Article 6, Paragraph 3

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The 2016 US Presidential Campaign has been fascinating and infuriating, in roughly equal measures, and there is no indication that much will change prior to election day. Yesterday was no different.

Ben Carson, 2016 Republican-nominee hopeful, said this:

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” (http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/20/politics/ben-carson-muslim-president-2016/index.html)

It’s disheartening to see a presidential candidate and potential nominee fail to understand the very values under which the United States of America was founded. Frankly, it worries me that this man could become President. Why? Because he clearly has no understanding of the U.S. Constitution, which states, plain as day, that there can be no religious test when qualifying for public office:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. (https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Constitution_of_the_United_States_of_America#Article_VI; emphasis mine)

I think it is pretty obvious that denying the presidency to Muslims is against the very U.S. Constitution that Ben Carson would have to swear to uphold if elected President. So you’d think it would behoove him to truly understand what it says, right? Especially when you look at something else he said, in response to the question of whether a candidate’s faith should matter to voters:

“I guess it depends on what that faith is,” he said. “If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem.” (http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/20/politics/ben-carson-muslim-president-2016/index.html)

Of course, it doesn’t matter what that faith is, because as long as the individual is willing to uphold the Constitution, we’re fine. Furthermore, an elected individual should never govern from their faith for one very simple reason: we aren’t a nation of a single faith! We are a nation of many faiths and of no faith. That very diversity provides us strength and many different viewpoints. It also prevents our nation from operating within an echo chamber.

What’s odd here is that Ben is apparently OK with electing a Muslim to Congress:

“Congress is a different story, but it depends on who that Muslim is and what their policies are, just like it depends on what anybody else is,” Carson said. “If there’s somebody who is of any faith but they say things and their life has 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.” (http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/20/politics/ben-carson-muslim-president-2016/index.html)

Why should a seat in Congress be any different than the Presidency of the United States of America? A member of Congress has to take an oath to the Constitution as does the President. And should the President attempt to overreach their authority, there are two other checks and balances: Congress and the Courts. Should Congress overreach, the President and the Courts are there to check as appropriate.

Of course, the issue of a Muslim in the Presidency keeps raising its ugly head because people are convinced we already have a Muslim President — namely, Barack Obama. Which of course is utterly ubsurd and has been debunked thoroughly, but it keeps coming up. Ben, at least, doesn’t seem to hold with this theory (though who knows with Trump…) which is, I suppose, a point in his favor. But just about everything else he says is a point against, in my opinion.

Look, I understand: we’re afraid of what we don’t understand. A lot of Americans have been raised in the Christian faith, and those that haven’t been involved in the faith directly would be hard pressed to have managed to avoid it completely. Islam, on the other hand, is something we don’t have a good handle on, and so it scares us. Add in 9/11, ISIS, and all sorts of other issues, and the fear quickly escalates.

Here’s the thing, though: Islam is like any other religion in at least one sense. It has liberal and conservative adherents, as does Christianity and any other religion. It has its own share of fundamentalists who follow dogma, and of those, it has its own share of militant fundamentalists. Christianity, again, is no different (and if you think it is, you don’t know your history). To imagine that all Muslims are militant fundamentalists is to horribly misrepresent them as a whole. After all, we can’t paint Americans with such broad strokes (or we quickly become offended), so why do so many insist on doing so with respect to Muslims?

It really does boil down to the fear of the unknown. Education would help greatly, of course, and getting to know the people themselves would help even more. We’re conditioned with “stranger, danger!” as children, and we’ve managed to take that unchanged into adulthood when we should have grown into something much more nuanced. Not all strangers are dangerous nor are all those we know actually safe. All of life is inherently risky, after all.

So would I be comfortable with a Muslim President? Given that the individual would have to swear an oath to the Constitution, and would be checked by both Congress and the Courts, absolutely. And this is true of any individual, regardless of their faith or origin.

It’s a little frustrating that we apparently haven’t advanced very far in the last few decades, because this is very reminiscent of someone else who had to fight this very thing. Remember this?

“… I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic.
I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President, if I should be elected, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject, I will make my decision in accordance with these views — in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.
But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any other conscientious public servant would do likewise. But I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith; nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election.
If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I’d tried my best and was fairly judged.
But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being President on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser, in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.” — John F. Kennedy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_Six_of_the_United_States_Constitution)

Replace “Catholic” with “Muslim” and “40 million Americans” to “~4–6 million Americans” and “baptized” to “born”, well — it doesn’t sound a whole lot different. The point stands, and we, as a nation, would be immensely poorer for having been so petty and ignorant that we couldn’t accept an American who just happens to be of the Islamic faith as President of our culturally diverse nation.

I’m hoping, of course, that Ben either gets corrected by his own party, or he corrects himself. He’s smart, so he should definitely be able to figure this out. Until he changes his mind, though, I don’t see how he should become the GOP nomination, let alone the next President of the United States. Of course “should” and “could” are two very different things, and that’s worrisome.

One last thought: it’s entirely possible that Ben knows exactly what the Constitution says, and is flagrantly ignoring it. If that’s the case, that’s even worse, because then how could he ever swear an oath to uphold the same document? That kind of hypocrisy speaks volumes, and I don’t see how he could ever be trusted in the Presidency. Here’s hoping it’s not intentional, though.

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