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Why Isn’t Trump’s Muslim Ban Front and Center at 'Religious Liberty' Hearing?

JFK Night Protest
JFK Night Protest
Ian S. Thompson,
Senior Legislative Advocate,
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February 15, 2017

Republican members of the Constitution Subcommittee in the House of Representatives will hold a hearing on Thursday afternoon on “The State of Religious Liberty in America.” This could and should be an opportunity to conduct much-needed oversight over the most urgent threat to religious liberty in our nation today: President Trump’s un-American and unconstitutional executive order that intentionally discriminates against Muslims. Sadly, it appears as though the Republican majority on the subcommittee would rather argue for sweeping religious exemptions that enact taxpayer-funded discrimination against women and the LGBT.

Freedom of religion and belief is one of the guiding principles on which the United States was founded. More than two centuries later, our nation is one of the most religiously diverse in the world and has become a safe harbor for immigrants and visitors of all faiths and no faith, including refugees fleeing persecution in their homelands.

President Trump’s Muslim ban flies in the face of these long-held principles. It is no surprise that the ban is now being challenged in multiple federal courts across the country. Indeed, the ban tramples on two of our most cherished constitutional protections: the guarantee that the government will not establish, favor, discriminate against, or condemn any religion, and the guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

Why then has the Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Steve King (R-Iowa) refused to call a single witness who can speak from personal experience about the significant harm that Trump’s Muslim ban has caused? Last week, the ACLU wrote to Chairman King to say that we stand ready to assist in helping to identify possible witnesses with relevant experiences. Our offer went unanswered.

Instead, the Republican majority has lined up witness after witness from some of the most dogged opponents of LGBT equality and reproductive freedom in the nation, including the Alliance Defending Freedom. The ADF has been conspicuously silent about Trump’s Muslim ban, but it is a fierce advocate for discrimination against LGBT people under the guise of religious freedom.

While religious freedom is one of our most fundamental values, it does not give anyone the right to impose their beliefs on others, to harm others, or to discriminate. The kind of broad religious exemptions championed by groups like ADF aren’t about protecting religious liberty at all. Rather they are intended to authorize discrimination — plain and simple.

It’s unfortunate that Chairman King would rather use a hearing on the state of religious liberty in our nation to argue for discrimination instead of providing much needed oversight over President Trump’s attack on Muslims.

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