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“Ben Carson’s Fear Of A Muslim President”: Islam Is ‘incompatible With The Constitution’; So Much For Constitutional Conservatism

What a week to be Muslim! Last Monday, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested for making a homemade clock and bringing to school. But by Tuesday, we saw an outpouring of support for Mohamed on social media and from celebrities like Mark Zuckerberg and even President Obama.

Then on Thursday, Donald Trump refused to counter a supporter spewing vile anti-Muslim crap at a Trump event. But come Saturday, Trump was declaring, 

“I love the Muslims. I think they’re great people.” 

Trump even said he would “absolutely” be open to appointing a Muslim American to his cabinet or have on his ticket as a running mate. (Good luck finding a Republican Muslim after this week!)

That brings us to Sunday. Ben Carson, currently running second to Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, gave us this gem while on NBC’s Meet the Press“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.

Why would Carson be adamantly opposed to a Muslim president, you may ask? Because Carson believes that Islam is “incompatible with the Constitution.” 

The glaring irony of Carson arguing that a Muslim should not be president simply because of his or her faith is that his position is what’s actually incompatible with the Constitution. Carson is calling for a religious test for the presidency.  But that’s expressly banned by Article VI of the Constitution, which provides that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Our nation’s Founding Fathers could not have made it more clear that Carson’s view that a person’s faith should disqualify him or her for federal office violates the values and principles of our nation.

Carson’s words are truly no different than the anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic rhetoric heard in American politics in the past. For example, during the 1960 race for president, John F. Kennedy was attacked for his Catholicism.  As Shaun Casey noted in his book The Making of a Catholic President allegations against Kennedy included that the “Roman Catholic faith was ultimately incompatible with principles” of our nation.

And anti-Semitism was part of the American political landscape in the 1930s.  For example, Father Charles Coughlin was a wildly popular radio host who had spewed anti-Semitic diatribes including the idea that Jews weren’t loyal to America.  But that didn’t stop American politicians from partnering up with him. In fact Coughlin spoke at the 1932 Democratic National Convention

So you see, what Carson and other Republicans have said about Muslim holding beliefs inconsistent with American values or not being loyal to America has been said before about Catholics and Jews.

Now the good news for Muslims (and bad for Carson and his ilk) is that a poll from July found that 60 percent of Americans would support a Muslim candidate for president. Maybe Carson is jealous because he will never see that level of support?!

And even more upsetting for Carson is that the poll found 76 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds would support a Muslim, as would 67 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds. That means the future for a Muslim candidate for president is far brighter than Carson’s.

Now Carson’s point that somehow Islam is incompatible with American values is astoundingly wrong. Islam is grounded on Judeo Christian values, which is why all three of these religions are known as the Abrahamic faiths.  I guess Carson is clueless that Jesus, Abraham, and Moses are revered by Muslims.

In fact, this Thursday marks one of the most important Islamic holidays known as Eid Al Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice.  Does this day celebrate something to do with the Prophet Muhammad? Nope, it commemorates the moment when God appeared to the prophet Abraham and asked him to sacrifice his son as an act of devotion.  Yep, that’s the same Abraham the Jews like.

Putting all of this side, what’s truly the most alarming about Carson’s words is that he’s feeding the narrative we hear from others on the right that Muslims are threat to America. He’s stoking flames of fear about Muslims that not only leads to hatred, it may bring some to the doorstep of violence.  And sadly some have crossed through that threshold. For example, right-winger Glendon Scott Crawford was convicted in April for plotting a terrorist attack to kill Muslim Americans with a weapon of mass destruction and will soon be sentenced to 25 years to life.

And Robert Doggart, a Christian minister, is about to start trial on charges of plotting to slaughter Muslims in upstate New York using M-4 military assault rifles, explosives, and a machete to cut the Muslims “to shreds.”

Carson’s words also contribute to a climate where hate crimes versus Muslims are five times higher today than pre 9/11. And I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that weekly, I see incidents of everything from threats against Muslim Americans to defacing of Muslim houses of worship to actual physical assaults on Muslims. (I mention these events every week on my SiriusXM radio show in the segment “Islamophobe of the week,” and we are never at a loss to find three or more nominees.)

