Trump claims to 'cherish religion' days after expanding his Muslim ban

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'In America, we celebrate faith,' he said after adding several majority-Muslim nations to his controversial travel ban.

Donald Trump praised himself for protecting religious freedom during his State of the Union address Tuesday night, days after adding several more countries to his highly criticized Muslim travel ban.

"My administration is ... defending religious liberty, and that includes the Constitutional right to pray in public schools," he said.

He continued, "In America, we don't punish prayer, we don't tear down crosses, we don't ban symbols of faith, we don't muzzle preachers and pastors. In America, we celebrate faith, we cherish religion, we lift our voices in prayer, and we raise our sights to the glory of god."

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On Friday, just days before his third annual address, Trump added six new countries to his controversial travel ban, which targets travelers from several predominantly Muslim nations. The additions were made almost three years to the day after Trump first signed his initial order implementing the ban.

That ban, which affected some 135 million people, supposedly aimed to prevent "radical Islamic terrorists" from entering the country, according to Trump. It faced several court challenges before being upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2018 by a vote of 5-4, with the conservatives justices in the majority.

As the New York Times noted Sunday,

With the new expansion, the ban will affect nearly a quarter of the 1.2 billion people on the African continent, according to W. Gyude Moore, a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development, a research group, potentially taking a heavy toll on African economies — and on America’s image in the region. ...The rationale for the new restrictions varies depending on country, but the White House announcement said that most of the six countries added to the list did not comply with identity-verification and information-sharing rules.

Trump's Muslim ban "has always been about keeping us divided," Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Max Rose (D-NY) wrote in an op-ed in late January. "That is why it must be repealed."

Adding more countries to the ban means "more grandchildren who will never be able to kiss their grandparents," they said. "More loved ones unable to say goodbye at a funeral. More graduations where the proud student has no beaming parents cheering for them in the crowd. And more families forced to make impossible decisions under the most trying circumstances."

The three members support legislation — the No Ban Act — to end Trump's Muslim ban, calling it "wrong and inimical to our values."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.