Monday, September 21, 2015

Ben Carson vs John Kennedy: A Religious Test for the Executive Office?

by Nomad

John Kennedy vs. Ben CarsonRemarks from the Republican candidate, Dr. Ben Carson have called into question whether the White House is reserved for a limited category of Americans based on their faith.

On Sunday's Meet the Press,  GOP candidate Ben Carson 
was asked whether a candidate’s religious faith should be considered when Americans elect a president. He said:
“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.”
Within "the realm of America" is a strange turn of phrase. Moreover, the Constitution has nothing to say about the faith of a prospective leader of the nation.  
Then when probed a little more, Carson stated:
"I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that."
It was a shocking thing to hear for so many reasons. Especially a nation which professes to believe that America that can be home to all faiths and that everybody- in theory- has a right to rise as far as they are capable of, even to the presidency. 
Has Carson really thought this through? Are atheists also excluded from holding the executive office? What about Mormons?
If Muslims should be forbidden then which religions make the cut? 

If there is a religious test for becoming a president, where do we draw the line?  Should we insist that all candidates be Christian? Huckabee and Santorum (perhaps the majority of the others too) would probably say, "But definitely! After all, it's a Christian Nation!" 
Why not give them theological tests like game show contestants to ensure that they are Christian enough?

Seriously, though.Carson should be ashamed of himself but then having the "right" qualifications to run for office is probably the last thing Carson should be talking about.
That's not a reference to his faith. but his a reference to his intelligence and about his ability to represent the entire American people.
I suppose it was especially startling to hear a black man say that there should be across the board limits placed on a certain group of Americans. 
It was not long ago that the same distinction was routinely placed on blacks or Jews or women. 
Even on Catholics.

Tomorrow It May be You
In the election of 1960,  this issue of who should "be able" to run for president came up when many voters had qualms about voting for John Kennedy, a Catholic. Many Protestant voters questioned whether a Catholic would obey the Constitution or the Pope. 
Kennedy, after deliberation, decided to confront the problem of discrimination directly and openly. 

JFK speech Houston 1960
On 12 September 1960 at the Rice Hotel in Houston, Texas  Kennedy stood in the pink and green carpeted ballroom and addressed the three hundred member audience. composed largely of the Greater Houston Ministerial Association.
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute... where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish... where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

Today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you -- until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril.

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end, where all men and all churches are treated as equals, where every man has the same right to attend or not to attend the church of his choice...will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.
While the Islamic faith was not specified in the text, the essence of remarks make it clear he felt that discrimination based on faith alone- whatever faith-  must not be a feature of American politics. Apparently the American people felt the same since it put to rest the subject and Kennedy went on to win. Since that time, the idea that the presidency should be limited to a certain faith, a certain gender or a certain race is all considered both stale and backward.

Today Ben Carson, whose qualifications are dubious at best, a man born of a race which has seen more than its fair share of injustice and bigotry, is promoting a view that has no place, and has never had any place, in American politics.

It's a shameful idea from a time most of us thought had disappeared. It should have been put to rest before Carson was born.