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Trump's Foreign-Terrorist Order Defends Religious Freedom

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

"This is a religious test pure and simple," Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said Monday.

The senator, who as the Democratic vice presidential nominee defended Hillary Clinton's support for legalized partial-birth abortion, seemed to be taking a morally righteous stand against President Donald Trump's executive order aimed at protecting U.S. territory from entry by foreign terrorists.

"Singling out these countries that are Muslim-majority countries and then saying an exception would be created for people coming from these countries if they are parts of religious minorities -- President Trump specifically said Christians -- this is a religious test of exactly the kind that President Trump said he would do when he was a candidate," said Kaine.

Did Kaine speak truth? Does Trump's executive order impose a "religious test"?

Trump's order -- available on the White House website -- lays out a finite process for improving the federal government's system for vetting people seeking visas to enter the United States.

It also advocates a change in priorities for the program that admits foreign refugees to this country.

The order calls on the secretary of Homeland Security, working with the secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence "to determine the information needed from any country" to make sure that when nationals of that country are given visas or admitted to the United States the person "is who the individual claims to be and is not a public security threat."

Once these officials determine the information that is needed to do this, the order requires them to create a list of countries "that do not provide adequate information."

The secretary of state will then "request all foreign governments that do not supply such information to start providing such information regarding their nationals."

The officials will then give the president a list of the countries that do not comply.

The president will issue a proclamation prohibiting entry into the United States of most nationals from the noncomplying countries.

But Trump's order does not impose a blanket ban on visas for citizens from these non-complying countries.

Those with diplomatic visas, visas from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, visas "for travel to the United Nations" and visas to work at international organizations will be granted entry.

The secretaries of State and Homeland Security, Trump's order says, will also have the authority "on a case-by-case basis and when in the national interest" to "issue visas and immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked."

While this system is being developed, Trump's order calls for generally suspending the U.S. refugee program for 120 days, and suspending it for Syrian refugees until the program has been changed "to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest."

Additionally, the order suspends for 90 days "immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12)."

In practice, this means the United States will suspend entry for 90 days for nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.

It does not include, for example, the more than 258,316,051 nationals of Indonesia, who, according to the CIA World Factbook, are 87.2 percent Muslim.

And, again, the 90-day suspension for nationals of the seven listed countries and the 120-day suspension of the refugee program, are not blanket suspensions. Trump's order gives the secretaries of State and Homeland Security the authority, during these suspensions, to "issue visas and other immigration benefits" to nationals of the seven countries and to admit refugees on "a case-by-case basis."

Nor does the order mention or single out Muslims, Christians or any religious sect.

The order does include a "religious" criteria -- but not the one Kaine claims.

"Upon the resumption of (refugee) admissions," the order says, "the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality."

The order will not presumptively deny refugee claims from those who belong to the majority religion of their country but will "prioritize" the claims of those who belong to a "minority religion" facing "religious-based persecution."

This could be a Sunni in a Shiite-majority country. Or it could be a Shiite, or, yes, a Christian in a Sunni majority country -- like Syria.

On July 7, 2016, the U.S. Senate, where Kaine has a vote, unanimously approved a resolution stating that "the atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant against Christians, Yezidis, Shi'a, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide."

Kaine -- who sought the vice presidency arguing that aborting American babies is a right -- believes President Trump is imposing a reprehensible "religious test pure and simple" for seeking to prioritize the refugee claims of persecuted religious minorities, including these Middle Eastern peoples targeted for genocide by the Islamic State.

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