Dr. Ben Carson’s recent statement that no Muslim should ever be allowed to become president of the US not only reveals his willingness as an evangelical Christian to discriminate against a significant portion of the US population. It also reveals his ignorance of the Constitution. To wit, Article VI states, “…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
If that statement is not clear enough, the First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” The author of this amendment, James Madison, believed it necessary since many of the original states had not only favored one denomination over another. Many of the states collected taxes from their citizens on behalf of their established religions. For example, Georgia, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia had established the Anglican church as their official religion. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire were Congregationalist. While Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island had no established religions. Moreover, each of the states were populated with citizens who practiced an array of other religions.
Further, many of the Founding Fathers declared no preferred religion. Some, like Thomas Jefferson were deists, meaning that they believed in a Creator, but did not believe in organized religion. Indeed, Jefferson had gone so far as to create his own version of the Bible, eliminating the Old Testament and all of the passages detailing the accounts of revelations from God. He chose to focus, instead, on the teachings of Jesus calling it The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.
Given all of this, it’s preposterous to believe that the Founders ever intended the US to be a Christian nation…or a nation favoring any religion.
Yet, today, right wing evangelicals would have us believe that the US was founded exclusively on Christian principles. When more educated people deny their claims, the evangelicals then cry that “Christianity is under attack” and “the only thing that will return the US to its former greatness is to reaffirm its Christian principles.”
For one thing, as I’ve explained, the Founders expressly forbade any established religion or faith. Second, studies have shown that atheists are actually more moral than their Christian counterparts. Studies have also shown that, rather than Christians being under attack, atheists are the group most subject to discrimination.
If you doubt that, ask yourself if an avowed atheist or a Buddhist or a Taoist or a Hindu or a Muslim could ever be elected President of the United States. Ask yourself what would happen if an atheist refused to issue marriage licenses to Christians based on religious freedom in the same way Kim Davis has discriminated against same sex marriage. Note how all of our candidates fall over one another to show that one is more “Christian” than another. With all of the candidates’ declarations of God Bless America, the answer should be obvious.
Clearly, we have established a religious test for office contrary to the Constitution. And I think the Founding Fathers would be horrified.