GOP presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson announced on Meet the Press last weekend that he did not think a Muslim should become President of the United States. “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” said the candidate who has ranked second to Donald Trump in polls. “I absolutely would not agree with that.”
Thanks to our Constitution, Ben Carson has the right to express that odious, bigoted view. And thanks to the very same Constitution, no law could ban Muslims from seeking any office in the land.
Article VI provides: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” That’s because so many of our founding fathers and mothers were fleeing religious persecution elsewhere, and tolerance was important to them. Even prior to the American Revolution in 1776, we were a religiously diverse place, with Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims coexisting in the colonies – not to mention Native Americans with their indigenous faiths and African slaves with their varied religious beliefs.
Dr. Carson’s comment put him in opposition to not only the plain language of the Constitution, but also our proud history as a country that welcomes people of all faiths (or no faith) and our core American value of inclusion.
The Donald: Deportation gone wild
Donald Trump then tried to one-up Dr. Carson, seeming to approve of the idea that millions of American Muslims should be deported. At a campaign event, a supporter said, “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American.”
Trump, who was a driver of the “birther” movement, which falsely claimed Obama wasn’t born in the U.S., allowed the man to continue.
“We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question,” the man went on. “When can we get rid of it?” That “it” appeared to refer to the “problem . . . called Muslims.”
Mr. Trump seemed to back the questioner with this friendly response: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things. And you know, a lot of people are saying that, and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there,” he said. “We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”
While much of the media latched onto the erroneous and persistent accusation that President Obama is a Muslim, far more insidious was the idea that we have to “get rid of” our Muslim friends and neighbors—as if that’s something to “look at.” (This is of a piece with Trump’s key campaign platform to deport eleven million undocumented immigrants – perhaps by train? A forced march to the border? At gunpoint?)
The Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution provides:
“ . . . nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Driving out American citizens on account of their religion, race or national origin would be a crystal clear example of an unlawful violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
And, of course, the idea is a repulsive affront to the core value of equality for which over 600,000 Americans died in the Civil War, which resulted in the abolition of slavery and the codification of equal rights in the Fourteenth Amendment. There was a time in America when human beings could be rounded up based on their membership in a disfavored group. That time should remain relegated to the history books. It’s appalling that the GOP frontrunner would cozy up to such a horrific concept.
Mr. Trump has advocated unconstitutional ideas before. Babies born in the US should not automatically become citizens, he’s said, calling them “anchor babies.”
Except, the Constitution says otherwise, in plain language. Again, our cherished Fourteenth Amendment: