Carson’s Far Right Christian Attack on the Constitution

This Sunday, presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson said that he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” When asked whether he believed that Islam is compatible with the Constitution, he said, “No I don’t, I do not.”

There is no ambiguity in Carson’s statements during his Meet the Press interview on September 20. He’s clearly stated his belief that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution.

There seems to be quite a trend of disingenuous religious-political analysis on the Constitution and religious texts, whereby only various denominations of Christianity, and not other religions like Islam, are protected by the Constitution. In past birther conspiracies, politicians have claimed that President Obama is a Muslim, as though the label is necessarily an insult. Rick Santorum himself has said that he does not believe in the separation of the church and the state.

One could easily point to the Constitution, which states quite clearly, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.  Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 elaborates further, explicitly referring to a “wall of separation between church and state”. However, conservatives commonly respond with the idea that it is not a religion. Allen West called it a “theocratic political construct”. Many more note images of violence in the Quran itself.

These conservatives’ points may have some validity in that Islam does indeed set out laws for its believers. Its relationship with governments has been complex, making some aspects of the religion political depending on the nation involved. Furthermore, violence in the Quran has been noted by numerous scholars—the quotes do exist. But this analysis is specious at best, especially when faced with the hypocritical attempts to exempt Christianity from the same criticism.

Deuteronomy 17:12 (New International Version) explicitly calls for the death of anyone who shows contempt for priests. Even though Levictus 25 prohibits the poor treatment of Israelite slaves, it notes that the Israelites’ slaves “are to come from the nations around (them); from them you may buy slaves.”  Even in the New Testament, Corinthians 14 explicitly supports misogyny, saying that it is disgraceful for women to speak in church while making no reference to the role of men in churches. These, along with hundreds of other rules in Christianity, have been enforced by governments to varying degrees throughout history. The religion has played a role in numerous wars, from the commonly pointed out Crusades to the Thirty Years’ War and from the invasions of the Americas to 2003’s Islamophobia-fueled invasion of Iraq.

No sane politician would call Christianity a “theocratic political construct” or a religion that is “incompatible” with the Constitution. All religions, including both Christianity and Islam, are tools that can be used for evil. But at the same time, the passions derived from godly faith have fueled hundreds of years of progress. Numerous Muslim contributors throughout history have included Mohammad Abdus Salam, whose work on electroweak unification that won him the Nobel Prize and Fethullah Gulen, whose message of tolerance has won millions of followers.

Many have raised concerns regarding the lack of coverage of Islamic scholars condemning terrorism. And yet even a cursory attempt at researching their statements brings up condemnations and attempts to start anti-terrorism campaigns from hundreds of scholars here, here, and here.

Attempts to simplify issues of terrorism to Christianity vs. Islam and civility vs. barbarianism paradigms are lazy and intellectually dishonest. They, as I have previously noted in my essays, demonstrate ignorance of the role of regional geopolitics, economic systems, and human rights in foreign policy. The nuanced perspective that conservative politicians have attempted to stifle remains common among the same Muslim civilians that they are attempting to attack. With thousands of face-to-face interviews, Gallup compiled data in 2007 indicating how Muslims criticize the West for its politics and not its religion, how Muslims continue to admire its technology and democracy, how they care for equal rights of women, how they want to keep religious leaders out of crafting legislation, and numerous other details on their views.

More importantly, Islamophobic statements demonizing the entry of Muslims into public service threaten the very foundation of our Constitution.

They run against our values as an inclusive nation where we are free to practice whatever faith grounds our hearts in society. These statements serve only to invalidate others based upon their conception of God, regardless of individual merits and faults. They dehumanize others, reducing them to a single data point, polarizing societies, and even tearing apart families that could have been bound not only by blood, but by a passion for good that has simply taken a different form.

Ben Carson’s proximity to Donald Trump in the polls has made this a national issue, even though it shouldn’t be one. How could we, as Americans, permit Dr. Carson to remain near the top of the polls while he makes such incendiary statements? Are we shallow enough to believe that the only good men are Christian men? Do we fail to see our brothers and sisters as living, breathing, loving, and thinking human beings, all capable of not only fiery animosity but also the warmest love that the heart can conjure? Our species has some of the most well-developed brains in the animal kingdom. It’s time we used our brains’ capabilities for both compassion and intellect.


Anhvinh Doanvo is an MSPPM candidate at Carnegie Mellon University. He has written for numerous publications including The Hill, Georgetown Public Policy Review, and Baltimore Sun. He is one of forty 2016 finalists for the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which funds twenty US citizens' graduate education annually and places them in the American Foreign Service of the Department of State. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/anhvinhdoanvo or Facebook at Facebook.com/AnhvinhD.

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  • DoverBill

    I believe the technical term for this action taken is sometimes referred to as “Cutting one’s losses”?

