President Donald Trump, who wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States, advocated “tolerance” for people of faith Thursday in a ceremony hosting religious leaders at the White House.
“Today, my administration is leading by example as we take historic steps to protect religious liberty in the United States of America,” Trump said. “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore. And we will never ever stand for religious discrimination. Never, ever.”
During the campaign, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
In January, he signed an executive order that banned Syrian refugee resettlement in the U.S. indefinitely. It also shut down the entire refugee program for 120 days and barred all immigrants and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries ― Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen ― from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days.
At the time, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) ― a prominent Trump campaign surrogate ― admitted that the policy was a back-door Muslim ban.
“When he first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban,’” Giuliani said. “He called me up and said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’”
A judge blocked that policy from going into effect, and the administration revised the order in an attempt to get something in place that would pass legal muster. The modified order still banned people from Muslim-majority countries, however.
In March, federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland concluded that the revamped order likely violates the Constitution because it was intended to target members of a religious faith.
Both rulings are now being appealed by the Trump administration, and will be heard in separate courtrooms in Richmond, Virginia, and Seattle. Government lawyers contend the president’s words against Muslims while campaigning shouldn’t be held against him.
“Even in the domestic setting, courts judge the legitimacy of a law by what it says and does, and occasionally by the official context that surrounds it — not by what supposedly lies in the hearts of its drafters,” administration lawyers wrote in a brief filed in March.
Trump signed a “religious liberty” executive order Thursday, the National Day of Prayer, that makes it easier for religious organizations to engage in politics. It also chips away at Obamacare’s requirement that employers provide contraceptive coverage in health insurance plans for their workers.
The White House did not return a request for comment on whether any Muslim faith leaders attended Thursday’s ceremony.
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