A portrait of Governor Pence.
  Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana Credit Darron Cummings/Associated Press

An independent and competent judiciary is essential to fight the oppression of minorities

6 March, 2016

A federal district judge in Indianapolis [blocked] the attempt by Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana to cut off federal resettlement funds for Syrian refugees who had passed a vetting process that took up to two years. Mr. Pence’s order was unconstitutional and “clearly discriminates” against Syrians compared with other refugees, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled in a suit brought by a nonprofit resettlement agency. The judge found that Mr. Pence’s move to withhold resettlement funds was “in no way” justified by his claim that his main concern was the safety of Indiana residents.

The ruling delivered a jolt of reality to the xenophobic politics now inflaming the presidential primary campaign. – The New York Times, ”A Judge’s Message to the Xenophobes”.

This judgement is a great example of why we need an independent and competent judiciary. One commentator mentioned that, if the law was on the judge’s side, the people are largely on Trump’s side. What was implied was that, if a majority of Americans agreed with Trump, then Trump must be right. Isn’t this exactly the reason why independent judges are necessary?

As we have learned from European history in the 30s, the people are often wrong, especially when prompted by nationalist populist politicians who would say anything to be elected. Trampling the rights of a minority designated as scapegoat for all social ills is an old political trick. A constitutional human rights framework is an essential tool to fight oppression of minorities by the majority, institutionalised discrimination of anyone deemed different, and hate speech and hate crimes.

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