by Loren G. Edelstein | September 19, 2017
Nearly 30 arts groups -- including PEN America, the Sundance Institute, Americans for the Arts, the Future of Music Coalition and the Performing Arts Alliance -- jointly filed a friend of the court brief yesterday urging the Supreme Court to strike down the Trump administration's travel ban against citizens and nationals of six predominantly Muslim countries. The following is excerpted from a statement published by PEN America, which advocates for freedom of literary expression in the United States and worldwide:

The artistic, literary and cultural groups filed the amicus brief in the case, International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, to advance the argument that not only does the travel ban violate religious freedom protections, it infringes on First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly by unduly interfering with Americans' right to interact with artists and writers from overseas. The groups, representing the full array of the artistic community, from theater to dance to opera to literature, argue that the travel ban "prevents our citizens from in-person transmission of ideas, expression and speech," burdening the flow of information necessary to the proper functioning of our democracy.

Amici [plural of amicus, or advisers to a court of law] have a common interest in protecting the international exchange of people and ideas, and argue that their ability to facilitate that exchange is protected as a core element of the freedom of speech and the right to access information, which courts have found is necessary to the proper exercise of the First Amendment. The artistic community, represented in the groups on the brief, recognizes that live, in-person interactions cannot be replaced or replicated under the conditions of the proposed travel ban, which directly violates the right to receive information under the First Amendment.


"The Muslim ban would not only divide families and send a message that the United States is no longer a haven for the persecuted and imperiled, it would violate core principles of free speech," said Gabe Rottman, Washington director at PEN America. "It would prevent artists and intellectuals from meeting and speaking face-to-face. At a time of strife, we should not be blowing up the bridges that keep us linked to other cultures."

The arts groups' core mission of fostering intellectual and artistic discourse rests on the free exchange of people's ideas and perspectives. As such, amici are particularly concerned about the frustrations faced by individuals and groups engaging in cultural exchange from the countries affected by the travel ban, "exemplifying the ways in which the ban not only affects Americans' right to receive information, but also the administration's disregard for the importance of cross-cultural understanding and the arts," per the published statement.

In addition to PEN America, the brief is supported by the following organizations:

Americans for the Arts
CASH Music
Chamber Music America
CIMAM
Content Creators Coalition
Dance/USA
Fractured Atlas
Future of Music Coalition
globalFEST
Guitar Mash
Institute of Contemporary Art
International Association of Art Critics' International Committee of Censorship
Livesounds
National Alliance of Musical Theater
National Coalition Against Censorship
Network of Ensemble Theaters
New England Foundation for the Arts
OPERA America
Performing Arts Alliance
Sundance Institute
Tamizdat
Teachers and Writers Collaborative
Theatre Communications Group
Trudel MacPherson
Western Arts Alliance
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival