Dr. Carson has said he couldn’t support a Muslim president to be in charge of this country, and since then he has backpedaled and said he could support a moderate who shared American values.
I see four issues at work here.
1. Old Islamic law (shariah or sharia) is incompatible with the Constitution.
Old Islamic law does not allow for the separation of mosque and state, while our Constitution, properly interpreted, guarantees the separation.
Old Islamic law does not allow for freedom of religion, while our Constitution does.
Old Islamic law does not allow for free speech in regards to religion, while our Constitution does.
Those three complicated elements contradict the First Amendment, which, to state the obvious, was listed first because its content was so vital.
Those three areas of shariah—not to mention others—prove that this archaic law is disqualified for the modern world, except for some benign religious practices (see no. 3).
2. The Constitution does not allow a religious test.
In its historical context, a religious test prevented anyone of the “wrong” religion (usually Catholicism) from holding public office.
Part of Article Six says:
… The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Therefore, a Muslim can run for public office and not face a constitutional obstacle because of his religion.
3. Can a Muslim today renounce or disregard parts of Old Islamic Law?
It is indeed possible. While it is rare that Islamic scholars today intend to update Islam, they do exist.
Radicals might call such a Muslim office seeker an apostate, but more moderate ones would not.
All Muslims have to do is follow a more benign portion of their law: the Five Pillars. Though I may have theological and practical difficulties with each one, none of them wreak havoc on our public lives.
As Jefferson said, if a man worships no god or twenty gods, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. Live and let live in religious matters, and use only dialogue and persuasion.
The vast majority of American Muslims, of the ones who are religious, follow only the Five Pillars and not eating pork and don’t worry about complicated legalities. That’s why they’re surprised when they hear that Islam is incompatible with American and constitutional values.
On an important side note: Would to God all Muslims–every last one of them–would follow only the Five Pillars. We would have a lot less violence around the globe.
4. Therefore it would be possible, theoretically, for a reasonable person to support a moderate Muslim candidate for president.
At a minimum a “moderate” would have to support the First Amendment.
Muslim Representative Keith Ellison won supporters in Minnesota. I was personally disappointed when he swore the oath of office on the Quran, because that text has nothing to do with our long and distinguished history (and it discriminates against religious minorities; see no. 1), but constitutionally he was within his rights.
So a moderate Muslim (or a member of any religion) could run for president and probably draw a little support.
Thus I can foresee, two or three decades in the future, a billionaire Muslim, born in America and on the Fourth of July, running in much the same way as Trump is now or Perot did in the 1990s. He would raise all kinds of issues and create quite a stir.
Of course he would run in the GOP, and the news media would howl with joy at the moon, recording all the opinions of conservatives who are nervous about the candidacy. (For now, however, let’s just focus on Trump who is getting a different kind of howls of joy from the media.)
In any case, a Muslim won’t be president in our lifetime, and there will probably never be one. He may not have to undergo a constitutional religious test, but he would undergo public scrutiny and would come up far short.
Therefore, I suggest to the other candidates who are asked a hypothetical question about supporting a Muslim for president to reply as follows:
“I would support anyone (in my party especially) who shares American and constitutional values. No one has to go through a religious test, according to Article Six of our Constitution.”
Knowing a Muslim American president won’t exist in real life, the candidate answering the question can leave his answer at that and not let the “journalist” push him into complicated discussions about Islamic law.
This article appeared at American Thinker on Sept. 22, 2015, and has since been updated and expanded.
Updated: Sept. 25, 2015