President Trump has announced an executive order temporarily restricting travel into and out of the state of Utah for at least 120 days.
The executive order says its purpose is to “protect Americans.” While Trump has previously acknowledged not all Mormons are of concern, he said some Mormons are “bad and dangerous people.”
The Trump administration is insistent the Utah travel ban is not a Mormon ban, even though it appears to directly target Mormons. The ban, they say, “Has no religious exclusion, test or establishment of any kind, shape or form whatsoever.” According to Kellyanne Conway, “This ban is just about the state of Utah, what about the other 49 US states and over 160 worldwide countries inhabited by Mormons that are not included? Right there, it totally undercuts this nonsense that this is a Mormon ban.”
On the campaign trail in 2015, President Trump infamously called for a “total and complete shutdown of Mormons entering the United States.” Last year, Trump said, “I think Mormons hate us.” Now, he is finding ways to put his campaign rhetoric into action.
Trump consulted with Rudy Giuliani, asking him how to legally establish a Mormon ban. Giuliani and a committee explored if there could be a legal basis for implementing such a Mormon ban. They decided there was not, so they devised a new plan to protect Americans instead. Rather than banning all Mormons, the administration will only target the state of Utah, as it contains the heaviest population of dangerous people.
Once the travel ban is lifted, the Trump administration may explore the possibility of a religious test to determine who is Mormon and who is not. It was hinted travel priority may be given to those outside the Mormon faith. The executive order followed through with this concept, instructing the Secretary of State to, “… prioritize travel requests 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 state of residence.” As Mormonism is the dominant religion in Utah, this would suggest non-Mormons (the minority religion) will get the first chances to exit the perilous streets of Utah.
Anti-Mormon messages are not new for Trump. As noted above, he once expressed a desire to ban all Mormons from entering the United States.
Trump raised the possibility of closing down and/or surveillance of all Mormon buildings in the United States, saying, “I would hate to do it, but it’s something that you’re going to have to strongly consider because some of the ideas and some of the hatred — the absolute hatred — is coming from these areas.” He later elaborated on this idea further, “You have to deal with the Mormon churches and temples, whether we like it or not, I mean, you know, these attacks aren’t coming out of — they’re not done by the Catholic people.”
Trump also discussed the creation of a database of Mormons coming into the country, ” I do want databases for those people coming in.”
Trump proposed sending all Mormon immigrants back to their home country. “They’re going back. And if I lose, I guess they’re staying. But if I win, they’re going back.”
As Trump’s anti-Mormon rhetoric has increased, so have the anti-Mormon sentiments expressed among his supporters. Hate crimes are occurring with more frequency as well. “We should frankly test every person here who is of a Mormon background, and if they believe in (the Book of Mormon), they should be deported,” declared Newt Gingrich, one of Trump’s most vocal supporters.
Trump’s ire against Mormons might stem from heated conflict with prominent Mormons like Jeff Flake and Mitt Romney. Trump has been so flustered at their lack of support for him, it’s reported he will even look to support Flake’s 2018 opponents.
“My fear level has gone from 100 to 1,000 overnight,” said Molly Nomrom, a Mormon currently living in Utah. “I did not expect it at all, not to this degree.
The above “report” is mostly satirical in nature. Throughout, “Mormons” has been substituted for “Muslims.” Although satirical, the message is representative of the discrimination the Muslim community continues to face today on a personal and systematic level. While most public concern and awareness about these topics was heightened in January, the battles haven’t gone away.
The proposed travel bans have found both success and opposition. The original executive order came in January but was blocked shortly after. A second, revised executive order was issued but the details were challenged by courts across the country. These disputes were taken to the Supreme Court, who allowed a portion of this ban to go into place, overruling the lower courts. The Supreme Court will continue to review aspects of this case again in October, where we can only hope those advocating on behalf of refugees and others will receive a ruling in their favor.
“There are an estimated 60 million refugees in the world today,” said Elder Kearon. “Which means that 1 in every 122 humans has been forced to flee their homes and half of these are children… Each one of us can increase our awareness of the world events that drive these families from their homes. We must take a stand against intolerance and advocate respect and understanding across cultures and traditions. Meeting refugee families and hearing their stories with your own ears, and not from a screen or newspaper, will change you.” – Elder Patrick Kearon
One of the main drafters of the executive orders, Trump adviser Stephen Miller, was referring to the revised (second) executive order when he said, “One of the big differences that you are going to see in the executive order is that it is going to be responsive to the judicial ruling which didn’t exist previously. And so these are mostly minor, technical differences. Fundamentally, you are still going to have the same, basic policy outcome for the country.”
These words and others are indicative the Trump administration was actively searching for ways to create and maintain a Muslim ban, but were forced to do so in a discrete way which wouldn’t get blocked by the court system.
Unfortunately, the deceitful way they have framed their revisions has convinced many it doesn’t target Muslims. Our hope in writing this is for others to see the executive order for its true intention, as well as the attack on religious liberty which it presents.
When Mormons see verbal attacks or laws which are not consistent with our values, we need to speak up. Even when doing so goes against the grain. Because the executive order is still in the hands of the Supreme Court, now is not the time to forget about this or become complacent.
If questions or concerns remain, we should seek for understanding. Our Muslim brothers and sisters deserve so much better, and we need to have their backs. If our religion was in a similar situation, we would hope to receive this same support from others. If one hasn’t been supportive of Muslims on this, or haven’t been vocal enough, it’s not too late to start.
“If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a “Mormon,” I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul — civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race.” – Joseph Smith
About the author:
Braden Jenks is the founder of The Progressive Mormons project. He is studying Addiction Studies at Minot State University. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to James Soares for his contributions to this post.
Cover photo credit: Coast Guard News (Photopin.com)