The Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is drawing criticism over the bigoted comments he has been making recently about Muslims. It is well deserved, and is not a matter of “P.C. culture,” as Mr. Carson has claimed. Nor does Mr. Carson represent some minor fringe element in the Republican Party.
This latest sordid mess to arise from the G.O.P. nomination contest touches on bedrock American values, constitutional principles and American history. It reflects a pernicious habit among the leaders of the Republican Party to play with fire by pandering to an angry, disaffected and heavily white base by demonizing selected minorities. Muslims are just the current target.
Mr. Carson declared Sunday on ”Meet the Press” that Muslims are unfit to run for president because a president’s faith should be “consistent with the Constitution.” Later, he told the newspaper The Hill that Islamic Shariah law isn’t consistent with the Constitution because “Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution.”
Leave aside for a moment the unintentionally funny spectacle of a member of the current Republican Party declaring that religion should be kept out of public life, and that Mr. Carson, as an African-American, is a member of a much belittled minority. The freedom of religion embedded in the First Amendment rules out the very idea of a religious test for public office, as John F. Kennedy so eloquently argued and then proved by becoming the first Catholic president.
As for Shariah law, Catholicism has canon law and Judaism has the Halakha and nobody is painting them as threats to the republic — at least not this year.