People Are Marveling At The First Paragraph In The Fourth Circuit Court Of Appeals' Travel Ban Ruling

"How's THAT for an opening paragraph."

Court rulings (and the opinions within them) aren't typically known for the liveliness of their prose. Arguments made by judges and justices are, widely speaking, heavy on legal jargon and scant on emotion. That being said, in 2015, the eloquent majority opinion that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the marriage equality ruling made headlines for its evidently impassioned wording, as well as, of course, its content.

As pointed out by many a Twitter user, the first paragraph of the Virginia-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals' May 25 ruling against the Trump administration's travel ban sticks out as well. Written by Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory, it too makes dramatic-sounding appeals to values held by many Americans, without cloaking the message in lots of legalese.


The ban — which, at some points, was referred to as a "ban" by the administration, and at other points a "vetting system" — would have temporarily barred people from six primarily Muslim countries from visiting the United States, and would have paused the refugee program. A lower court ruling had blocked the ban's second iteration from going into effect, deeming it discriminatory, a ruling which the administration subsequently appealed. The 4th Circuit Court's ruling upheld the lower court's ruling, prompting celebration from some online, and consternation from others.

Gregory's first paragraph described the ban as speaking "with vague words of national security," but in context dripping "with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination." 

"Surely the Establishment clause of the First Amendment yet stands as an untiring sentinel for the protection of one of our most cherished founding principles — that government shall not establish any religious orthodoxy or favor or disfavor one religion over another."

These were the words that caught the attention of the internet, and were subsequently screenshotted and shared, over and over.

The Trump administration, for its part, has promised to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

"The President is not required to admit people from countries that sponsor or shelter terrorism, until he determines that they can be properly vetted and do not pose a security risk to the United States," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

For now, though, the injunction against the travel ban has been largely upheld, and visitors from the six barred countries are able to travel to the United States with more freedom.

Cover photo via The White House / Shealah Craighead


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