Two wins for Trump

The high court hands the lib­er­als a pair of set­backs

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Cal Thomas Cal Thomas is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist. His lat­est book is “What Works: Com­mon Sense So­lu­tions for a Stronger Amer­ica” (Zon­der­van, 2014).

The Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion to al­low por­tions of Pres­i­dent Trump’s travel ban to pro­ceed is a much-needed vic­tory for the ad­min­is­tra­tion. The high court ruled that those “who lack any bona fide re­la­tion­ship with a per­son or en­tity in the United States” could be de­nied en­try into the U.S. The ban tar­gets those from six ma­jor­ity-Mus­lim coun­tries, halt­ing en­try un­til “ex­treme vet­ting” can be con­ducted.

In do­ing so the unan­i­mous court af­firmed — at least tem­po­rar­ily, pend­ing a full hear­ing on the case in the fall — a pres­i­dent’s con­sti­tu­tional author­ity to de­ter­mine whether peo­ple seek­ing ad­mit­tance to the U.S. pose a threat to our safety and se­cu­rity.

The court also handed down a sec­ond vic­tory, strik­ing a blow against the decades-long dis­crim­i­na­tion against re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions, which the courts have treated as sep­a­rate and un­equal. More about that in a mo­ment.

At the Con­sti­tu­tional Con­ven­tion in Philadel­phia in 1787, James Madi­son spoke to the heart of the im­mi­gra­tion is­sue when he said the goal was “to in­vite for­eign­ers of merit and repub­li­can prin­ci­ples among us. Amer­ica was in­debted to em­i­gra­tion for her set­tle­ment and pros­per­ity.” Do po­ten­tial im­mi­grants from the six na­tions meet this stan­dard? That’s what the vet­ting hopes to dis­cover.

Some key phrases in the court’s rul­ing will need fur­ther def­i­ni­tion in the next court term. The court said that im­mi­grants from these six coun­tries will need a job of­fer, proof of ad­mis­sion to an ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram, or a close fam­ily con­nec­tion in or­der to be ex­empt from the 90-day travel ban, or the over­all 120-day im­mi­gra­tion pause.

What con­sti­tutes a close fam­ily con­nec­tion? Would first or sec­ond cousins qual­ify? Sup­pose a fam­ily mem­ber is al­ready in the coun­try, but on a ter­ror­ist watch list and his brother wants in? Would that be OK? What if the job of­fer is from a group with ties to ter­ror­ism? Would that un­der­mine the pur­pose of the tem­po­rary ban?

Per­haps these ques­tions will be sorted out when the court hears the full case. This de­ci­sion is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause it over­turned lower court rul­ings, which had found even the pres­i­dent’s mod­i­fied ex­ec­u­tive or­der un­con­sti­tu­tional based largely on his cam­paign rhetoric and not the Con­sti­tu­tion. It of­fers hope that the de­lays will be up­held as a proper ex­er­cise of pres­i­den­tial author­ity.

The other case in­volved Trin­ity Lutheran Church in Mis­souri, which ap­plied for a grant from a state-run pro­gram to resur­face its play­ground. Mis­souri de­nied the ap­pli­ca­tion say­ing that as a re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tion the church wasn’t en­ti­tled to state funds. The court ruled, how­ever, that the state’s pol­icy vi­o­lated the church’s right to free ex­er­cise of its re­li­gion. Many be­lieve the rul­ing could widen the le­gal un­der­stand­ing of the First Amend­ment’s “free ex­er­cise” clause, which has taken a beat­ing since the ’60s, be­gin­ning with the out­law­ing of prayer in public schools.

While es­pe­cially con­ser­va­tive Chris­tians will find much to cel­e­brate in this rul­ing, there are rea­sons to be cau­tious. Couldn’t rad­i­cal Mus­lims use this case to ap­peal for tax­payer dol­lars to help build Is­lamic schools, even mosques?

An­other cau­tion should come from his­tory. When tax­payer money is in­volved, the govern­ment fre­quently seeks to as­sert it­self by reg­u­la­tion and the lim­i­ta­tion of speech and ac­tiv­i­ties that go against a sec­u­lar world­view. In the end, the Lutheran school might have pro­tected it­self against such in­tru­sions by rais­ing the money pri­vately.

Still, even with these caveats, the court’s two rul­ings mark a wel­come set­back to the open bor­ders crowd and those sec­u­lar pro­gres­sives who view the ex­pres­sion of any re­li­gious view in the public square the way a vam­pire views a cross. It has been a cu­rios­ity of mine that some peo­ple be­lieve us­ing God’s name as a curse word is speech pro­tected by the Con­sti­tu­tion, while claim­ing the op­po­site when it comes to speak­ing well of the De­ity at a com­mence­ment cer­e­mony.

Per­haps the Jus­tices will try to split that le­gal atom in a fu­ture rul­ing.


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