30 September 2015

Should Voters Vote for Religious Muslims for President? No.

Stephen Kershnar
Ben Carson on Muslim Presidential Candidates
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
September 27, 2015

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson asserted that he would not support a religious Muslim for president and all hell broke loose. Chuck Todd of Meet the Press asked him whether voters should consider a presidential candidate’s religious faith, he said the following, "I guess it depends on what that faith is. 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." When the interviewer asked whether Islam is consistent with the Constitution, Carson responded, "No, I don't -- I do not." He later added that, "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that." He later noted that he had a different view of Muslims running for Congress.

The president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations immediately demanded that he withdraw from the presidential race and labeled him unfit to be President. Most of the presidential candidates piled on. Establishment hacks, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, joined the chorus of critics. So did Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio. Sanders analogized Carson’s comments toward Muslim presidential candidates to bigotry against Catholics and blacks. One wonders whether these pompous asses would be willing to vote for candidates who were Scientologists or members of Mormon polygamous sects.   

The Obama White House, Clinton, and National Public Radio argued that Carson’s assertion is unconstitutional. Their argument reflects a profound misunderstanding of the Constitution. Article VI says, “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Because Carson did not support a law that puts for that puts forth a religious test or establishes a religion, his position is consistent with the Constitution. The Constitution does not require voters ignore a candidate’s religion or values and were the government to do so, it would violate other parts of the Constitution.

Other things being equal, a voter should support a candidate for President only if the voter is confident that the candidate does not have beliefs about the government that are false and conflict with American freedom. A significant percentage of religious Muslims have such beliefs. In addition, because candidates so often lie or misrepresent who they are, voters can’t be confident as to which Muslim candidates have such beliefs.

On the topic of lying, consider that George W. Bush ran against nation building and claimed that Iraq was linked to al-Qaeda and had weapons of mass destruction. Barack Obama said that Obamacare would reduce the deficit, people could keep their doctor, health insurance premiums would go down, etc.

No one thinks that people who reject basic freedoms deserves to be elected. For example, doctrinaire communists and Nazis don’t deserve our votes because their values are at odds with our basic freedoms. The same is true for those who are leaders of a criminal enterprises (for example, Mexican Mafia and Hell’s Angels).   

Given that some people’s ideas make them a poor choice for the presidency, the question is whether religious Muslims have such ideas. To see they do, consider Muslim countries. Far too often Muslim countries make it clear that the Muslim leaders have little to no respect for freedom. Consider the Middle East. A 2015 Freedom House study found that only one out of twenty-two Muslim countries in the Middle East is politically free. The study assumed that freedom is a function of political rights and civil liberties. Only Tunisia was found to be free and this is a recent development. The study found that only four are even partly free and the best of these, Turkey, has a constitutional firewall between the Muslim religion and its government. Similarly, the Cato Institute ranks countries and regions by freedom (personal and economic) and the Muslim countries consistently score badly, especially powerful ones such as Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

As National Review’s Andrew McCarthy points out, where sharia law is in place, countries fail to separate religion from political life and are hostile to freedom, suspicious of reason, backward in economics and education, and treat women and gays poorly.  

One objection to this is that even if Muslim leaders in other countries act disgracefully, we should not assume the same will be true of American Muslims. However, one of the best tests of how a belief system works is to see what happens when it is systematically implemented.  

A second objection is that the Muslim religion does not support the gross contempt for civil liberties and economic freedom. Rather, it has been twisted beyond recognition by foreign leaders. This objection is odd. Even if it were true, a voter should fear that a Muslim presidential candidate would have an equally twisted understanding. The content of the religion itself is beside the point if its members regularly misinterpret it and we can’t predict who will do so.

In any case, I doubt Carson’s critics want to rest their case on whether the real Muslim religion permits wife-beating, allows women to be confined to the home, permits child marriage, and requires the burqa. Nor do they want their position to rest on whether the real Muslim religion requires that gays be flogged or killed and Jews and Christians be treated as second-class citizens. They likely don’t want their position to rest on whether the real Islam requires Muslims to wage war against non-believers. They don’t know enough about it and, in any case, there are experts on both sides of these issues.  

Islam is also blatantly irrational in asserting that Muhammad is a prophet and that God exists as depicted in the Quran, and he wants us to obey sharia law, but irrationality isn’t the issue. Rather, it’s the incompatibility with American freedom. Carson is on the money. 

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