When the Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump stated in December 2015 that the United States should close its borders to all Muslims, the reaction from American Christian leaders was admirably swift. Mainline Protestant clergy, prominent evangelicals, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops all lambasted it. “Anyone who cares an iota about religious liberty should denounce this reckless, demagogic rhetoric,” Southern Baptist Convention policy head Russell Moore wrote soon afterward. “A government that can shut down mosques simply because they are mosques can shut down Bible studies because they are Bible studies.” The day after Trump proposed his policy, the governor of Indiana, one evangelical Catholic named Mike Pence, tweeted that “Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional.”
Thirteen months later, Trump is president, and his calls to ban Muslims are making their way into law. Trump signed an executive order Friday that suspends immigration for at least 90 day from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—all predominantly Muslim countries. The order also bans all refugees for at least 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely. When the ban ends, the order allows the U.S. government to prioritize applications based on the refugees’ religion. As my colleague Jim Newell explains:
Once refugee admissions resume, the government 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.” In other words, Trump has instructed the government to use religion as a means of prioritizing the processing of refugee applications. This, by Trump’s own admission, prioritizes Christians over Muslims coming from countries like Iraq or Yemen or Syria—if any Syrians are ever allowed—or other horrific lands from which someone might seek refuge. It effectively discriminates against Muslims on the basis of their religion.