Can Religion Preclude You from Presidency?
Behind the Politics

Republican presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson proclaimed that he would not support any American presidential candidate who is Muslim. He said he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” One might try to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that this was a mix-up: a misunderstanding of the reporter’s question, a mistake. But no—Carson even reiterated this point in another interview. He declared that to become president, “you have to reject the tenets of Islam.”


Where Carson seems to take issue with the idea of a Muslim president is in the principles of Sharia law. I am neither a Muslim nor a scholar of Islam; as such, I do not know enough about these tenets to know the ways in which they might contradict the United States Constitution. But even Carson himself acknowledges that he knows many practicing Muslims who “gladly admit, at least privately, that they don’t accept Sharia or the doctrines and they understand that Islam is a system of living and it includes the way that you relate to the government.”


If that is the case, then where is the problem? Even assuming Sharia law does directly contradict American constitutional values, if Carson himself knows many Muslim individuals who do not follow or support these principles, for what reason does he take issue with one of such individuals being a presidential candidate? This reasoning only makes sense if Carson is specifically opposing the idea of a Muslim extremist being a presidential candidate.


It seems there is something deeper afflicting Carson’s view of Muslims. He ignores the possibility that a practicing Muslim could act in his profession in such a way that acknowledges the importance of the parameters of his job over those of his religion.


There are many ways in which tenets of other religions – if strictly followed – would contradict the American Constitution.


In most religions, a key portion of faith can include proliferating said religion – think along the lines of mission trips. However, the American Constitution requires that no religion be spread through government action. So it could be argued in this view that no person practicing any religion that requires such proliferation is unfit to be president. Isn’t it such, then, that there have been many past presidents that would fall in the category of being unqualified for their post? It is so if we follow Carson’s logic. Why is it that Ben Carson sees this valuing of every small religious principle over the duties of one’s occupation as a potential downfall of only a Muslim candidate rather than Protestants, Jews, Catholics, or candidates subscribing to other faiths?


To be fair to Carson, he also states in his interview that he would not be able to support an extremist Christian – in the sense that this candidate, too, would put his or her religion before the Constitution – as a presidential candidate. And that, for me, is a consistent and valid point of view. The problem is that this statement concerning his opposition to all extremist candidates was only reached through Carson’s own backtracking. The candidate’s initial, knee-jerk reaction was simply to say he could not support a Muslim candidate as president. Well, Dr. Carson, I cannot support you.


Melina Hsiao is a sophomore in the College. Behind the Politics appears every other Wednesday on


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One Comment

  1. Crackpot religious beliefs “should” be enough for the population to not vote for the crackpot. In the rest of the civilized first world that’s the case. No government involvement, no crackpots as presidents. But reasonable “should”s and reality don’t necessarily intersect in the US of A.

    Amongst all of Carson’s crackpot beliefs and statements, this is one statement by Carson that I don’t have much problem with. If he would not vote for a Muslim it’s his business in a democracy with secret ballots. Just as given the choice I wouldn’t vote for anyone of faith if there was a better option available. And as long as he doesn’t advocate making laws or changing the constitution to bar people based on their religion the rest of his crackpot statements are more important than this one.

    In the real world you vote for the best person on offer. And that might well be a moderate Muslim where the alternative is a crackpot Christian, or reality TV star.


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