The U.S. Supreme Court wrapped its current term with a flurry of decisions on Monday, handing Donald Trump a partial victory in his effort to control the nation’s borders.
In doing so, the justices overturned two federal appeals courts and allowed a limited travel ban to take effect while agreeing to hear the case in the fall.
The amended travel order, issued after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the administration’s initial proposal, applies to travelers from six predominantly Muslim nations. The court held that while the ban “may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,” it could be imposed against all other individuals.
Mr. Trump called the ruling a “clear victory for our national security.” But it’s also a clear rebuke to a handful of lower court justices who allowed politics to cloud their legal judgment regarding the president’s broad discretion to enforce immigration statutes.
Whether the Trump policy is wise remains a matter of heated debate, of course. There should be little question, however, that justices on both the 9th and 4th Circuits were so eager to curry favor with the Trump “resistance” that they ignored the actual content of the immigration order and instead improperly based their decisions on political conjecture about the president’s motivation.
That a unanimous Supreme Court rejected such an approach is a win for the rule of law.
In another decision on Monday, the justices ruled 7-2 that it violates the Constitution to exclude churches from state programs unrelated to the promotion of religion. The ruling could have ramifications for school choice programs that allow parents to select private religious schools.
The case involved a Missouri church that applied for a state grant intended to promote playground safety. State officials denied the request because the Show Me State’s constitution — like those in many other states, including Nevada — includes a clause prohibiting the state from directing public money to religious institutions.
“The exclusion of [the school] from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution … and cannot stand,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote for the majority.
The recent session lacked the usual number of anticipated rulings, in part because the justices were shorthanded starting the term and may have hoped to avoid a raft of split, 4-4 decisions. They will be under no such restraint this fall as indicated by their decision Monday to hear the controversial case involving a Colorado couple who were fined for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding.
The justices reconvene on Oct. 2.