NO BAN Act passes House, moving forward new protections for faith freedom

By Jennifer Hawks

On April 21, the U.S. House of Representatives took an important step to protect religious freedom in immigration by passing H.R. 1333, the NO BAN Act, on a bipartisan vote. This bill prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion in immigration decisions and adds accountability measures on any future temporary immigration bans.

Adding religion as a protected category in the Immigration and Nationality Act is a commonsense move to ensure that American immigration policy complies with the First Amendment. The United States has served as a beacon for religious freedom throughout history, but the country has not always lived up its ideals, including in immigration policy. With religion as a protected category, no one will be turned away from the United States because they are the “wrong” religion.

The NO BAN Act does more than simply add religion as a protected category — it also contains provisions to ensure religious liberty is protected. The bill adds accountability measures for the current and all future presidential administrations who may see a need to temporarily curb immigration. Under this bill, if the president decides that national security interests demand a temporary immigration ban, the president would have to consult with the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security before issuing the ban and regularly report back to Congress on the continuing need for the ban.

The NO BAN Act does not prevent the president from protecting the United States in times of crisis, but it does require our executive branch to work with the co-equal legislative branch in temporary immigration decisions to protect American interests.

Originally introduced in the previous Congress, the earlier version of the NO BAN Act contained an additional section to repeal the various Muslim and African travel bans issued by then-President Donald Trump. On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order repealing those actions, and therefore there was no need to address the actions of the previous administration in the current bill.

The NO BAN Act says “yes” to a robust protection of faith freedom for all. Singling out a religious group for mistreatment in immigration or any other government context is antithetical to our constitutional ideals. BJC looks forward to working with the NO BAN Act coalition to secure passage of this important bill in the U.S. Senate.

Rev. Jennifer Hawks is the associate general counsel at BJC.