This week Donald Trump, the leading Republican contender for President, proposed banning all Muslims from entering the country, as one of his solutions to deal with ISIS inspired terrorism in the homeland. This bigoted and anti-American proposal, on top of his anti-Mexican, misogynistic, and crude comments have only enhanced his standing in the polls, to the shame of us all. His reliance on demonstrably false information to support his claims is no hindrance to him or his followers. In response, I commend to you a piece by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Time Magazine. His article, What Donald Trump and ISIS Have in Common, explains how Trump’s proposal is against everything we stand for, and is unconstitutional to boot.
We have seen this before. History has taught us that what starts out as harmful speech targeting a race, religion, or ethnic group, frequently evolves into discriminatory behavior with real consequences to members of the targeted group. This type of damage has occurred too many times to recount, at its extremes leading to the worst kinds of violence and genocide. The appeal to emotions, rather than reason, can entice the best of us to do bad things. That is why we are so fortunate to live in a country governed by the rule of law with constitutionally protected freedoms and rights.
When a sizeable portion of the electorate is impelled by fear or demagoguery to act lawlessly or even to change the laws to target a race, religion or ethnic group, the Constitution provides a brake. Similarly, when the public’s reaction to crimes impels the State to target an individual who everyone “knows” is the perpetrator or has committed a crime, the law requires evidence, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and honor to our rules requiring adherence to First, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment protections that minimize the risk that an innocent person would be convicted. Freedom of speech, religion, and assembly, against unreasonable searches and seizures, against compelled self-incrimination, the right to counsel, notice, jury trials, due process and equal protection of the laws protects us all. Our Constitution minimizes the risk that a lynch mob led by the likes of Donald Trump would ever subvert the fairness and even handedness of our laws or our criminal justice system. We can only hope that the Constitution continues to protect us as we face new challenges posed by cynical or mindless opponents.
If you are facing criminal or traffic charges in Maryland state or federal court, call Leonard R. Stamm of Goldstein & Stamm, P.A. at 301-345-0122 for a free consultation.
Author: 2015 update to Maryland Evidence: State and Federal by Professor Lynn McLain (coming this fall)
“Patience, Perseverance, Persuasion”