"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Ben Carson Is Right About Something!”: But Where Would His New Standard Leave Most Republicans?

Just a few days ago I wrote an article slamming Ben Carson for his asinine view that a Muslim should not be president of the United States and that the values of Islam are incompatible with our Constitution.  The irony here, of course, is that Carson’s very views are inconsistent with our Constitution, which expressly prohibits a religious test for president (or any federal office.)

But on Monday night Carson actually said something I agree with. While on Fox News, he stated, “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.”

He even said he would support a Muslim American seeking office if the person  “clearly will swear to place our Constitution above their religion.”

I couldn’t agree more with Carson. And I say that as a Muslim American. If a Muslim candidate for office were to advocate imposing Islamic law in America or revising our Constitution to agree with the Koran, I would be the first one to loudly oppose that person.

But I also feel strongly the same test should apply to all candidates of any faith. John F. Kennedy, a man I greatly admire, espoused a similar view when running for president in 1960 when he was subject to vile religious bigotry for being Catholic. Like Carson is now saying about Muslims, in 1960 some on the right claimed that Roman Catholicism was “incompatible with the principles” of our nation and that Kennedy was not truly loyal to America simply because of his faith.

In response, Kennedy gave a famous speech in 1960 before a group of Protestant ministers in Houston to address these allegations head on. There, Kennedy said that “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” Adding, “I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”

Kennedy did, in essence, what Carson advocated Monday; namely that he swore “to place our Constitution above” his religious beliefs.  And I believe it’s now time for the GOP presidential field to do the same. (The Democrats as well but let’s be honest, the religion talk comes from the Republican presidential field.)

So in accordance with the “Carson doctrine,” at the next GOP debate, all the  presidential candidates should be asked if they would expressly pledge to place our Constitution above their religious beliefs.  Yes, I know some will try to squirm there way out of it saying things like, “America was founded on Christian values and that is my faith” or “America is a Christian nation and I’m a Christian so there won’t be a problem.”

Not so quick. If any candidate refuses to make this pledge, follow up questions must be asked. We, as a nation, need to know specifically which of their respective religious beliefs they view as superior to our Constitution. Here are a few proposed questions:

  1. In the Bible it says that, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” Do you agree or reject that principle?
  2. If a woman is not a virgin on her wedding night, would you support the men of the town stoning her to death as expressly as mandated by the Bible?
  3. We have heard American pastors called for killing gays for “for their abominable deed” as it’s described in the Bible. Is that something you reject or agree with?
  4.  If a woman is raped in the city but does not cry out for help, would you stone the woman to death to “purge the evil from your midst” or reject that and instead follow our Constitution?
  5. Do you believe in death for those who commit blasphemy as required by the Bible?

We can even ask about modern day issues such as if a bill was put in front of you to ban all abortions, would you sign it, imposing you religious believes upon all Americans or follow the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade?

Don’t we need to know which passages they would follow if elected president and which they would reject? And yes, I know that many of the above passages are from the Old Testament and some Christians will claim that they don’t follow that book—except when some cite it to demonize gays, of course.

Well I’m far from a theologian but Revs. Billy and Franklin Graham are. Billy believes that Christians mistakenly ignore the Old Testament when in fact God gave “the whole Bible to us.” And his son Franklin has echoed that very sentiment with his words, “I believe the Bible from cover to cover. I believe the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament.”

But even before the next debate, we know some would fail the Carson test. For example, Mike Huckabee has stated that conservatives cannot accept “ungodly” court rulings on gay marriage and abortion. He has even urged that we need “to amend the Constitution” to agree with the Bible.

And Rick Santorum in 2012 told us that Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech “makes me throw up,” and U.S. laws must “comport” with the Bible. So he’s out too.

But the jury is still out on the rest including Carson himself. Isn’t it time we know if these candidates will place the U.S. Constitution over the religious beliefs or are they more beholden to the Biblical passages listed above?  I, for one, very much want to know the answer to that question.


By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, September 22, 2015

September 23, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, GOP Presidential Candidates, Religious Beliefs, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Likening Himself To Billy Graham”: The Donald Trump Revival Comes To Alabama

As “Sweet Home Alabama” blared into the humid Alabama air on Friday night, Donald Trump waltzed up to the lectern like he was accepting an award at the unlikely campaign venue of Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, a city of 200,000, wearing a crisp, white button-down beneath a navy blazer and a red, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” hat over his naturally luxurious hair. 

He grasped the lectern with both hands, looking like he was trying to steer a ship in the sea of what were, according to his campaign, 30,000 Alabama residents but with all the empty seats appeared to be significantly fewer than that. 

“Woooooow. Wow wow wow!” Trump bellowed like a baritone Sally Field. “Unbelievable! Unbelievaaaaable! Ugh, thank you. That’s so beautiful.”

Then, he said, “Now I know how the great Billy Graham felt, because it’s the same feeling.” Billy Graham, the conservative Christian evangelist and presidential spiritual adviser, got his start preaching outdoors on street corners, in front of bars, and in the parking lot of a dog racetrack. “We love Billy Graham,” Trump said. “We LOVE Billy Graham.” In 2013, Trump attended Graham’s 95th birthday in North Carolina, along with Rupert Murdoch, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin. 

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released hours before Trump’s stop in Mobile, almost 32 percent of Republicans surveyed support Trump—Jeb Bush, his establishment rival, boasts the support of just 16 percent of the GOP. 

Trump explained to the crowd that he needed to host his event in the partially-empty stadium because initially, when it was scheduled to take place in a hotel, they were only expecting between 250-300 people. But in case you haven’t been listening, Trump is a yooooge deal. When word got out about Trump’s event, according to Trump, the hotel called to say they couldn’t accommodate everyone. Next, Trump said, the campaign tried the Convention Center, but the size of Trump’s expected crowd grew so much that it surpassed the venue’s 10,000 person capacity. “So, we came here!” Trump exclaimed, throwing his arms out. “We came here.”

