A new bill unveiled Wednesday promises to ban religious discrimination in the context of immigration. The Freedom of Religion Act of 2016, presented by U.S. Representative Don Beyer (D-Va.), would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act with a new section titled “Prohibition on denying admission because of religion”
The amendment stipulates that “notwithstanding any other provision of the immigration laws, an alien may not be denied admission to the United States because of the alien’s religion or lack of religious beliefs.’’ When asked about this amendment, Rep. Beyer said “We cannot allow fear and paranoia to drive our public policy, especially when it comes to the defining values of our country. Our Founding Fathers guaranteed religious freedom for all, in the First Amendment to our Constitution. People all around the world look to us as the standard for freedom, liberty and tolerance.”
Even before the bill had been announced, Beyer had already garnered the support of over 70 co-sponsors, over 30 of them devoted to religious freedom who outlined their support for the bill on Monday and urged Congress to pass the amendment.
Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance and one of the bill’s supporters, points to the rhetoric flying around recently about excluding people from the election based on their religious identity. Moline likely refers to Donald Trump, who in last December called for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the country.
“The notion that we need to protect ourselves from waves of antagonistic foreigners who want to take over this country and remove it from its religious moorings—generally, its Christian moorings—or its constitutional moorings is not a new message. It is a revitalized message,” Moline says, one that “unfortunately has reached an audience not just of American voters but of American legislators.”
Other organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center tweeted their support on Wednesday. Were this bill to pass, Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration would become legally impossible.