Supreme Court: Religious Animus Irrelevant In Trump Travel Ban Case

The Supreme Court rules that the President of the United States has broad discretion to impose travel restrictions, so long as they are related to a plausible governmental interest, and that a showing of Presidential animus toward a religious minority is not relevant.

In a 5-4 decision issued this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned several lower courts and upheld President Trump's September 2017 ban on travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries in Trump v. Hawaii. Although the initial bans were overturned, the administration refined the ban to the point where it passed the scrutiny of the U.S. Supreme Court.

While some on the court acknowledged the administration's apparent animus toward Muslims, the Court did not follow the logic of this month's earlier Masterpiece Cakeshop decision based on a showing that anti-religious animus demonstrated that the bakery owner was not treated fairly.

Instead, in today's ruling, the Court largely deferred to a broad-based Presidential power to restrict immigration and travel so long as he could demonstrate that the entry of the people affected "would be detrimental to the interests of the United States." In this case, the administration had compiled information about whether the home countries of the travelers provided enough information about whether each of these people would pose a security risk to the United States.

The Court reviewed allegations that the President had made anti-Muslim statements before and after he was inaugurated, but stated that ultimately, the travel ban was "neutral on its face," and that the President was "largely immune from judicial control." The Court would then look at the language of the ban itself to determine whether it was "plausibly related to the Government's stated objective to protect the country and improve vetting processes."

The Court noted that foreign nationals have no constitutional right to entry, but that the Court might be willing to address the issue if it affected the constitutional rights of a U.S. citizen. With regard to standing, the Court found that American relatives of people would have a "concrete and particularized" interest in seeking to be united with their family and could claim an Article III injury.

The Court also noted that the travel ban proclamation was no longer being applied to three Muslim-majority countries on the list, including Iraq, Sudan, and Chad, and that even for countries that remain subject to entry restrictions, there are "numerous exceptions." In this way the President's decision survives rational basis review.

The majority found that Korematsu v. United States (1944) in which the Supreme Court upheld a President's right to the relocation of American citizens of Japanese descent into internment camps was not analogous to this case, but pointed out that Korematsu had been "gravely wrong the day it was decided." The dissent said of this statement, "the Court takes the important step of finally overruling Korematsu."

Justice Sotomayor dissented, pointing out that "[b]y blindly accepting the Government's misguided invitation to sanction a discriminatory policy motivated by animosity toward a disfavored group, all in the name of a superficial claim of national security, the Court redeploys the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu and merely replaces one 'gravely wrong' decision with another."

She also noted that the Court applied an inconsistent standard to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in Masterpiece Cakeshop which the Court found to have acted without "the neutrality that the Free Exercise Clause requires," and the travel ban case where the Trump administration "will not be held accountable for breaching the First Amendment's guarantee of religious neutrality and tolerance."

In today's decision, Sotomayor wrote, the majority, "completely sets aside the President's charged statements about Muslims as irrelevant. That holding erodes the foundational principles of religious tolerance that the Court elsewhere has so emphatically protected, and it tells members of minority religions in our country 'that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.'"

The issue of immigration is particularly heated right now, with questions being raised about whether the administration acted properly when it decided that separating children from parents who had entered the country illegally was a legitimate exercise of state power, and now how to reunite those children with their parents.

The question in all of this has been how much power the President has, or who has standing to assert any claims on behalf of the children. Today's decision gives the President broad powers, and overlooks any animus he may have demonstrated against any protected class so long as the wording of the final directive is "neutral on its face."

While with the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the Supreme Court determined that the lower courts had demonstrated animus and therefore should be reversed, here the Court seems to be taking the position that the President has specialized powers that are outside the Court's jurisdiction, and so long as the President can demonstrate a "rational basis" for a decision, it will stand.

This decision will likely have a spill-over into the immigration cases, and even though the Supreme Court at least in its dicta disavowed the 1944 case in which it found the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent to be legal, it distinguished between that case and the travel ban on the basis that the Korematsu decision involved citizens and the travel ban involved non-citizens.