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump surmised that Trump chose Mobile because it “lies on the Gulf Coast” in close proximity to “other big population centers” like New Orleans and Tallahassee, and, less close but still not far, Birmingham and Atlanta.

Whatever his reason for being there, Trump sure seemed at home. He laughed and joked with the crowd. At one point, he walked around to the front of the podium, reached down into the audience, and plucked a copy of his book, The Art of the Deal from the hands of a female fan. Trump, ladykiller, called her “beautiful.” He said his book is his “second favorite book of all time,” and then asked the crowd what his first favorite book is. He seemed to smirk before he shouted, “THE BIBLE!!!”

This is Trump’s way of assuring Southern voters that he is, if not a man of God, at least someone who respects God’s branding—because for Trump to concede that anybody, divine or otherwise, produced a better product than he did, he has to think at least as highly of them as he thinks himself. And that’s as good as evangelicals are going to get from him.

At another point, Trump took his “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” hat off his head and ran his fingers through his hair, joking that he would prove to the skeptics that it’s real. 

Later, a plane flew overhead, and he glanced up to the sky. Earlier in the day, a pro-Jeb Bush plane had flown by, with the message, “TRUMP 4 HIGHER TAXES. JEB 4 PREZ.”

“Huh, somebody stole my plane!” Trump smiled, “Dammit.”

Most candidates give more or less the same exact speech everywhere they go. 

They tell the same heartfelt anecdotes and the same jokes with the same inflections to poor saps in state after state, county after county, day after day. But Trump, as he noted in Mobile (in a speech which lasted over an hour), is yoooge and popular and therefore every single time he speaks, it’s carried live on multiple television networks. So while he basically maintains his bullet points—immigrants are bad, America is getting beat by China, I’m really rich, Mexico is making America look bad, my military will be fabulous, did I mention I’m really rich—he rarely says the same thing twice. 

Maybe it’s for that reason that Trump speeches never feel predictable, even though his biases are unwavering. He is a sputtering sprinkler of bigotry, flowery adjectives, and non sequiturs. 

“Israel? I loooooooove Israel,” he said at one point while discussing foreign policy.

“We have dummies we have dummies we have dummies!” He complained of U.S. leaders. 

His military, he said, will be “so big and so great” that “nobody’s gonna mess with us, folks—nobody.”

While he warned that “Mexico is the new China,” Trump informed his public that Nabisco, the creator of such beloved childhood snacks as Oreos, plans to move its factory there. “I LOVE OREOS,” Trump shouted. Then, sadly, “I’ll never eat them again.”

At his announcement speech June 16 at Trump Tower in New York, he said, plainly, “So, just to sum up, I would do various things very quickly.”

Friday in Mobile, he summed it up again, “I’m going to make this country bigger and smarter and better and you’re gonna love it! And you’re gonna love your president!“


By: OLivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, August 22, 2015

August 24, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Evangelicals, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Look Out For Thunderbolts”: The President Dares To Defy Franklin Graham

We still don’t know for sure who if anyone is responsible for shoving 93-year-old Billy Graham back into the harness of right-wing politics after so many years of devoting himself to loftier causes, in order to marginally boost the numbers for North Carolina’s Amendment One. But this statement from his son in response to the president’s announcement of support for same-sex marriage is certainly a pretty big hint:

On Tuesday my state of North Carolina became the 31st state to approve a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. While the move to pass amendments defining marriage is relatively new, the definition of marriage is 8,000 years old and was defined not by man, but by God Himself.

In changing his position from that of Senator/candidate Obama, President Obama has, in my view, shaken his fist at the same God who created and defined marriage. It grieves me that our president would now affirm same-sex marriage, though I believe it grieves God even more.

The institution of marriage should not be defined by presidents or polls, governors or the media. The definition was set long ago and changing legislation or policy will never change God’s definition. This is a sad day for America. May God help us.”

A swift response to Franklin Graham from a fellow North Carolina minister, the Rev. Murdoch Smith, pastor of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte, said it all for me: “I am always suspect when someone says that they know the mind of God.”

I understand that many sincere Christians fundamentalists believe they are submitting themselves to God and subordinating their own egos and their own self-interest by simply following in their lives what they understand to be infallible divine revelation of the Bible. Many of them, indeed, are so humble it would not occur to them to impose their views on other people, much less force them to live as they do.

If there is anything humble or self-effacing or ego-immolating about Franklin Graham, I certainly don’t see it. As Rev. Smith says, he doesn’t follow God; he knows God and speaks for him, the God that not only fully reveals his Will to Franklin Graham via Franklin Graham’s infallible interpretation of scripture, but through God’s great and characteristic conservatism, his deep and manifest satisfaction with people like Franklin Graham who defend the ways things used to be before women and gay people and other lesser breeds got all uppity.

When people like Graham presume to accuse the President of the United States of “shaking his fist at God,” they are assuming the Prophetic Stance, the Hebrew tradition of calling down divine wrath on a depraved society. Ask yourselves: what kind of prophet would look at today’s world, with its poverty and violence and gross inequality, its environmental brinksmanship, its intolerance, its sheer wastefulness and lack of charity—and decide that what merits divine wrath is gay marriage? What sort of man of God could look at all the grievous occurrences on earth, and declare, with absolutely no indication of self-doubt, that God is grieving over gay people deciding to commit themselves to each other in love?

I’m sorry, I just do not get it. Graham has confused himself with God to an extent that when Barack Obama dares take a position he doesn’t like, he’s shaking his fist at God. I think Franklin Graham’s the one who’d better look out for thunderbolts.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 11, 2012

May 12, 2012 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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