Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said he would not support a Muslim for president because the Islamic faith is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. He later added that whoever takes the White House should be "sworn in on a stack of Bibles, not a Koran."
Here is my very qualified agreement with Ben Carson: Strict adherence to the Koran is inconsistent with the Constitution, but so is strict adherence to the Bible. Lawmakers take an oath to follow the Constitution, so I don't see why they should swear on the Koran, stacks of Bibles, or any other so-called holy books. President John Quincy Adams was sworn in with his hand on a book of U.S. laws to demonstrate that he recognized a barrier between church and state and that his loyalty was to our nation's laws above all else. Teddy Roosevelt also did not use a Bible at his swearing in ceremony.
So would I vote for a Muslim for president? It would depend on the position the Muslim takes on issues important to me, just as it would for Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or atheist candidates.
I would not vote for any candidate who claims that a god told him or her to run. That eliminates current candidates Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindall, and John Kasich. Former candidates Rick Perry and Scott Walker also received messages from their god to run, but God apparently changed his mind because they both dropped out. Given the number of candidates God supports, he/she/it must have a commitment problem or is hedging bets like a wealthy contributor. God used the same strategy in 2012, when he backed Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and perhaps others. God's track record hasn't been so good.
I hope candidates in the next Republican debate are asked if they could support an atheist for president. In a 2012 Gallup Poll about whether people would vote for a well-qualified candidate who happens to be in one of eight different categories, atheist scored lowest--just below gay or lesbian, and Muslim. The good news is that the 54 percent positive vote for atheists was the highest ever. And I'm optimistic it will continue to rise.
The issue for me is not so much the faith of the candidates, but whether they would try to impose their faith on others through public policy. There was a time that Republicans worried about this. When John F. Kennedy was running for president in 1960, some were concerned that he would take orders from the pope. Kennedy calmed many fears when he said, "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute." He also governed in a way consistent with that view. Unfortunately, times do not always change for the better. Another Catholic presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, called JFK radical for believing in separation of church and state.
When Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis cited her deeply held Christian beliefs as a legitimate reason to violate her oath of office and discriminate against gay couples, several Christian presidential candidates supported her right not to issue the marriage licenses she was legally required to issue. Mike Huckabee, who must believe America is or should be a Christian theocracy, supported Davis, saying, "The Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being, and they cannot overturn the laws of nature or of nature's god."
Religious freedom gives people the right to discriminate privately, but not the right to break the law or refuse to do your job. And where were these Christian conservative supporters of Kim Davis when Charee Stanley, a Muslim flight attendant who refused to serve alcohol to her customers, was fired because her job duties conflicted with her religious faith?
Some states have banned Muslim Sharia law in this country, and I certainly wouldn't want to live under Sharia law. However, this has not been a big fear of mine in the United States.
But if we were we to live under Sharia Law, here's what we could expect: government policy would be based on religious doctrine; when science and religious doctrine conflict, we would follow religious doctrine; religion would be taught and promoted in public schools; only abstinence would be acceptable sex education; homosexuality and gay marriage would be illegal; women would have fewer rights than men; abortion would be illegal; and there would be no separation of church and state
But wait! Isn't this what Christian extremists and many Republican candidates are now promoting? As an atheist, I'm almost inspired to say, "Thank God we live in a secular country."