I have no doubt that Carson will lose this race. But sadly his views will continue on in the GOP until we see a real leader in that party stand up and make it clear that this type of fear mongering against fellow American is no longer acceptable. I just wonder if we will see that day any time soon?

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, September 20, 2015

September 21, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Muslims, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Our Constitution Neither Knows Nor Tolerates Classes”: Ben Carson Thinks Islam Isn’t Consistent With The Constitution. He’s Dead Wrong

Dr. Ben Carson excels in addled interpretations of America’s founding principles. In May, the Republican presidential candidate claimed that the president has the power to ignore the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling. And last month, when asked by Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd whether the Bible has “authority” over the Constitution, said, “That is not a simple question.” He extended this streak of misinterpretation on Sunday when Todd asked him whether he thought “Islam is consistent with the Constitution.” Carson replied, “No, I don’t, I do not,” and then added, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

In fact, Islam is neither consistent nor inconsistent with the Constitution; Islam is irrelevant to any discussion of the Constitution or rules of our governance. The same is true of Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, and every Protestant sect—even atheism, as the document does not once mention God. There is no religious test, preference, predilection, or, for that matter, even mention of any particular religion in the document itself and, with the exception of one line in the first amendment, in which “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” no mention of religion is made at all.

At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, other than an opening prayer, which was non-denominational, and one plea by Benjamin Franklin on June 28 to appoint a chaplain to help break what had descended into an acrimonious logjam—a proposal that was ignored—religion was the last thing the delegates were thinking about. The one instance in which religious preference did arise was after the Convention ended, and John Jay, who had not been present but who would later become the Supreme Court’s first chief justice, wanted to restrict participation in government by Catholics. Jay, descended from Huguenots who had been oppressed by the Catholic majority in France, was quickly persuaded to drop his objections.

The larger issue, however, is the tendency of many Americans these days, both in and out of politics but especially conservatives, to evoke the Constitution without having any idea what it says or does not say. Even worse, they use a document whose sole purpose was to guarantee freedoms to attempt to try to limit the freedoms of those with whom they disagree. The Constitution is imperfect, of course, and in practice has been used to validate some terrible injustices—slavery, the deportation of Japanese-Americans, or speech that some found politically offensive. But past sins in no way means that we should condescend to our worst instincts. The Constitution can also be a tool to create a society where any American can grow up to be president, even a former neurosurgeon who seems to have little respect for its spirit.

Which brings us to Carson’s second assertion on Sunday: that no follower of Islam should sit in the White House. The only possible justification he could have for such a sentiment is the belief that followers of Islam are inherently a security risk, because their first loyalty is to … what? The Islamic State, Saudi Arabia, some radical imam? Deportation of Japanese-Americans during World War II was undertaken for the same reason—that they would somehow be more loyal to the emperor than to the United States. It proved tragically and hideously inaccurate. No one fought with more valor than young Japanese-Americans in Italy whose families had been shunted off to concentration camps.

In the end, the argument is about whether the United States is everyone’s country or just certain people’s country. Dr. Carson once again raises the specter that, despite all evidence and jurisprudence to the contrary, America is a “Christian nation.” Those who take this stance seem to do so only on the basis that most, if not all, of the Founders were Christian, somewhat ironic because overwhelmingly they were, at best, lax in their beliefs. And it is no more accurate to say America is “Christian” because it happens to have a Christian majority than it is to say that America is “white” for the same reason.

“[I]n the view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens,” Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote in his stinging dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). “There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.” This is also true of religion, as everyone in America—and especially its political leaders—should understand by now. If candidates like Carson can’t be bothered to read and understand the 4,500 words that comprise our founding document, they should not be considered fit for the job that requires they defend it.

 

By: Lawrence Goldstone, Author of The Activist: John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison and the Myth of Judicial Review and Inherently Unequal; The New Republic, September 20, 2015

September 21, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Muslims, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“GOP Governor Flubs Civics 101 Test”: Mary Fallin Falls Short In Her Most Basic Governmental Responsibilities

Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled last week that a state-sponsored Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds violates the state Constitution. It wasn’t a close call – the justices ruled 7-2 that the six-foot-high, stone Christian display is at odds with the law that requires state government to be neutral on matters of religion.

