Op-ed: Two wins for Trump

  • By Cal Thomas
  • Saturday, July 1, 2017 9:57pm
  • Opinion

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 their 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.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

More in Opinion

Opinion: The mobs widening America’s divisions

We’ve just been forced to deal with stark disagreements on a daily basis like never before.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Now is not the time to leave Alaskans out in the cold

Now is the perfect time for legislators to get in touch with their constituents and to act in their best interests.

Anselm Staack (Courtesy Photo)
Opinion: Dunleavy’s fiscally irresponsible and deceptive plan

Constitutions are about broad policy objectives and legal boundaries — not about the day-to-day.

New direction for the Tongass will help grow businesses, a sustainable economy

Now is the time to chart a new course for Southeast’s future.

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink promotes getting immunized with the flu shot this winter. (Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Health and Social Services)
Immunize when you winterize

An annual flu shot plus the COVID-19 vaccine protects Alaskans and our health care system, too.

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Dunleavy’s first act as governor was unconstitutional

That’s according to a ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge John Sedwick.

This Aug. 3, 2021, photo shows Juneau International Airport.  The Federal Aviation Administration shared recommendations on Thursday for improving aviation safety in the state. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: How the FAA will improve the margin of aviation safety in Alaska

Alaska depends on aviation more than any other state…

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Perspective of an educator in a ‘high-risk’ group, part 2

During some of the darkest days of my time in ICU, it was obvious where we all live is a special place.

Lawmakers havereturned to the Alaska State Capitol for a fourth special session. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Revenues should be determined before more PFD spending

The governor believes the dividend drives the entire calculation. Sadly, he has it backwards

Ronnie Leach. (Photo provided)
Point of View: For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, #weareresilient

At the onset of COVID-19, we expanded our services in a way to ensure COVID-19 consciousness.

Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion:Where’s Don Young when America needs him?

Once upon a time, avoiding political controversy was completely out of character for Young.

Peter Zuyus
Voices of the Peninsula: Seniors appreciate vaccination efforts

To those who have worked to encourage vaccination we say: Be proud, you are, in fact, saving lives.