If you haven’t heard already, yesterday a host of 19 scholars submitted an Amici Curiae Brief (amici curiae=friends of the court, or impartial expert advisors) in response to President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13,780, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” Trump’s Executive Order received a cascade of pushback and resistance, mainly criticizing that the order seems to target Muslims (just search the executive order in google news for a host of coverage). The Amici Curiae Brief picks up on this vein and presents the Mormon past with federal immigration policy as an example of how targeting religious minorities through immigration legislation can go horribly wrong.
The Brief tells the history of early Mormon persecution, and late nineteenth-century legal battles over polygamy to show that the government treated Mormons as “outsiders, not full members of the political community.” The argument and section titles are enough to give a sense of the Brief in its entirety:
I. The History of Religious Discrimination against Mormon Immigrants Demonstrates the Need for Vigilant Judicial Review of Government Actions based on Fear of Religious Minorities
A. Mormons Were the Objects of Widespread Religious Hostility in the 19th Century
B. Nineteenth-Century Immigration Restrictions Targeted Mormons Because of Religious Animus
C. The Effects of the Federal Government’s Targeting of Mormons Lingered for Decades
II. The First Amendment Requires Courts to Take a Hard Look at the Government’s Justifications and Motivations for Actions that Disparately Affect a Religious Group
These sections present mob violence, Joseph Smith’s murder, the 1879 Evarts Circular, 1880s legislation like the Edmunds Tucker Act, and popular religious animosity as case studies for the present. The Brief will supplement a body of resources that would oppose the passing of a Muslim-targeted immigration restriction policy.
For us, it’s amazing to see Mormon history at work. We hope to foster an avenue for discussion, questions, and comments regarding the brief and its use of Mormon history in regards to immigration. Feel free to read through the brief, and ask away!