The more controversial twist came this week, when Gov. Mary Fallin (R) and the GOP-led legislature announced they’re prepared to ignore the state Supreme Court, at least for now, while they consider new solutions.

The Republican governor talked to reporters, saying roughly what you’d expect her to say: she’s “disappointed” with the court’s decision; she thinks they made the wrong call; etc. But as KFOR, the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, reported, Fallin added one related thought that wasn’t expected at all:

Gov. Fallin said she believes the final decision on the monument’s fate should rest with the people.

“You know, there are three branches of our government. You have the Supreme Court, the legislative branch and the people, the people and their ability to vote. So I’m hoping that we can address this issue in the legislative session and let the people of Oklahoma decide,” she said.

The KFOR report added, “Despite what the governor said, the three branches of government include the legislative, executive and judicial branches.”

It was obviously an unfortunate slip-up, but the point isn’t to just laugh at a politician’s gaffe. There’s actually a substantive angle to all of this.

We can certainly hope that Fallin, a former multi-term member of Congress, knows what the three branches of government are. Indeed, in Oklahoma, she’s the head of one of them – the one she left out this week.

But what matters in this controversy is the governor’s appreciation for the branches’ specific duties. For example, it’s up to Oklahoma’s judicial branch to rule on constitutional questions, such as whether the state can legally endorse one religion’s sacred text.

It’s up to Oklahoma’s executive branch to enforce the law. For now, the governor has decided she doesn’t want to, at least in this case.

Fallin suggested that she’d like “the people” to “decide” what’s constitutional. The problem with such a remedy, aside from the confusion over civics, is that civil liberties shouldn’t necessarily be open to popularity contests. That’s largely the point of having rights and the Constitution in the first place – the goal is to enshrine certain protections for the public that cannot easily be taken away without due process.

It’s unfortunate that Fallin flubbed the details when trying to describe the three branches of government, but it’s arguably worse that she’s falling short in her most basic of governmental responsibilities.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 10, 2015

July 12, 2015 Posted by | Mary Fallin, Oklahoma, Ten Commandments | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Beyond A Little Tone-Deaf”: Pat Buchanan Warns Of Another Civil War; The Time Of Mass Right-Wing Civil Disobedience Is At Hand

In his latest column at WorldNetDaily, paleoconservative commentator Pat Buchanan argued that given the Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized same-sex marriage and the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to remove the Ten Commandments monument from the state capitol grounds, a “rebellion” unlike any seen since the Civil Rights Movement “is likely to arise from the right.”

Buchanan situated this “coming era of civil disobedience” in a long tradition that began with the Founding Fathers. “What else was our revolution but a rebellion to overthrow the centuries-old rule and law of king and parliament, and establish our own?” he asked.

“U.S. Supreme Court decisions have been defied and those who defied them lionized by modernity,” he added without noting that the positions his civilly disobedient activists would support wouldn’t be “lionized by modernity,” given that they’re based on the teachings of a man who — if he ever even lived — has been dead for 2,000 years.

Buchanan connected the coming struggle with the Civil Rights Movement — in particular, with Martin Luther King, Jr., whose “Letter from Birmingham Jail” he quoted. “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws,” King wrote, to which Buchanan replied, “what is an ‘unjust law’?”

Apparently, they are the ones that atheistic liberals have yet to write, but most certainly will in the coming years. “Laws will be passed to outlaw such practices [like refusing to perform a same-sex wedding] as discrimination,” Buchanan wrote, “and those laws, which the Christians believe violate eternal law and natural law, will, as Dr. King instructed, be disobeyed.”

For all his high talk about morality — especially as it pertains to racial injustice — Buchanan was a little tone-deaf as to a certain issue of current import: the causes of the Civil War. “That war was fought,” he wrote, “over whether 11 Southern states had the same right to break free of Mr. Lincoln’s Union as the 13 colonies did to break free of George III’s England.”

