Issues of religious freedom have been in the news a good bit lately. Primarily, these news events occur when someone finds their religious beliefs in conflict with another person’s secular desire. A baker or a florist who regularly sells their wares to gay/lesbian customers declines to bake a cake or make floral arrangements for their wedding because their religious beliefs do not approve homosexual marriage. Despite the fact that there are many, or if not many, at least some alternatives to those bakers or florists, those who refused to provide services were persecuted and some driven out of business by the uproar the offended gay/lesbian couples instigated because these people held to their religious beliefs.
More recently, a county clerk in Kentucky refused to sign marriage licenses of gay/lesbian couples after a court ruled that treating gay/lesbian couples differently than heterosexual couples is discrimination, and therefore illegal. A judge jailed the clerk for refusing to act, despite the commonly observed practice by judges of using the least radical punishment for such problems first, and then proceeding to more stringent punishment and ultimately jail as the last resort.
This last episode is a much different situation than those previously mentioned, as it involves a government employee refusing to do her sworn duty. But the attention it received and the way the judge handled the clerk does illustrate the size of the schism between people following their religious beliefs and social preferences or legal mandates.
If there were options other than punishing these Americans for following their religious beliefs, why were bakers, florists, and others who have had similar misfortunes singled out for what may rightly be termed persecution. This point is particularly relevant in a nation in which the first right among four specifically enumerated rights in the first of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights is the free exercise of religion?
It is also relevant to note the degree to which these events attract media coverage, which highlights how unpopular traditional religious practices have become to the media and many Americans in the 21st century.
Combine a media mindset apparently hostile to religious practices with a tendency to try to tear down Republican presidential candidates and you find Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson being given rough treatment after saying that a Muslim shouldn’t be President of the United States. "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that," he said a while back on NBC's "Meet the Press."
A bit later in the interview, he said, when asked about a Muslim running for Congress, that it would depend upon the individual in question. "Congress is a different story, but it depends on who that Muslim is and what their policies are, just like it depends on what anybody else is," Dr. Carson said. "If there's somebody who is of any faith but they say things and their life has been consistent with things that will elevate this nation and make it possible for everybody to succeed and bring peace and harmony, then I'm with them."
Host Chuck Todd also asked him whether a president's faith should matter to voters. "I guess it depends on what that faith is," he said. "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." Asked whether he thinks Islam is consistent with the Constitution, Carson said: "No, I don't – I do not."
Clearly, Dr. Carson believes that anyone subjugating their religious beliefs, whatever religious beliefs they may hold, to the requirements of our Constitution is the key element.
He appeared on ABC News’ “This Week” last Sunday where reporter Martha Raddatz grilled him on that same statement, either ignorant of his other comments further defining his view on the issue, or unwilling to acknowledge them. Here is part of that interview:
Raddatz: “I want to go back to your controversial comments on the possibility of a Muslim president. The question seemed quite clear. The question was: Should a president’s faith matter? You said, I guess it depends on what that faith is. The question was: So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution, and you said no, I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.
Do you stand by that now?”
Carson: “Well, first of all, you know, what I said is on a transcript and it’s there for anybody.”
Raddatz: “I’m reading the transcript, Dr. Carson, that’s exactly what you said.”
Carson: “No – read the paragraph before that where I said anybody, doesn’t matter what their religious background, if they accept American values and principles and are willing to subjugate their religious beliefs to our Constitution. I have no problem with them.
Why do you guys always leave that part out, I wonder?”
Political correctness – or opposing unpopular things in favor of popular things – is the order of the day, in life and in the media.