Fairness To Ben Carson: There Is Nothing Wrong With Considering A Presidential Candidates’ Religion And Its Influences

It's true: if you don't think an Amish man should be President, you're violating the Constitution. Or something. Wait...What was the question again?

It’s true: if you don’t think an Amish man should be President, you’re violating the Constitution. Or something. Wait…What was the question again?

As with Donald Trump, I am once again faced with having to defend a Presidential candidate who should not be running and should have fewer supporters than Ted Nugent has functioning brain cells. For the second time in two days the victim is dead-eyed, hubris-infected, “I’m not a politician so I am allowed to be a lousy speaker and campaigner” Ben Carson, the candidate for those who are so disgusted with a President with no executive experience that they want a new President with no government experience or executive experience.

The gleeful news media freak-out spurred by the doctor’s silly generalities about the qualifications of Muslims for the U.S. Presidency was already embarrassing and intellectually dishonest (hence yesterday’s post) before the latest nonsense. The current narrative is that Dr. Carson doesn’t understand the Constitution. No fewer than three columns this morning in the Washington Post alone carried that message, and all quoted the same passage: Article VI’s directive that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office.”

Dr. Carson didn’t say that there should be a religious test for the Constitution. It is critics like Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Eugene Robinson, not Carson, who apparently don’t understand the Constitution. See, Eugene, Dana Milbank, Michael Gerson, Ted Cruz, The Nation, Whoopie Goldberg, Rachel Maddow, and too many others to name, the Constitution doesn’t tell citizens, including citizens you don’t like to see running for President, that they can’t use a religious test for any office, it says that the government can’t.

Did you miss that part?

I don’t know how!

Carson didn’t use the term “the nation” or “the law.”  He said “I.” He said that he would not would not advocate that “we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” and  that “I”  would not agree with that.” How does this translate into an effort, an intention or even a desire to install a national religious test? It doesn’t. It only does so for  sloppy readers, those who don’t comprehend English, or, in the cases of Eugene Robinson, Milbank,  Gerson,Cruz, Maddow, and the rest, those who want to misrepresent what Carson said and meant. I didn’t notice him calling for a Constitutional Amendment, did you?

That’s because he didn’t.

The fact is, and it is a fact, that there is nothing inappropriate, unethical, or even necessarily bigoted about a voter taking a candidate’s religion into consideration among the many factors that enhance or reduce his appeal as a potential leader. Religion isn’t like race, gender or ethnicity: it is very relevant to belief systems, and what potential leaders believe is absolutely relevant to their trustworthiness and fitness to lead. I would not vote for Mike Huckabee, because his religion, in his stated view, tells him that the United States should be a theocracy. That makes me a bigot? That means I don’t understand the Constitution?

No, that means I don’t want a President who says he will defy the Supreme Court because the Bible tells him so. If I—I! I!—say that I’ll consider voting for Huckabee if he assures the nation that he will NOT let his religion trump his duties to the rule of law, then I’ll concede that he isn’t, in my eyes, disqualified to lead. That’s not the kind of “religious test” the Constitution bans, because it’s my—MY! MY!—test.

Ben Carson undoubtedly understands, as I do, that no state could ban Tom Cruise from running for President just because his religion, recognized as such by the cowardly IRS ( see “Going Clear”), is an evil, cultish scam that preys on the desperate, the weak-minded and the easily manipulated. That doesn’t mean Ben and I can’t (and shouldn’t) say that anyone who would vote for a Scientologist as President is demented, and that neither of us would  advocate that “we put a Scientologist in charge of this nation,” and  that we would not agree with that.

The difference with what Carson said about Muslims?

None.

Do you think Robinson, Milbank,  Gerson, Cruz, Whoopie, Maddow and others would get up in arms about that statement, and claim that we were advocating violating the Constitution?

As David Harsanyi writes at the Federalist, in a piece I found after I had completed this one–I hate it when that happens—

“If you’re a Seventh-day Adventist who believes it’s mankind’s duty to eradicate alcoholic beverages, or a Young Earther, or a Christian Scientist, or a member of any religious denomination that embraces Ludditism, or an orthodox Muslim who believes Sharia law is a preferable legal framework to secular governance, I probably wouldn’t vote for you no matter how compelling your tax plan sounded. But that’s just me.

It doesn’t mean I’d advocate that you be prohibited from running for office, or barred from proselytizing your faith, or have you thrown into an internment camp; it only means you are mistaken about some of life’s most significant questions…This goes for candidates who are openly socialist, believe humans have the ability to control the weather, think astrology is real (even a little), wear bowties un-ironically, or adopt regional accents during stump speeches. In a world where the state has some say in nearly all of our decisions, your ideological disposition, your behavior, your choices, they all make a difference.”

Later, Harsanyi mentions the Amish. Good one. No, I would not advocate making a devout Amish practitioner President either. Does that make me a bigot? Apparently not, and apparently its because no Amish radicals murdered 3000 Americans on our soil, and no Amish extremists are running amuck killing people overseas. I guess that explains why Ben could decide that he didn’t want an Amish President but is scum for not “advocating” a Muslim one.