He concluded by saying that a similar separation is on the horizon. “If a family disagreed as broadly as we Americans do on issues so fundamental as right and wrong, good and evil, the family would fall apart,” he explained, “the couple would divorce, and the children would go their separate ways.”

“Something like that is happening in the country. A secession of the heart has already taken place in America, and a secession, not of states, but of people from one another, caused by divisions on social, moral, cultural and political views and values, is taking place.”

 

By: Eric Kaufman, Salon, July 10, 2015

July 12, 2015 Posted by | Civil Rights Movement, Civil War, Pat Buchanan | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Liberated By Grace”: No Shootings, No Bombings, No Fires Can Destroy This Faith

For those who see religion as primarily an opiate, African American Christianity offers a riposte. For those who see Christianity itself as a faith that encourages quiescence and conservatism, the tradition of the black church is a sign of contradiction.

Over the last few weeks, white Americans who never paid much attention to the religious convictions of their brothers and sisters of color have received an education. As has happened before in our history, much of this learning is prompted by tragedy, beginning with the murder of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., and also a series of church burnings, not all of which have been explained.

The African American Christian tradition has been vital in our history for reasons of the spirit but also as a political seedbed of freedom and a reminder that the Bible is a subversive book. In the days of slavery, masters emphasized the parts of Scripture that called for obedience to legitimate authority. But the slaves took another lesson: that the authority they were under was not legitimate, that the Old Testament prophets and Exodus preached liberation from bondage, and that Jesus himself took up the cry to “set the oppressed free” with passion and conviction unto death.

The church was also a free space for African Americans, not unlike the Catholic Church in Poland under communism, that provided dissidents with room to maneuver. Even when segregationist Jim Crow laws were at their most oppressive, their churches provided places where African Americans could pray and ponder, organize and debate, free of the restrictions imposed outside their doors by the white power structure, to borrow a phrase first widely heard in the 1960s.

It was thus no accident that the black church was at the center of the civil rights movement. And it’s precisely because of their role as an oasis from repression that the churches became the object of burnings and bombings. The freedom enabled by sacred and inviolable space has always been dangerous to white supremacy.

But the church is about more than politics, and a liberating gospel is also a gospel of love. The family members of those slain at Emanuel AME Church astonished so many Americans by offering forgiveness to the racist alleged shooter, Dylann Roof.

There was nothing passive about this act of graciousness, for forgiveness is also subversive. By offering pardon to Roof, said the Rev. Cheryl Sanders, professor of Christian Ethics at Howard University’s Divinity School, the families of the victims demonstrated that there was “something radically different” about their worldview. The act itself “was a radical refusal to conform to what’s expected of you. It’s a way to avoid hating back.” They were, she said, following Jesus, who declared on the cross: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

President Obama created an iconic moment when he sang “Amazing Grace” at the funeral of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Few hymns have greater reach, not only across denominational lines, but also to nonbelievers who can identify with its celebration of personal conversion and transformation — of being lost and then found.

But Sanders, who is also pastor of the Third Street Church of God in the District, points out that the hymn has particular meaning to African Americans. John Newton, who wrote it in the 1770s, was a slave-ship captain who converted to Christianity, turned his back on his past (“saved a wretch like me”) and became a pastor. Newton eventually joined William Wilberforce’s Christian-inspired movement to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire.

The African American church tradition teaches that Christianity’s message resonates far beyond the boundaries of any racial or ethnic community, yet also shows that particular groups of Christians give it their own meaning. The idea that all are divinely endowed with equal dignity is a near-universal concept among Christians. But as Sanders says, an insistence on “the dignity and humanity of people in the sight of God” has exceptional power to those who have suffered under slavery and segregation.

“The whole story to them is ‘I can be free,’” she says. “If I am poor, poverty doesn’t invalidate my humanity. If I am humbled, I can be lifted up by God.”

And scholar Jonathan Rieder noted in his book about Martin Luther King Jr.’s ministry, “The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me,” that the Resurrection and the Exodus stories were rich sources of hope, especially in the movement’s darkest moments. “God will make a way out of no way” was King’s answer to those whose spirits were flagging.

No shootings, no bombings, no fires can destroy this faith.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 5, 2015

July 7, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Black Churches, Christianity | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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