    Tomorrow will mark the onset of the What The Fuck Was I Thinking and their corresponding stages of grief penance.

  • Zorba

    Oh, sweetie, I didn’t mean to suggest that you were in any way deficient in knowledge. I was just riffing on the whole Darius thing.
    I cannot read or hear “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” without the Hallelujah Chorus running through my head.
    In fact, since yesterday, I have had that as an ear-worm. And I blame Nicho and you for that. ;-)
    (OTOH, that’s a better ear-worm than something like “It’s a Small World After All.)

  • I’m Rubber

    Mr. Doanvo does not even understand what the Doctor said and he had every right to say it, as his belief. I in fact I hold the same view. This is America he and I are entitled to our opinions. The author believes in a New World order. He does not understand that what makes us unique is our culture. Going to other countries makes them unique to the other. By wiping out borders destroys cultures making us all want a Big Mac.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Yes dear, I have read The Bible and sat (standing where appropriate) through many performances of “Messiah”. My question was answered by your first sentence. That was all I needed.

  • Zorba

    Well, Darius the Great was certainly called “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
    https://books.google.com/books?id=B5U3AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA196&lpg=PA196&dq=darius+the+great,+king+of+kings,+lord+of+lords&source=bl&ots=57bQgEm5_j&sig=PsAhJKzvKWZ5E965JxpivOub07g&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAGoVChMI4OSMy-SLyAIVQj4-Ch2ZtwTW#v=onepage&q=darius%20the%20great%2C%20king%20of%20kings%2C%20lord%20of%20lords&f=false
    Which, if you’ve ever read the Bible, or even listened to the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah,” were titles for the Judaeo-Christian God.

  • JaneE

    Carson is all for a theocratic government, so long as his religion is the one to dictate to the country. Never mind that most of what an Islamic theocracy would require is exactly the same as what his Christian theocracy would require. Nearly as I can tell the only difference would be whether you invoke Jesus or Allah.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Okay, you can’t do this to me. It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop. I looked online, and I couldn’t find any title to which you may be referring. Please be kind and share.

  • FLL

    The ISIL state has plenty of Chechens, Bosnians and Albanians, all of whom are white.

  • Ol’ Hippy

    These are the same ones wanting to de-fund Planned Parenthood for the sale of “baby parts”. Yeah the same ones responsible for millions of lives since the ‘Nam war and all the other illegal actions carried out by government thugs sanctioned by the US all over the world; yeah…

  • Ol’ Hippy

    Did I miss something when reading the bible? It strikes me as one of the most violent things I’ve ever read as countless times it seems Yahweh calls for the slaughter of thousands in more than one occasion and all kinds of death to all sorts of people for all kinds of crimes. So I would welcome an atheist in the White House, maybe there would be fewer wars and less loss of life due to any “god given right”.

  • nicho

    Actually, all those titles that Christians attribute to their deity were titles claimed by — and given to — Darius the Great. Christians just kind of plagiarized them.

  • It’s just further proof Carson’s sole goal in this so-called campaign is to make money for himself.

  • 2karmanot

    We need to consult Anastasia Beaverhousen, she’ll know.

  • Sam

    Yep. The man needs help.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Who said that islam is a race. It’s not, it’s a mega cult, but that has no bearing on the fact that islamophobia is a form of racsim used to cover Am,American and zionist aggression.

  • 2karmanot

    “and instead believe our corpses just stay there in the ground until Judgement Day,” OhMyGawd, I just knew it. Bennie is a zombie! Eats brains! OhMyGawd!

  • 2karmanot

    Interesting is the recent trend of black Republican fascists running for President, 999 and zombie brain are signs of the times.

  • 2karmanot

    “No sane politician would call Christianity a “theocratic political construct” Oh, I don’t know about that: Lord, Lord of Lords, Lord Almighty, Lord Gawd Almighty, King of Kings, He who is worshiped on high. Seems to me the insanity is embedded in Abrahamic tyranny.

  • nicho

    Carson is suing people who are making a “Carson for President” T-shirt. This is how wacky he is.

  • nicho

    Islam isn’t a “race” and Muslims come from all races, even white. So, I don’t see how opposing Islam is racist.

  • Bill_Perdue

    I’m glad to hear you’re going to oppose racism.

  • dcinsider

    OK, I’ll add it to my list of things I despise, even while despising islam itself.

  • Bill_Perdue

    As a gay man you should despise islam but oppose the kind of racist Islamophobia (there is no other kind) used as an excuse for American warmongering and for the deaths well over a million Iraqis and others. No one invited those million and a half Iraq deaths, they were a gift from the war criminals named Bush, Clinton and Obama. It you think that those people were murdered for a good reason then we don’t have much to talk about.

