The five conservative justices on the United States Supreme Court voted to uphold Donald Trump’s travel ban, in an opinion issued on Tuesday morning that not only recognized the “extraordinary power” of the U.S. president, but claimed that the ban on visitors from seven mostly Muslim countries was not intended as a ban on members of the Muslim religion, as the Inquisitr reported Tuesday.
Deliberately banning members of a specific religion would appear to directly violate the First Amendment prohibition against acts by the government favoring, or as the Constitution puts it, “respecting” one religion over another.
But at the same time as Chief Justice John Roberts issued the majority opinion in the case, the first-ever Latina woman appointed to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, published a dissenting opponent that excoriated her conservative colleagues for simply ignoring Trump’s numerous statements calling for a ban on Muslims, as the news site Vox.com reported.
The five justices who voted to uphold the ban were Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Neil Gorsuch — all appointed by Republican presidents. Roberts and Alito were appointed by President George W. Bush, Thomas by President George H.W. Bush, Kennedy by President Ronald Reagan and Gorsuch by Trump, as the political reference site Green Papers records.
Justices Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan all voted to strike down the travel ban. All were appointed by Democratic presidents — Sotomayor and Kagan by President Barack Obama, Breyer and Ginsburg by President Bill Clinton.
Trump’s travel ban executive order, his third after two earlier versions were struck down by lower courts, was “expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices,” Roberts wrote in the majority Supreme Court opinion. “The text says nothing about religion.”
But Sotomayor, in a dissent joined by Ginsburg, seemed stunned by the conservatives’ ability to simply ignore Trump’s frequent statements on the 2016 campaign trail and on his Twitter account in which he specifically singled out Muslims for what was then his proposed ban. Dozens of Trump tweets relating to Muslims were compiled by the National Center on Immigration Law.
The ban was one of the major themes of Trump’s campaign, with his call as far back as December of 2015 for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” as NBC News reported at the time.
Sotomayor called Trump’s claim of “national security concerns” nothing more than a “facade” for his clearly stated plan to bar Muslims from entering the United States — a plan that would violate the First Amendment’s ban on religious discrimination. Even the conservative justices did not argue that a president can overrule the First Amendment, as Think Progress noted.
“The United States of America is a Nation built upon the promise of religious liberty,” Sotomayor wrote. “The Court’s decision today fails to safeguard that fundamental principle. It leaves undisturbed a policy first advertised openly and unequivocally as a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’ because the policy now masquerades behind a facade of national-security concerns.”
In Roberts’ written opinion, the Republican-appointed justices attempted to explain why they felt that Trump’s clear statements about banning Muslims from the country did not figure in their decision.
“The issue before us is not whether to denounce the statements. It is instead the significance of those statements in reviewing a Presidential directive, neutral on its face, addressing a matter within the core of executive responsibility,” Roberts wrote. “In doing so, we must consider not only the statements of a particular President, but also the authority of the Presidency itself.”
Sotomayor scoffed at the majority’s apparent belief that Trump’s authority as president somehow outweighs his clear intention to violate the First Amendment by banning members of a specific religion, saying that his administration has simply tried to “launder” what she called Trump’s “hostility and animus toward the Muslim faith.”
“He has continued to make remarks that a reasonable observer would view as an unrelenting attack on the Muslim religion and its followers,” Sotomayor wrote. “Given President Trump’s failure to correct the reasonable perception of his apparent hostility toward the Islamic faith, it is unsurprising that the President’s lawyers have, at every step in the lower courts, failed in their attempts to launder the Proclamation of its discriminatory taint.”