OPINION — Should a Muslim be banned from the White House simply because of his or her religion? Before you answer, I have two words for you to ponder: Mitt Romney.
A lifetime member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Romney clearly has no ties to the Muslim faith.
Still, you might recall that when Romney was running for the presidency against Barack Obama, religion was a significant part of the campaign and there was a question whether a Mormon should be elected as president. I would like to think that Romney lost the election because of his political stance and not his religious beliefs.
The truth is, however, his religion played a role in his defeat.
How significant a role, nobody will ever know. But it had impact.
We have been through this before, of course. When John Kennedy set his sights on the White House, there was great consternation that if elected, he would take his direction from The Vatican because of his Catholic faith.
As it turned out, there was no reason for concern.
But this whole business of religion becomes an issue when you consider GOP hopeful Ben Carson’s recent comment that a Muslim should not be elected as president.
I haven’t seen any polling on this yet, but I would be interested to see how Utahns, particularly Mormon Utahns, are reacting to the statement. There are also a number of Tea Party types in Utah who claim to be defenders of the Constitution. I wonder where they stand on the issue, especially since so many of them are so delusional that they actually believe our current president is a Muslim.
I expected better from Carson, who claims to hold Christian values, patriotism and service in his heart. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though, when he made his comments because I’ve been disappointed by the remarks and actions of too many politicians in the past.
Carson clearly came up the hard way, overcoming a number of obstacles to become, at least for the time being, the second-most popular candidate in a wide field of Republican hopefuls. He was a poor, African-American man who worked hard for his success, so he should understand that such stereotyping as he suggested is absolutely ludicrous.
It begs, however, a larger question: Should faith be a part of the greater debate?
The answer is both yes and no.
Yes, because if a candidate, like so many in the past, claims deep religious conviction yet turns out to be a philanderer, abusive or deceitful, that person’s character should seriously come under question and be discredited because of their hypocrisy.
The “no” part to the answer is quite simple.
As the Constitution states, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust.” It’s the law, after all, something more and more conservatives, by the way, are beginning to look upon with disdain as they turn their noses to recent Supreme Court rulings.
The question becomes more academic than practical because none of the candidates running for the presidency are of the Muslim faith.
The reality, however, is that we live in a post-9/11 world where every Muslim is branded as a terrorist. The sad thing is that Carson is not alone in this.
According to a June Gallup poll, 54 percent of Republicans would not vote for a well-qualified Muslim nominee from their own party, while 39 percent of independents and 27 percent of Democrats said the same. Bigotry, clearly, is alive and well in the United States.
Of course, try explaining that to somebody who mistakenly thinks that “In God we trust” was etched into our currency since day one or is under the delusion that the founding fathers were religious men. But, that imagery looms large in modern politics, where candidates must profess religious beliefs to be elected.
They will lament the lack of prayer in our schools but hem and haw all over the place when you ask which religious prayer should be shared in the classroom.
They will decry the decline of Christian charity, yet when given the opportunity to extend a helping hand to the sick or needy, refuse to support legislation that would improve their condition.
They will talk about the sanctity of life, yet stand tall for capital punishment or the funding of weapons of war. They seek divine inspiration in a quest for peace and understanding yet think nothing of a regime overthrow for political or economic advantage.
They will speak of a desire for equality, but the fact is that those who look, act and believe as they do are more equal than those who do not.
I once had a young reporter who would describe Utah and its woeful lack of diversity and tolerance as a bologna sandwich on white bread with mayo.
Unfortunately, that is an apt description of a larger slice of the American persona.
We like to think we are diverse, defending ourselves with, “Well, I’m no bigot because one of my best friends is _________” (fill in the space with whichever race, creed, political affiliation or gender orientation you wish).
When asked in a private survey when nobody is watching if it is OK for a Muslim to be elected as president it is an entirely different story.
I understand the backlash.
The guys who flew those planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and tried to fly another one into another Washington, D.C., landmark were certainly practitioners of a radical wing of the Muslim faith.
But, make no mistake, I can also cite a rather long list of atrocities committed in the name of Christianity.
Nobody is blameless.
Should all Muslims be held accountable for what happened on 9/11? No, just as all Christians should not be held accountable for The Crusades.
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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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