Diary

Religion: A Constitutional Litmus Test

We expect liberals to misconstrue comments made by conservatives. They need to strike fear into anybody giving Republicans a fair shot. Unfortunately we have some in the Republican Party who would rather join the attack on Dr. Ben Carson than understand the valid point he was making. People are shaking their heads wondering why Carson doesn’t understand that the Founders wanted no religious litmus test for office. Carson’s point, for those who choose to understand it, is that some people have a religious ideology that fails the constitutional litmus test

Now we must concede that Republican candidates need to view network interviews not as gentle conversations, but instead as the hostile interrogations that they truly are. We can find interviews on climate change and homosexuality where Carson, for example, will take the bait instead of challenging the premise.

The Meet the Press interview on September 20 is a perfect example of Carson answering a question that he was not asked.

CHUCK TODD:
So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?

DR. BEN CARSON:
No, I don’t, I do not.

CHUCK TODD:
So you–

DR. BEN CARSON:
I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.

Carson was not asked if a Muslim should be put in charge of this nation. (A question, by the way, Todd later directly asked John Kasich.) With Carson’s quote, people heard him say the absolute statement that there was no Muslim capable of being president. Surely there must be one Muslim in this country who would be capable of being president? If so, then Carson is making a racist, bigoted statement.

Todd’s question is actually quite profound: Is Islam consistent with the Constitution? The American culture has historically had common standards and values that allow all of us to live peacefully within society. They might be broad and generic, but we certainly have an expectation that our neighbors and our leaders will uphold those common standards.

Freedom of Religious Expression

We have a principle that people are free to express their faith as long as it doesn’t overtly interfere with those who don’t want to express that faith. It is not uncommon for people to have been raised in one church or religion only to grow and choose for themselves a different church or religion. These are adult decisions that we make for ourselves and also respect in others. Even in the cases where the entire family opposes a decision made by an individual, there is an underlying understanding that the decision is not for the family to make. American citizens are free to choose their own religious path.

Freedom of Speech

People in this country have the right to speak and make their views known. Political opinions and religious observations might be met with disdain and disgust by some, but again, the understanding is that a person has a right to express those views. Words and even images that are blasphemous to some are protected by law.

Right to Equal Protection

Justice is blind. That is our ideal anyway. It should not matter if the person is rich or poor, black or white, man or woman. The laws of this country apply to all of its citizens equally, and nobody is above the law. As a country, this has been a difficult bar to reach. Men are not angels, and self-governance requires just and moral leadership. But certainly within this ideal application of the law, we do not have it written that people of certain faiths or genders are to be treated differently than others. When it comes to equal protection under the law, we do our best to be a class-free society.

Constitution as Supreme Law

In 1960, John Kennedy needed to assert that his actions as president would not be vetted and approved by the Pope. I think Catholic politicians today continue to demonstrate their complete political independence from the Vatican. Republican candidates for president who identify as evangelicals are routinely asked whether or not the Bible supersedes the Constitution. For followers of Islam, and for advocates of Sharia Law, the question is fair. Is there a Muslim that can put Constitutional law ahead of the Quran?

The Founders set a high bar for succeeding generations to maintain. Throughout the history of mankind, most people on this planet have only lived under tyrants, monarchs, and warlords. American standards of law, justice, and liberty have helped its people prosper, and it’s perfectly reasonable to expect our leaders to understand and appreciate those very standards.

I’ll close with the words of Ben Carson, who took to Facebook to provide a more complete explanation of his Meet the Press answer:

Know this, I meant exactly what I said. I could never support a candidate for President of the United States that was Muslim and had not renounced the central tenant of Islam: Sharia Law.

Those Republicans that take issue with my position are amazing. Under Islamic Law, homosexuals – men and women alike – must be killed. Women must be subservient. And people following other religions must be killed.

I know that there are many peaceful Muslims who do not adhere to these beliefs. But until these tenants are fully renounced…I cannot advocate any Muslim candidate for President.

crosspost – http://www.totallyengagedamericans.org/religion-a-constitutional-litmus-test/