Sunday on Meet the Press Chuck Todd asked Ben Carson whether a president’s faith should matter to voters. The question stemmed from a Donald Trump rally when Trump took a question from a supporter who said, “We have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims” and insinuated that President Barack Obama is Muslim.
Carson didn’t give the politically correct answer.
“I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it is inconsistent with the values and principles of America then of course it should matter,” Carson said. “But if it fits within the realm of America and is consistent with the Constitution then I have no problem.”
Todd then asked if Carson believed whether Islam is consistent with the Constitution.
“No, I don’t. I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that,” Carson answered.
Then Todd asked if he would ever consider voting for a Muslim for Congress. “Congress is a different story. It depends on who that Muslim is and what their policies are. It depends on what everybody else says, and if there is somebody who is of any faith, and they say things in life that have been consistent with things that will elevate this nation and make it possible for everybody to succeed and bring peace and harmony. Then I’m with them,” Carson stated.
Todd then asked if Carson believed whether President Obama was born in the United States and is a Christian. “I believe that he is, I have no reason to doubt what he says,” Carson said.
Apparently, like Jorge Ramos’ gay wedding litmus test, a new litmus test for Republican candidates is would you vote for a Muslim and if you believe President Obama is a Christian. Now you have several candidates lining up to answer these questions. It’s also expected that the other candidates will rebuke the candidate who said the politically incorrect thing.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) calls on Carson to apologize. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) points out that there is no constitutional litmus test on faith. Carly Fiorina said Carson was wrong, and again points out there is no religious test for office.
First, my encouragement to the rest of the field who may not have weighed in on this yet is don’t. Don’t play these games. Second, can we make an important distinction here? Carson said “I would not advocate” for a Muslim to be President. He did not say “Muslims should be banned” from seeking higher office. Yes constitutionally we can not place a religious litmus test on candidates who run. State election officers can’t keep Muslims off the ballot. Individuals, however, can use whatever criteria they like in determining who they vote for.
Whether Islam is inconsistent with the Constitution, I don’t believe one can honestly say democracy and basic human rights abound in most Muslim-majority nations. That said, there are divergent views on Sharia Law with some views being inconsistent with the Constitution and others not. Most American Muslims, especially those who are natural born citizens qualified to run for President, would likely not hold an extreme view. How a Muslim candidate views Sharia Law would be a relevant question. Christian candidates are asked in different ways how their faith would guide their governance. I don’t see liberals getting up in arms when those types of questions are asked of the religious right by those who favor a separation of church and state.
Again, Carson did not say Muslims should be banned from public office just that he wouldn’t advocate for them. I think it’s probably fair to say many Muslims wouldn’t be terribly excited about voting for an evangelical. That’s ok and it’s their right just like Carson can use any criteria he likes to determine who he will vote for and publicly support.