Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Yes, Virginia, It Is a Muslim Ban

Dear Virginia,

I understand why you ask your question, as we grown ups can't seem to agree on the answer. Let's take a close look, using the simplest language possible, and see if we can figure out for ourselves if Trump's executive order is a Muslim ban.

A long time ago, when George Washington and his friends got together and created the United States, they decided to fix things so that people could choose what religion to believe. The First Amendment of our Constitution tells us that we cannot make any law respecting an establishment of religion. That means no one can say, "Everyone has to be Christian," since that wouldn't be fair to non-Christians. And no one can say, "No one is allowed to be Muslim," since that wouldn't be fair to Muslims.

They created these rules to protect the minority. That last word is important. It means a small group of people that are different than most other people. Without these rules in place, people of one religion would get gifts, while other people are punished. Does that sound fair to you?

Now, do you know what a religious test is? That is when you ask someone what religion they are, and you use the answer to make a decision. For example, let's say I'm a Muslim and my friend is a Christian. We both want to come into the United States. The guy at the gate asks what religion we are. I say, "Muslim" and my friend says, "Christian." If the guy lets my friend in, but tells me to go back home, would that be fair? According to the First Amendment, it is not fair, because the gate guy established Christianity as a good religion, and Muslim as bad. This is also called discrimination.

So, remember that. A religious test is bad, because it ignores the First Amendment, establishes one religion over another, and causes discrimination.

What about Trump's order? Does it have a religious test? If you look at just the words, you won't find "Muslims are not allowed to enter the United States." This is why Trump and his friends keep saying, "It is not a Muslim ban." But why do people keep calling it a Muslim ban?

At first, all people from seven countries are not allowed to come into the United States for 90 days. There are a few exceptions, but those aren't important right now. All seven of these countries have Muslims in the majority. That is, most of the people in those countries are Muslims.

After 90 days, we'll start letting people in, but they have to come in a special order, and there's a limit at 50,000 people. Here are some words from Trump's order.
We will "prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality."
Do you see a religious test in there? Does it say anything about Muslim? No? Then maybe it isn't a religious test, and therefore not a Muslim ban.

But wait. What are these words right here? Let me make them real big for you.

... minority religion ...

There's that word again. "Minority," which is the opposite of "majority." If a refugee belongs to a minority religion, and they are fleeing religious-based persecution, then they will go to the front of the line. That means that if you belong to the majority religion (remember that majority is the opposite of minority), then you have to go to the end of the line, even if you're fleeing persecution.

And what is the majority religion in those seven countries? Yes, you remember! Muslim!

Okay, let's give this a try. My friend and I are fleeing persecution and we come to the United States. The gate guy asks my friend, "What is your religion?" He says, "Christian." The guy at the gate looks at his checklist, sees that Christianity is a minority religion, so he asks, "Are you fleeing religious persecution?" My friend says, "Yes," to which the gate guy says, "Welcome to the US."

Then it's my turn. The gate guy asks me, "What is your religion?" I say, "Muslim." The gate guy looks at his checklist, sees Muslim is a NOT a minority religion, so I fail the test. He doesn't even have to ask me any more questions, so he tells me, "Go to the end of the line, mister."

And if there happen to be 50,000 Christians fleeing religious persecution, how many Muslims are going to make it through the gate? I'll let you do the math. What is 50,000 minus 50,000?

Is there a religious test in Trump's order? Before you answer, let's look at one last thing. You're old enough to watch the Simpson's, right? Watch this clip on the FXX website, come back here, and then I will ask you some follow-up questions.

In this clip, Sideshow Bob clearly wants to kill Bart Simpson. Toward the end of the clip (at about 1:05), he drives a ice-cream truck and says over the loudspeaker: "The following neighborhood residents will not be killed by me. Ned Flanders. Maude Flanders. Homer Simpson. Marge Simpson. Lisa Simpson. That little baby Simpson. ... That is all."

Did Sideshow Bob say he was going to kill Bart? If you look at his words, it's not in there at all, is it? All he did was omit Bart's name from the list. Is that really the same as saying, "I will kill Bart Simpson"?

Many people would say, "No. It's not the same." But we all know what Bob intends.

It is clear that Bob wants to kill Bart. He had tried to kill him in an earlier episode, and from the first part of the clip, you can see that he's throwing darts at Bart's face, and his chest says, "Die, Bart, Die."

I want you to notice something else. Remember how happy Ned Flanders and Homer were when they hear their names on the no-kill list? Only Bart worries. And that's exactly how we grown-ups react when a policy has no effect on us. We're safe. We can travel in and out of the US as much as we want. Why should we care about people we don't know?

At the end, when you see Bart's sad face, that should help you to realize that what Sideshow Bob said was bad, even though it made so many people happy. If we can't protect the minority, then what good is our country?

So, does Trump's order have a religious test? Yes, Virginia. Yes, it does. You cannot determine a "minority religion" without first identifying the "majority religion," which is Islam. The moment the gate guy asks, "Are you part of a minority religion?" he is in violation of the First Amendment.

Plus, it is more than clear what Trump's intent is. A year ago, he campaigned on the idea of instituting a Muslim ban. That's what he called it himself. Then as it got closer to election time, Trump said he was backing away from the ban. However, we now know he just wanted to say it a different way. He told former Mayor Rudy Giuliani that he wanted him to show the "right way to do it legally." In a recent interview on CBN News, Trump even said how Christians would be given priority in applying for refugee status.

The intent is clear. The results are the same. Trump never backed down. For all intents and purposes, his order IS a Muslim ban. It prioritizes Christians over Muslims, and it is in violation of the First Amendment, and eventually will be struck down by the courts.

Is there a way to remove the Muslim part of the ban? Yes, Virginia. Yes we can. All Trump would have to do is remove the religious test. Cut out the "minority religion" piece, and he would then have a travel ban consistent with all other travel bans ordered by other presidents in the past. None of those bans had a religious test, and none of them violated the First Amendment.

Here is what the revised policy would say:
We will "prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution."
See? Just cut out that extra discriminatory clause, and it's perfectly fine. Nothing about minority religions and penalizing the majority religion. Now Muslims fleeing their own religion could be placed at the top of the list as well as Christians, and no religion is being placed over another.

Now, Virginia, wouldn't that sound much better?


Corbin Abernathy said...

Well said Mel!

Adam Bowes said...

2 thoughts:
1; once the ban is lifted in part, who is to say that a desperate person won't lie about their religion to get past the's not like there's an international religion registry, and even if there was, whose to say they weren't "baptized" only to convert back once they've passed through
2; traditional Islamic leaders say that the terrorist organizations are not part of their religion...wouldn't that make the terrorists be in that "minority" group then?
But then again, I'm no politician