Trump’s religious test for U.S. immigration betrays basic ideals

If there’s anything that makes Americans distinctive, it would be our loyalty to individual freedoms such as those in the Bill of Rights.

We don’t think it’s an accident that the very first of those freedoms listed relate to prohibiting “an establishment of religion (or) impeding the free exercise of religion … .”

So, when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called Dec. 7 for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” he revealed a disregard for one of the most basic ideals in today’s pluralistic America.

His remarks at a campaign rally in South Carolina obviously were meant to capitalize on fears after a radicalized Muslim couple killed 14 people in a shooting attack last week in California. But his call to ban all Muslims “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on” went far beyond his usual bombast. This is significant not just because it was expressed by a leading candidate but because it’s a view shared by many who may be unaware of how earlier such crusades played out.

• In the 1880s, the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act barred Chinese immigrants. This was due to an influx that upset U.S. labor markets as well as racial discrimination. More than 100 years later, Congress passed resolutions expressing regret for the ethnically biased act.

• In 1942, after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered that all U.S. citizens of Japanese heritage be forced to leave their homes, businesses and jobs for internment camps. This abuse of mostly patriotic individuals was later blamed on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership,” a 1982 federal report found.

FDR’s order also proved backward. Many of the war’s most-decorated soldiers served in specially formed Japanese-American units.

It’s true that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Japanese internments and, due to wide federal powers on immigration, experts can debate the constitutionality of Trump’s proposal.

But certainly it’s wrong to violate international treaties on immigration and collectively ban all those of the world’s second-largest religion by applying guilt by association. We should not repeat the errors of the past.

We believe in individual freedom, whether to worship freely, immigrate equitably, bear arms justly or any of the other freedoms that we cherish. If any candidate would use the deaths of 14 people in a nation of 320 million to try to infringe upon any of our American ideals, what further trampling of individual freedom would they support if elected?