U.S. Franciscans Join Interfaith Coalition Decrying ‘Muslim Ban’

Maria Hayes In the Headlines


The Franciscan Friars of the United States have joined a coalition of individuals and organizations of diverse religions in filing an amicus brief challenging the federal administration’s March 6 executive order on immigration, arguing that it discriminates on the basis of religion.

The filing was made on April 18, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on the West Coast. Members of various Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh communities signed the brief, which can be viewed in full here. The title of the case is “State of Hawai’i and Ismail Elshikh vs. Donald Trump, et. al.”

The coalition argues that two documents – the March 6 executive order and the State Department’s “Country Reports on Terrorism 2015” – violate the Establishment Clause, which states that the government cannot selectively impose a burden on one religion and not others. The brief, formally titled “Brief of Amici Curiae Interfaith Coalition in Support of Appellees and Affirmance,” states:

Taken together, these documents compel one conclusion: that six Muslim-majority nations were selectively targeted for the travel ban. This is demonstrated by the fact that at least two Christian-majority nations, Venezuela and the Philippines, were not included in the ban. This omission is striking. Per the report, these two countries allegedly satisfy the criteria that the executive order purports to apply when determining whether a country should be subject to the ban. Indeed, a close reading of the report reveals that Venezuela and the Philippines allegedly satisfy these criteria by a greater margin than at least one of the selected Muslim-majority nations: Sudan.

To be clear, Amici do not vouch for the statements in the report. Amici do not contend that Venezuela and/or the Philippines should be included in the travel ban. Nor do they purport to second guess the administration’s assessment of the security risk posed by Sudan. Amici merely contend that if the criteria set forth in the executive order are applied fairly, and the factual basis of the executive order’s determination are primarily (if not entirely) those set forth in the report, then there is no principled basis for the executive order’s “Muslim only” list.

This analysis, by itself, establishes a violation of the Establishment Clause. At the very least, this selective burdening of one nation over another opens the door to consideration of the intent of the drafter of the travel ban. In such circumstances, the Court must carefully scrutinize the statements of President Trump to determine whether the purpose of the travel ban violates the Establishment Clause.

All seven provincial ministers of the OFM United States provinces – including Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM – signed the brief.

“The importance of the issue to those with whom we serve compelled us to take this joint action,” said Kevin. “As I look at the signs of the times, especially with regard to our immigrant brothers and sisters, I believe that this will be the first of many novel approaches we take to make clear our solidarity with those on the margins.”

Franciscans are called to embrace those who are excluded, added Kevin. “Just as St. Francis embraced the leper, Franciscans today must welcome immigrants and refugees. Mistreatment of refugees and immigrants throughout the world is prevalent and ire for ‘the stranger’ seems to continue to grow. Franciscans will need to find new creative ways to ‘embrace the other.’ By joining with several other religious communities and groups in signing this amicus brief, U.S. Franciscans are emphasizing that the moral underpinnings of the executive order do not fit within the Christian tradition. The hope is that this critique and others like it will help judges who must rule on the executive order to see it as unacceptable.”

In addition to the amicus brief, hundreds of Franciscans joined more than 4,000 religious sisters, brothers, and religious and diocesan priests in signing a statement to President Trump decrying the executive order as immoral. The statement can be found at www.catholicsforimmigrants.org.

Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.

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