    You should despise Obama BBFs like Rick Warren and Donnie McClurkin but not despise everyone who voted for Obama because they played a big role in his campaign.

    I despise the pope, priests and bishops, ministers and pastors but not ordinary members of the roman or other christer cults.

  • dcinsider

    As a gay man I have a tough time giving a shit about ilamaphobia. The religion, like christianity and others, teaches people to hate me. I have no use of it, or its adherents.

    As an atheist I definitely could care less about islamaphobia.

    Even if everything you say is true, religious fanatics invite their own hell. The fact that religion is the driving force behind this, as you argue, simply proves my point.

  • MoonDragon

    Sadly, they’ve forgotten this when choosing to grant tax exemptions to organizations that they deem to be “religious.” I have no problem with tax exemptions for charitable service provision, but supporting the provision of a place to worship and subsidizing salaries of people who provide managerial, clerical, and sacramental services, not so much.

  • Don Chandler

    I don’t know much about Carson’s religion. But really, as folks have been saying and Jon has said, Carson believes in the Christian States, not the Unitied States. But the rest of us will argue on behalf of Carson and Trump: That if Muslims should not be able to be president due to incompatibility with the US constitution, then neither should Fundamentalist Christians like Kim Davis and Huckster and Cruz be considered. Ofc, most of us do think that too. To get my vote, a Muslim would have to demonstrate strong secular ethics separating the Mosque and State….hard to find examples of it in the world, right? Christian Fundys rarely seem to be consistent with the Constitution–religiously meddlesome folks always at odds with the first amendment. Carson could be aiming at the religious vote but he will acquiesce to Trump. He knows he will never get the nomination.

    I watched those debates and I couldn’t help but feel Trump was acting like he was already nominated and the debate was now about who is coming along with him. Today we know it isn’t Walker ;) Carson is really snuggling up to Trump. I laughed when Trump and Bush had an exchange and Trump said, “more energy tonight, I like that.” See, again he was treating Bush as a potential running mate. It’s really a dismissive statement that suggests Bush doesn’t always have the energy to be president. I think Trump is making it look like he’s interviewing various candidates for lesser jobs. Must be infuriating to the lot…except Carson. Fiorina is going to go for his heart next time though. Trump is highly narcissistic. He’s all about himself. Fiorina has made the observation that Trump is a lot like Putin…another narcissist. Ofc, she can tie in Obama because the Trumpsters always call Obama a narcissist: “do we need another Narcissist as president?” Might kill off the other candidates and bringer her to the fore while leaving Trump a bit wounded…because he really is a narcissist. Or it might destroy Fiorina.

    All idle speculation but fun. So if Trump likes Putin, and he says he does, he must understand the need for a religious sanctioned states. Such a union has been formidable in Russia: Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church. So think of Carson as Trump’s Medvedev. And the Church as a sturdy supporter… or far worse, Huckabee as Medvedev…might be too much for Trump to handle. Think Cruz is too ambitious or strong willed.

    It’s all about Trump. If he retreats an iota from his anti-immigration stance, mass defection–that klan is rabid.

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  • FLL

    An interesting analysis. Carson strikes me as somewhat fundamentalist Christian himself, but you don’t seem to think so. In any case, you are correct that Trump’s legions are not particularly pro-religion. The fundamentalist demographic has collapsed over the last several decades, and there just aren’t that many of them anymore, as you can easily see by looking at the fortunes of Huckabee, Cruz and Santorum.

  • Bill_Perdue

    This is another example of the impact of Islamophobia, the modern worlds most rabid form of racsim, on American politics. Islamophobia began as a adjunct, an excuse, for western imperialism and colonialism, first in the case of the colonization of Palestine by mostly European settlers. Now it’s used and promoted as a cover wars of aggression by the US and NATO to steal or control resources from Morocco to Indonesia.

    No other form or racism even comes close to producing the causalities as Islamophobia. Palestinians are being murdered on a regular basis by armed thugs in and out of the IDF. Half a million muslims were systematically murdered in the Balkans. Bill Clintons infamous embargo of food, medicines and sanitary supplies murdered half a million Iraqi children. George Bush invasion and attempted occupation of Iraq killed over a million more, and tens of thousands have died in Obama’s wars of aggression from Libya to Pakistan.

    Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, koran burnings, the senseless murders of children by insane GIs, the waves of racist Islamophobia in England and much of Europe, the rabid racsim of the Obama regime and the growing racist movement in this country are all signs of the increasing instability of political life in the west and of the march towards the far right.

  • Don Chandler

    Kim Davis, Huckabee, and Cruz are fundamentalists and at odds with the constitution. It’s possible Carson is making an argument against Huckster and Cruz. I actually think Carson supports Trump and is auditioning for vice president or attack dog of some sort. Trump can’t attack Huckabee or Cruz without alienating the Christian Right but Carson can. Carson won’t go after Trump but he’ll say Trump is an “okay” doctor. I think these two are somehow in bed. No? Besides, Trumps legions are not particularly pro-religion. They are mostly Brietbartertypes.

