The Supreme Court’s Travel-Ban Case Could Set a New Standard for Freedom of Speech

Op-Ed: Clinging to old classics can go hand in hand with banning books

By Dan Wooding, Op-Ed Editor, USA TODAY


Mar 8, 2018 at 8:11 AMMar 8, 2018 at 9:32 AM

Last week, I wrote a column about a case from the U.S. Supreme Court that could have sweeping implications for freedom of speech. In that case, the Trump administration claimed, in part, that President Obama’s executive order prohibiting travel to the United States from seven majority-Muslim countries was unconstitutional.

The case was the Trump administration’s third attempt to roll back or weaken the Obama administration’s executive order against travel from Muslim-majority countries. That administration had earlier prevailed two times.

But in February, the Trump administration lost in its final effort when the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case.

The justices sided with the Obama administration, a decision that could open the door to a future administration arguing that restrictions on immigration or immigration generally are unconstitutional. The Trump administration could then try to reverse its own position by arguing that the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and the Immigration and Nationality Act require it to follow the executive order.

The justices were unanimous in upholding the executive order. The unanimous decision means that the travel ban is likely to remain in place for now.

I wrote last week that the Supreme Court’s decision in that travel-ban case could set a precedent for how the U.S. government regulates speech — and the government could go even further if a future administration sought to overturn the travel-ban policy it had adopted.

I pointed out to readers that the travel ban is but one example. I also pointed out that this is not a new trend. This is just the first of a number of cases to come down the pike over the years.

I pointed out that in the history of the country, the courts have never stopped a government from regulating speech. But those who regulate the speech argue, often without thinking it through, that they shouldn’t regulate speech because it could harm everyone.

Here’s part of my column, with some excerpts highlighted for clarity and context:

The travel ban of the Obama administration is just one in a series of recent cases that could upend

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