Ben Carson would not support a Muslim candidate for president. This statement was made a week ago, and the media is still pressing him on the issue. But what's kind of puzzling to me is why they don't ask a few very obvious questions that would expose the rank hypocrisy involved in Carson's thinking. Instead, they just ask him the same question (in slightly different formats) over and over again, ignoring the fundamental contradictions in what Carson is espousing.
Here are two examples of Carson answering -- once again -- pretty much the same question. His answers are pretty consistent, too. The first comes from a recent article in The Hill.
"I do not believe Sharia is consistent with the Constitution of this country," Carson said, referencing the Islamic law derived from the Koran and traditions of Islam. "Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that's inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution."
Carson said that the only exception he'd make would be if the Muslim running for office "publicly rejected all the tenets of Sharia and lived a life consistent with that."
"Then I wouldn't have any problem," he said.
The second is a direct quote from Carson from an interview on Fox News with Sean Hannity.
Now, if someone has a Muslim background and they're willing to reject those tenets and to accept the way of life that we have, and clearly will swear to place our Constitution above their religion, then, of course, they will be considered infidels and heretics, but at least I would then be quite willing to support them.
. . .
I don't care what religion or faith someone belongs to if they're willing to subjugate that to the American way and to our Constitution, then I have no problem with it.
OK, fine. Carson is saying that Sharia law is incompatible with the United States Constitution, and that Muslims should have to make it clear that they will recognize the supremacy of American secular law over religious tenets or beliefs. Strip this of the emotional content and put the most charitable interpretation upon it possible, and what Carson seems to be supporting is "the separation of mosque and state." This, hand in hand with the concept of separating church and state, is a very liberal idea made famous in a letter from Thomas Jefferson. But why are the obvious followup questions never asked?
For instance, why not ask Carson a few straightforward questions to truly explore what he is advocating -- beginning with: "When religious beliefs and the United States Constitution are incompatible, would you agree that the Constitution should always be dominant and supreme?" That seems to be no more than restating (in a generalized way) what Carson is saying about belief in Sharia law, right? So, to be consistent, Carson would almost have to agree with that sentiment.
This is where the questions should turn more specific. "The Supreme Court has ruled that gay couples have a basic constitutional right to equal protection under federal law, meaning they have a fundamental constitutional right to get married. Why, exactly, do you disagree with this? What is the precise reason that causes you to not wholeheartedly embrace constitutional rights in this case? Does it have anything to do with your own faith?" The hypocrisy should be plain for all to see at this point.
Carson's inherent inconsistency could be pointed out in many ways, as a matter of fact, which makes it all the more surprising that nobody in the media seems to be able to do so. Carson could be asked about the county clerk in Kentucky who went to jail rather than do her job -- about as clear a case of putting your own religious beliefs above the Constitution as there is. Why won't someone ask Carson why a public official -- who had to swear an oath to the Constitution when she got the job -- should be able to ignore parts of that Constitution because she puts her own faith above it (even answering that her authority to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples came from "God's law"). If Carson thinks a Muslim should not be able to put Sharia above loyalty to the Constitution, how can he support a Christian doing exactly the same thing for the tenets of her faith?
If I were to interview Carson, I would phrase the question about as bluntly as I could manage: "Rightly or wrongly, it's been said in the past that part of the Mormon faith's teachings is that Mormons should aspire to as many American public offices as possible, so that they can eventually bend the government and the laws to be more in line with their faith. It was said about John F. Kennedy that because he was Catholic, he would be taking orders from the Pope -- which he'd have to follow even if they contradicted the United States Constitution. One school of thought among American Protestants is called "Dominionism," which is the belief that Christians should, again, work within the system to change America's laws so they conform better with their religious dogma. Could you support a member of any of these faiths for president? Or should they first have to forswear these beliefs or tenets publicly, the same way you say a Muslim should forswear Sharia? Why or why not?"
My followup question would be more general: "Should there be some sort of litmus test for any person of faith where they must proclaim the United States Constitution supercedes their religion when the two conflict?" This is definitely a "gotcha" question, because if Carson did agree with this, he would be proposing something which the Constitution itself bars. No religious test is constitutionally allowed for any public officeholder in America. Even hairsplitting religious tests where people must proclaim the Constitution superior to their religious beliefs.
This is the heart of Ben Carson's hypocrisy. Not only is he proposing an unconstitutional religious test for prospective presidents, but so far he's been pretty silent on the separation of church and state when it comes to Christian churches and the religious right. There is really only one reason to not wholeheartedly embrace the Supreme Court's ruling that gay marriage is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Constitution, after all -- and that reason is religion. "My religion says it is wrong" is really the whole argument. But that argument is precisely what Carson is afraid of when the subject is a Muslim president. How is a Muslim advocating Sharia any different than the religious right advocating the government hew closer to the Bible? Both are attempting to subvert the Constitution by replacing certain parts of it with their own religious law.
Ben Carson's hypocrisy is quite obvious, no matter how he answers any of the above proposed questions. Proposing a loyalty oath to put the Constitution above the Muslim religion, but not supporting the same test for all candidates of faith is nothing short of religious discrimination -- which is unconstitutional. Proposing a loyalty oath to the Constitution for all candidates of faith -- equally and without discrimination -- is still unconstitutional because religious tests are forbidden by the Constitution itself. People who oppose gay marriage are doing so on religious grounds, even after the Supreme Court has ruled that it is a fundamental constitutional right -- so how is that any different than anyone else trying to put their faith above the Constitution?
Ben Carson is trying to portray his stance on Muslims and Sharia law as defending the United States Constitution. But by making the argument for the separation of mosque and state but not church and state, he is showing his own hypocrisy -- by instituting conditions on people of other faiths that he doesn't appear to accept for members of his own faith. He is advocating ignoring certain parts of the Constitution, while pretending to praise the same Constitution. He has no problem with people ignoring the parts of the Constitution that he doesn't like, as long as those people are professing Christian faith while doing so. The only problem he identifies is with Muslims doing the same thing -- which is in and of itself unconstitutional discrimination. The Republican Party has, for the past few decades, felt that (as Carson puts it) "their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official." So why is this not (again, in Carson's own words) "inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution"?
It shouldn't take a journalistic genius to identify these contradictions (since they seem so blatantly obvious) and actually ask Carson a few questions designed to expose both his hypocrisy and his unconstitutional double-standard. But instead, we just get interview after interview with Carson where he is asked the exact same question over and over again, about his thoughts on Muslims running for office and Sharia law.
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