Frankly, given all that is going on, including the fact that providing immigrants within the United States with due process rights is up for debate despite the Supreme Court's 1896 Wong Wing decision, and since the administration is willing to test its boundaries in so many directions, this decision will likely lead to more sweeping directives on a number of different issues, and this is not a good thing.

Michael Peabody, Esq. is a regular Spectrum contributor and editor of ReligiousLiberty.TV, a website that celebrates freedom of conscience, where a version of this article first appeared. It is reprinted here with permission.

Photo by Claire Anderson on Unsplash

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
1 Like

One clarification I would make is to highlight that the Court did not say that the President himself had the inherent power to exclude aliens. Rather, it referred to the delegation, by the people of the United States acting through Congress, of the inherent power of the state in that regard to the President. In other words, Congress can change the law that confers the ability of the President to act as he did in this case. Thus, the Court said that the President acted within the confines of the delegation contained in the relevant law enacted by Congress. Finally, the Sotomayor dissent quoted in the article only attracted 2 votes including Justice Sotomayor.

1 Like

Good decision. I recall what a French friend said when the matter of Muslims in France were concerned-- “but I don’t want to be invaded.”
If a travel ban is unfair let Congress exercise its legislative prerogatives!

1 Like

It should have been eminently evident to all impartial observers, that the countries on Trump’s ban were FAILED STATES.

Countries so inept at self governance, that they could not adequately self vet their emigrants/visa seekers. Also they were countries hosting jihadist radicals intent on inflicting mayhem on American communities.

When Muslim countries cannot control their inherent jihadist element, and in many cases, even encourage it, they should anticipate that their citizens will face travel bans.

Regrettably, we face similar FAILED STATES on our southern border.
Countries ruled by drug cartels, gangsters, people smugglers, and criminally corrupt politicians.

They have some of the highest murder rates on the planet.

MEXICO, GAUTAMALA, EL SALVADOR, and. HONDURAS are similarly incapable of vetting their emigrants, and in fact actually encourage them to invade the USA.

COSTA RICA, PANAMA, BELIZE have populations with a similar demographic mix of Spanish/MayanAztec, but are capable of decent governance and do not have their citizens camping on our borders.

So the failed states in question only have their own citizens to blame for not electing pristine politicians and tough, strong sheriffs.

I have every sympathy for mothers with children seeking “asylum” on our southern border.

However, if their siblings/cousins/parents/grandparents had exerted good democratic political clout, they would not be having to flee their homelands.

In some cases it is impossible to tell whether the children are biologically theirs, or whether drug lords and gang members are using vulnerable children to usurp our laws

Only a thirty foot wall, impermeable to undesirables, incapable of being climbed by children, will stop this influx of “refugees” from failed states. ——-countries which only have themselves to blame for their intolerable
living conditions.

Just like the countries on Trump’s travel ban list who willingly support terrorists and jihadis in their midst.


So losing one’s children at the US border is just collateral damage, and that’s OK?


Response to drhoads:

If an effective wall had been in place, as was Trump’s desire from day one of his presidency, ZERO “refugees” /“asylum seekers” would have been able to illegally set foot on our land. So ZERO families would have been separated from their children.

By the way, we have “collateral damage” every day in this country when AMERICAN citizens who are jailed for crimes they have committed, are forcibly separated from their children. Where is your outcry over this??

Congress, years ago, made it ILLEGAL to cross our borders, uninvited/undocumented with appropriate visas. These laws were already on the books many years before Trump became president.

That is why, on a recent visit to to my grandchildren in London, I stood in line, an interminable ninety minutes at immigration control, while agents meticulously examined entry seekers’ documents. Similar procedures are in place when I travel to my home in Nice, France. We are the only country which lacks an effective border.


