laments the decision’s impact on the stature and standing of the Supreme Court: “Our Constitution demands, and our country deserves, a judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to account when they defy our most sacred legal commitments.”

The Supreme Court missed a historic opportunity to rise above partisan politics and to say constitutional principles must be upheld, notwithstanding the Kabuki theater of partisan politics or White House pundits. In the Muslim ban, there are core principles — equality under the law and freedom of religion — that are so central to American democracy that one would hope that all Americans regardless of party affiliation would unflinchingly reject such discrimination. Tuesday is not that day. Let us hope that better days are ahead of us — for the Supreme Court and for the nation.

This article was originally published at USA Today

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Anonymous

Get used to it. Trump is replacing all your activist judges with nes that vote according to laws and the Constitution.

Anonymous

You're joking, right?

Anonymous

Traitor Republicans who undermine the values held most sacred in the Constitution for the sake of the bigots of the Republican Party you mean.

Anonymous

He's replacing judges who actually respect the Constitution with theocrats and historical revisionist nutjobs. You have to be insanely delusional to believe what you typed.

Dr. Timothy Leary

Any time a court rules on anything there are always sore losers. Look at Roe v. Wade people are still 45 Years later being a bunch of cry babies about it.

Anonymous

"Look at Roe v. Wade people are still 45 Years later being a bunch of cry babies about it."

Not for long, now that Trump will be naming another justice to the Court. By the way, now would be an excellent time for the ACLU to file a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of gun owners in California. You guys support civil rights, right? Well, the Court is about to get very friendly to the Second Amendment.

Still not tired of winning.

Dr. Timothy Leary

I think we found a cry baby, folks.

Jim

'Cry babies' is a heartless term to use while discussing the abortion of 10's of millions of what would have been 'Cry and laugh babies.'

Sean

"the justices sanctioned a policy that targets people because of their religion."

No, it targets them based on their country of origin. It doesn't target Muslims from other countries, and it does target non-Muslims from the listed countries. Therefore, what you said is provably wrong. I'm ashamed that I used to donate to the ACLU. There was a time where you cared about Americans' rights, not manufactured outrage over illegal immigration and executive orders that are explicitly provisioned in the Constitution.

The fact is that our American Civil Liberties are a direct result of the Constitution, and you ignore it when you find it convenient. It's a shame, really.

Anonymous

Trump's own words show it was an EO motivated exclusively out of anti-Muslim animus - which, with quite extensive precedent, is not constutional. You should really have a lot of shame, but it has nothing to do with the ACLU, but of your own ignorance.

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