Views of CCJR Members

Jews and Christians must oppose Trump's 'Muslim ban.' Again.

[From The Hill

When Donald Trump last called for a “Muslim ban” as a presidential candidate, Jewish and Christian leaders across the United States immediately raised our voices and condemned his plan.

When Trump hastily issued an Executive Order, preventing citizens, travelers, and refugees from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, Jewish and Christian leaders across our own diverse theological traditions and denominations took to the streets, airwaves, and airports to stop the ban. We celebrated the justice won when courts across the country placed a stay on the order.

Now Trump is trying to get his revised “Muslim ban” to pass legal muster once again. Our response as Jews and Christians must again be united in voice: not in our name! This new travel ban attempts to achieve the same exclusionary end. As White House policy adviser Stephen Miller told Fox News last month, it will “have the same basic policy outcome.”

That “same basic policy outcome” means discriminating against six Muslim-majority nations, establishing a policy that the current administration’s own Department of Homeland Security deem unnecessary. Our refugee and visitor vetting systems are already very strong and effective.

That “same basic policy outcome” means Trump and his advisers want to create national security policy that appears to be based on religious discrimination and a culture of fear, instead of reason and evidence. Trump’s rejection of the DHS report demonstrates he is more likely to accept beliefs that fit Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller’s world view that Islam is at war with the West.

That “same basic policy outcome” violates the principles established in the Constitution. Our nation was founded on the freedom of religion and we must protect that freedom for all Americans today. 

According to our shared scriptures, God commands people of faith to love our neighbors. Not some of them, all of them. Our nation’s growing shame of profiling Muslims, anti-Semitism, the ongoing brutality against people of color, and renewed marginalization of transgender people reveal just a few ways we fail to fulfill justice for all. Generation after generation of Americans have sought to make our Founders’ ideals a lived reality in our country. The stakes are too high for us to lose ground on the liberty for which our ancestors fought. 

While we welcome Trump’s recent denunciation of anti-Semitism in his recent speech to Congress, we call upon him to demonstrate his commitment to religious freedom for all Americans. While we applaud Mike Pence’s helping clean up a vandalized Jewish cemetery, we’d like to see all our elected officials do the same for desecrated mosques.

Jewish and Christian leaders must again rise to this occasion and stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters. This Muslim Ban 2.0 is the next in a series of actions by the administration that make Muslim Americans feel unwelcome in their own country. Each of our religious traditions, Islam included, regard hospitality to those different from us as a sign of faith and obedience to God. 

Each of us must resist this order in our own way. For 20 of our rabbinic colleagues, that meant getting arrested after the first iteration of the ban. For an increasing number of churches, it means joining the Sanctuary Movement, declaring our sacred spaces a welcoming place for refugees and immigrants. For the two of us — a European-American, straight, Jewish rabbi and an African-American, gay, Presbyterian minister — it means building an honest, sometimes complicated friendship, yet standing shoulder to shoulder for what is right at this defining moment.

We hope you will join us. In whatever way possible, we must again and again send an unmistakable message to this White House: the Jewish and Christian communities in the United States will rise up and resist any attempt and any form of Muslim Ban enacted by Trump. The future of our nation and the integrity of our faithfulness to our God depends upon it.

Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky is the director of the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue at Jewish Theological Seminary.
Rev. Bertram Johnson is the Minister of Justice, Advocacy, and Change at the Riverside Church. They both reside in New York City.