  • FLL

    [Ben Carson] “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

    In addition to the completely valid points made in the post above, there is the fact that Carson is setting up an obvious straw man. There are no Muslim candidates currently running for president, so why does Carson feel the need to proclaim his noxious point of view on the matter? He is clearly setting up and then knocking down this straw man in an attempt to manipulate voters, and someone who manipulates the electoral process is most often seen as a smart-ass. During the last several years, people have often repeated the well known dictum that judges don’t like smart-asses, and I would add that voters don’t either.

  • Yep. It also fits right in with what Jon’s been saying about this not being about religious freedom, but Christian privilege. And specifically, conservative fundamentalist Christian privilege.

  • ComradeRutherford

    Let’s try a simple substitution:

    “I do not believe [Biblical Law] is consistent with the Constitution of this country,” he told The Hill late Sunday. “[Christians] feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution.”

    That sound about right…

  • ComradeRutherford

    Conservatives simply hate the Constitution. For more see jm2’s comment directly below this one for more on the

  • jm2

    why did you leave out the obvious – Article VI paragraph 3 of the Constitution?
    “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
    there is nothing unclear or ambiguous in its wording.

    plus, the Treaty of Tripoli clearly states: “Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen (Muslims); and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan (Mohammedan) nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” and that was under President John Adams who was known as a devout Christian.

  • Indigo

    I do not believe that “the Bible Belt” is consistent with the Constitution. It’s everything that the Fundies say they fear in sharia. But there it is.

  • Indigo

    That seems a little soon but the Koch Brothers know best in terms of that mode of reaction-formation. I decline calling it “thought.”

  • In a circularly ironic but so-very-illustrative situation, Ben Carson earlier this year was rejected to speak by the Southern Baptist Pastors Conference because he was the wrong kind of fundamentalist Christian. Specifically, he’s a Seventh Day Adventist. Their intolerable heresy consists of disagreeing on the existence of heaven and hell, and instead believe our corpses just stay there in the ground until Judgement Day, and that’s when we’ll all be resurrected or not, depending on whether we were good or evil.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/ben-carson-southern-baptist-pastors-conference

    This is the core of religious fundamentalism: First they demand to be in charge and for their beliefs to have primacy over all others, including in the implementation of what should be purely secular law. Then they start arguing among themselves as to whose faith is legitimate and ideologically pure, and who is and isn’t a “real” Christian.

    Also from the TPM article:

    “I do not believe Sharia is consistent with the Constitution of this country,” he told The Hill late Sunday. “Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution.”

    Yet ask any Christian fundamentalist politician, and he or she will say exactly that, how they ‘feel their Christian religion is very much a part of their public life and what they do as a public official.’ And yes, Bible-derived law is even more inconsistent with the Constitution of America:

    – Officially sanctioned slavery, including rules for it, and indentured servitude (thus in the 13th and 14th Amendments, the Constitution itself violates the Bible).
    – Chattel-status ownership of women and girls (technically, it’d be illegal for any woman to petition the courts for divorce, no matter the circumstances)
    – Polygamy (one Bible practice the Mormons got right…but the fundies say Mormons aren’t Christians either)
    – Death sentences for relatively minor crimes (including adultery…so why has Kim Davis not been stoned yet?)
    – Officially sanctioned rape, torture, and genocide (so, no Geneva Conventions! Old-school, there was no such thing as a ‘war crime.’)
    – A whole bunch of cultural practices laid down as laws and Commandments in Exodus, Leviticus, and other books, rules which even fundamentalist Christian Americans only practice very few (I mean, when’s the last time anybody’s had a proper burnt-sacrifice? And why aren’t they protesting the blasphemy represented by the continued existence of Red Lobster restaurants and all the stores selling mixed-fabric clothing?)

  • In tangentially-related election news, Scott Walker has dropped out. Or as most wags on the Internet are saying, the Koch brothers informed Walker that he’s dropping out and he’s sharing that information with the rest of us.

    http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2015/09/21/scott-walker-said-to-be-quitting-presidential-race

    I would feel sorry for Wisconsin residents and voters, for they are of my spouse’s home state, but alas they are at least partly responsible for inflicting this anti-populist / anti-labor / far-right radical poltroon on the rest of the country.

  • LasloPratt

    However, conservatives commonly respond with the idea that it is not a religion.

    And that, friends, is exactly why the Founders drafted and ratified the First Amendment. Because above all else, it is not the place of government to determine what is or is not a religion. And they were well aware of – and only a couple generations removed from – the chaos and bloodshed that resulted when that very determination was somewhat routine.

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