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Regret voting for Trump? Supreme Court shows why you shouldn't

Not everyone was pleased with the Supreme Court's partial endorsement of President Trump's so-called "travel ban." (AP photo)
Not everyone was pleased with the Supreme Court's partial endorsement of President Trump's so-called "travel ban." (AP photo)
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 27, 2017 12:01 am

 The News-Sentinel's on-line poll this week asks readers whether they are "still happy with your vote in the presidential election." As I write this, 28 percent remain glad they supported Hillary Clinton, 8 percent regret casting a ballot for President Trump and another 8 percent didn't support either candidate.

A healthy 56 percent, meanwhile, said they would still vote for Trump. Put me in the category, for reasons that became obvious Monday.

Presidents come and go, but the federal judges they leave behind literally can last a lifetime. So, speaking for millions of other Americans who who voted for Trump as the lesser of two evils, the first Supreme Court decisions featuring Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch clearly vindicated that decision and raised expectations that even better things are ahead no matter how many dopey or boorish things Trump says, does or tweets along the way.

Ruling that lower courts had exceeded their authority by blocking enforcement of Trump's executive orders banning travel from six Muslim-majority countries, the justices ruled the orders can be enforced "with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States." The injunctions remain in place with respect to barring travel foreign nationals who can claim such a relationship, pending a full review of the lower court rulings that Trump's orders violated the First Amendment by targeting Muslims.

Gorsuch, significantly, joined conservatives Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in supporting the termination of the injunctions in their entirety, which would have allowed Trump's ban to take immediate effect.

The newest justice voted with six of his peers, however, in ruling that Missouri was wrong in 2012 when it denied a Lutheran school's application for a grant to improve its playground. Although Trinity Lutheran Church's application was ranked highly by the state, officials declined on the basis of a provision in the Missouri Constitution stating that "no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion."

The school argued, persuasively, that schools should not be excluded from otherwise secular aid programs simply because they are operated by a church. It's a ruling that could affect vouchers and other programs, which no doubt is why groups like the Center for Inquiry complained the decision "detonates a breach" in the proverbial wall between church and state.

Although critics will suggest the decisions contradict each other, with one decision favoring religion and another targeting it, the rulings are in fact consistent in their theological neutrality. Shredded recycled tires favor no denomination, nor does Trump's order ban travel by the vast majority of Muslims. The affected countries, in fact, were identified as terrorist havens by the Obama administration.

I don't particularly believe Trump's ban would do much to prevent terrorism, but I do believe the Constitution clearly gives the executive branch the power to regulate immigration. The notion that the executive orders somehow violated anybody's freedom of religion — since when does the Constitution extend rights to non-Americans living in other countries? — was absurd. So was the notion Trump's overheated campaign rhetoric about a "Muslim ban" "proved" he was targeting a particular faith.

And this was only the beginning of this court's church-state debate. On Monday the justices also announced they will hear arguments in a case involving a baker who refused to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding. Even though the baker did not refuse to serve gays, merely a ceremony that violated his religious beliefs, critics accused him of violating Colorado's public accommodation law.

There are limits to religious expression, of course, just as there are limits to executive authority under the Constitution. But it is reassuring to see the court acknowledge the nation's right to enforce its borders and its willingness to explore individuals' right to protect their faith-informed consciences from government intrusion. And at least two current justices — swing-vote Anthony Kennedy and liberal Ruth Bader Ginsberg — reportedly are contemplating retirement. If so, Trump's promised constitutionalist imprint will last a generation.

To conservatives, that's cause for optimism, not regret.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.

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