Wait, explain it to me again, Eugene.

There are so many reasons Ben Carson is a terrible option for President, but ignoring the Constitution, at least in this instance, isn’t one of them. And I ask again, as I have with Donald Trump: why can’t critics of unqualified Presidential candidates make their case without manufacturing flaws and flubs that don’t exist?

I do not want to keep having to defend these people.

9 thoughts on “Fairness To Ben Carson: There Is Nothing Wrong With Considering A Presidential Candidates’ Religion And Its Influences

  1. I watched Dr. Carson’s interview with the ridiculous hypothetical got ya questions and he said no wrong here. Article VI does not apply here, as this was his opinion,as you have so clearly outlined.
    Thank you for your Common Sense and integrity.

  2. Dr. Ben is also getting a little testy. Just saw another interview in which he stated something like, in answer to an inaudible question “Apparently, there are a number of people out there who do not speak or understand English. This is what I said:” Then he went on to quote exactly what he had said before. He’s at least consistent.

  3. “I would not vote for Mike Huckabee, because his religion, in his stated view, tells him that the United States should be a theocracy. That makes me a bigot? That means I don’t understand the Constitution?”

    No, but I think there’s a distinction between this and saying you would never vote for any Christian candidate.

    And while Carson’s comments did not suggest violating the Constitution, they were certainly an endorsement of de facto discrimination, and are inconsistent with leading a culture that values Constitutional principles.

    • The point is that belief systems are relevant. There’s Christian and there’s Christian–my statement about Huckabee is like Carson saying that no extreme Muslim should be President. But how is that any different? That’s just cutting the discrimination slice a little thinner. Discriminating on a rational basis isn’t unconstitutional or even unethical. The Constitution doesn’t say we have to ignore someone’s religion, just that there can’t be a test. I will say, with pride and certainty, that I would rather cut off my pinkie than vote for anyone dumb enough to get sucked into Scientology. Discrimination? Of just common sense?

  4. Didn’t we go through all this with JFK? “Oh my God! A Roman Catholic as president? Would he pay obeisance to the Pope or the US Constitution?” That question was aptly answered (partially, perhaps, because his behavior was hardly in line with many Roman Catholic teachings…)

    But the difference is that Islam — that ancient, long-revered and accepted religion — is now tainted because it has used its teachings (in powerful quarters and entire countries, like Iran) to become totally political, and violently so. And people, political groups and nations have used Islam’s basic teachings to tell the world what their real goal is — to eradicate all non-Muslims. No one with a brain thinks that all Muslims believe this: but with a major world power espousing it, attitudes can get dicey.

    Religion can and does (and has, historically) play a part in an individual’s choice for president of the United States. And why not? A voter’s opinion of a candidate can be formed by many things, including both facts and bias. Scientologists and the Amish (as noted above) have a belief system that would interfere with the workings of government as put forth in the Constitution. So would Quakers. But if Scientology, Amish and Quaker candidates can say that’s not true, then they’re not real Scientologists, Amish, or Quakers anyway.

    Ben Carson’s real problem is not that he is unintelligent, quite the contrary: but he is not a campaigner, speaks his mind in the short sound bites he is given, and is not a strong enough personality to demand the time to explain fully what he wants to purport. He would be a good, thoughtful, precise, and intelligent member of any Presidential Administration, and the country would be better off with him involved. He’s just not Presidential timbre, and doesn’t understand what “leadership” means in Presidential terms.

    • You have summed up Ben Carson better than I ever could. My poor effort was that he was using a bedside manner while running for President, and that will not work, either In the run or in the job.

    • At last, a “No True Scotsman” that actually works. Religious dogma is probably the one time it does. By definition a “true Islamist” cannot be a small r republican or a small d democrat.

  5. “Religion isn’t like race, gender or ethnicity…” I tend to lump one’s religion together with other culturally typical behaviors as part of what I call ethnicity. I reserve the privilege to myself to discriminate on the basis of religion and ethnicity, when it comes to whom I vote for. Race and gender, I agree: Not valid bases for discrimination and exclusion. My mother was too fine a woman for me to grow up opposing her (or any female’s) inclusion as a candidate for any and all work opportunities, including the presidency. Believe it or not (this is slightly off topic), I am OK with the new Secretary of the Army liking sex some way that I don’t and that I count as trespass against God. I am more interested in and wary of what the Secretary might DO in his JOB. But that personal trait of his, alone, I would never say makes him unfit for that job. My Dad, in contrast to Mom, would have preferred to exclude women and blacks, but also Catholics and, I am not sure but suspect, Jews…I got even with him. I voted for a Mormon in 2012, and I just might write in Bibi Netanyahu for President in 2016. I imagine Dad and I would disagree on that Army Secretary…

  6. “. . . I can’t (and shouldn’t) say that anyone who would vote for a Scientologist as President is demented”

    You don’t have to. Nobody but a Scientologist would vote for another Scientologist for anything.

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