United Methodist Committee on Relief

UMCOR is alarmed by U.S. court decision on “Muslim travel ban”

By Thomas Kemper and Roland Fernandes*

Atlanta, GA, July 3, 2018 — The United Methodist Committee on Relief is alarmed by the implications of the June 26 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the authority of the president to impose what has come to be known as the “Muslim travel ban.” 

We express our deep concern and objection on the eve of the annual celebration of the American Declaration of Independence that declares all people “free and equal.”

We agree with Church World Service and National Justice for Our Neighbors, our partners in migration ministries in the U.S., in finding the court’s ruling in Trump vs. Hawaii “discriminatory” and “dismaying.” There is nothing equal in it.

We affirm with our colleagues at the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society that the “decision institutionalizes Islamophobia, religious intolerance and racism in U.S. policy. It is a threat to religious freedom in the United States.” (See full statement.)

On its face, the five to four decision affirms the President’s near total control of who is admitted into the United States. The case is complicated; it began last January and, as it reached the high court, involved efforts blocked by lower courts to ban entry of immigrants, refugees and visa holders from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen—five of which have Muslim majority populations.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had enjoined its implementation, to be weighed on its merits. Legal experts do not doubt that the ban will prevail on the strength of Trump vs. Hawaii’s rational.

UMCOR has a long history of engagement with migrants in the U.S. Many United Methodist churches have resettled refugees without reference to religion, race or national origin. This work is currently done in concert with Church World Service, an ecumenical agency to which UMCOR contributes substantially.

Since UMCOR was founded in 1940, its services to refugees and migrants have been offered without regard to their religion, race, national origin or gender. In keeping with that spirit, the 2016 legislating United Methodist General Conference adopted a resolution denouncing “xenophobic, Islamophobic and racist reactions against newcomers.” (Res. 6028 Global Migration and the Quest for Justice)
The CWS statement issued on June 26 declares: “The Court’s decision today is a travesty. By failing to acknowledge the President’s clear discriminatory intent and racial animus, the Court is allowing the administration to continue to separate families and harm Muslim communities and refugees. Congress must stop allowing President Trump to implement his cruel anti-family, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant agenda and do everything in its power to unravel the Muslim ban.” (See full statement.)

Strong opposition has also come from National Justice for Our Neighbors, a United Methodist migration ministry that provides legal services to migrants in the U.S. regardless of their status. NJFON, founded by UMCOR in 1998, now has a separate board of directors. NJFON said it was “dismayed” and “disheartened” by the court’s ruling. 

UMCOR joins CWS and NJFON in their pledges to continue as far as possible to welcome and serve people of all backgrounds. It applauds NJFON for its commitment to “remain steadfast to our mission: to keep families together, to ensure equal protection under the law for our most marginalized neighbors and to provide legal access to immigrants and refugees—regardless of where they came from or how they worship —who seek justice and protection in the United States of America.” (See full statement.)

*Thomas Kemper and Roland Fernandes are co-executive directors of the United Methodist Committee on Relief.