There are probably MORE THAN 1,000,000 children taken out of homes by the
Department of Human Services. Many of these have been in Foster Care for
many years, and Many have been shipped from home to home.
Many of these kids have only a couple of plastic grocery bags to put all their
worldly belongings in.
NOBODY on Spectrum, or the Writers for Spectrum have shed any tears over
these AMERICAN kids forcibly separated from THEIR parents.


Steve Mga:

The Department of Human Services, removes these children because in many cases, their parents are an endangerment to their children, through child abuse, sexual/physical/emotional or because of extreme child neglect.

Similarly, parents who send UNACCOMPANIED children across hundreds of miles of dangerous territory, are guilty of child endangerment .

Even parents who accompany their children across wilderness/deserts/hostile territories,are endangering their children so maybe it is protective of the children to remove them from these parents.


This ruling is bad news for religious freedom. Having the judicial branch intensify and broaden the powers of the executive branch creates an imbalance and makes the judicial a lapdog for the executive branch.


“Religion leaders who claim to champion religious freedom, cannot be selective as to which religion(s) they want freedom for.” --Jim Wallis


It is actually impossible to logically apply anything about religious freedom to the ruling as it covers only 8% of Muslims. and does not cover the largest Muslim population nations. The scary thing is there were 4 Justices that voted against a very clear law giving the Executive the right and responsibility involved. Wanting instead to delve into the old comments of a person rather than the text of the proclamation and the voted law. Something that can never work as a method of legal interpretation.


I feel very safe with Trump watching out for our country and its citizens. Banning travel from Terrorist majority countries is a logical step to contribute towards controlling our safety. I read the constitutional right given to the sitting president to enforce a travel ban and it really is quite clear. I can’t understand how educated judges could not comprehend the fairly simple reading. It’s as if they had a mind block.
Trump also has a logical idea in stopping a dripping faucet you must repair the leak. The leak in this case requires a wall. Shame on those parents who direct their children to become criminals at such an early age. It is a crime to enter a country by circumventing the port of entry. Trump needs to go further by requiring all immigrants to have an E-Verify card with deadlines programmed in its use. If failing to meet a court appointment takes place then all subsidy ceases, as well as housing and job opportunities. However, there are other ideas to consider so I only mention these thoughts as examples.
Business man Trump certainly shows more logic than previous presidents, even though he does say some very strange things from time to time, but, we didn’t vote in a pastor.


It’s a generally accepted legal principle that you don’t look to extraneous evidence of intention if a law is valid and clear on its face.

1 Like

Funny. I’d thought that since SDAs are a “religious minority” that church members would be more concerned.

1 Like

I want to see the comments of those who defend Trump’s actions when their religious liberty will be threatened or taken out. That will be interesting.

Of course it will all be Obama’s fault as usually. And they will probably have no problem lining up with Trump’s policies. That kind of people had no problem handling the situation in the Nazi Germany, so why should it be different now?

1 Like

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of choice in two cases recently. One, ruling in favor of pro-life, crisis pregnancy centers, stating the centers didn’t have to advertise for abortion against their will. Two, that unions cannot mandate union dues for federal employees. Giving employees the choice to join the union, or not to join the union. A terrible blow, though, to thuggish unions who can no longer just take dues from paychecks. Which they then channel back into Democrat coffers.
Yet the only thing about SCOTUS out via Spectrum is labeled as Trump’s religious animus? Or did I miss something?

1 Like

Are you prophesying or guessing about liberty’s being threatened by Trump? That kind of reach ignores factual deliberation.

1 Like

Poor Ben Carson! He stands in danger of Trump removing his religious liberty daily! Was WACO religious liberty removed when the offshoot SDA sect had their liberties removed for violating the law? This has nothing to do with a rational understanding of religious liberty in the US. It has reference to non American’s who can not be properly vetted entering the US.


Harpa, are all Muslims denied? Or, is it from specific countries that can not verify the backgounds of those choosing to enter. Are you denying some countries harbor terrorist that choose to cause harm to the USA? By now you also see the president’s order was upheld.

yes, but it does look like you’ve voted in someone who is seriously compromised with vladimir putin…

1 Like