The White House on Monday denounced Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson for saying a Muslim should not be president of the United States.

Press secretary Josh Earnest said Carson’s comments are “entirely inconsistent with the Constitution” and the First Amendment

“Ultimately, there will be consequences, and those views will be taken into account by voters, not only in the primary, but also the general election,” Earnest told reporters.

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His campaign manager Barry Bennett told The Associated Press on Monday: “While the left wing is huffing and puffing over it, Republican primary voters are with us at least 80-20.”

“People in Iowa particularly, are like, ‘Yeah! We’re not going to vote for a Muslim either,” Bennett said. “I don’t mind the hubbub. It’s not hurting us, that’s for sure.”

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His campaign manager Barry Bennett told The Associated Press on Monday: “While the left wing is huffing and puffing over it, Republican primary voters are with us at least 80-20.”

“People in Iowa particularly, are like, ‘Yeah! We’re not going to vote for a Muslim either,” Bennett said. “I don’t mind the hubbub. It’s not hurting us, that’s for sure.”…

Asked whether Carson would apologize for offending Muslims, Bennett did not hesitate.

“Good Lord, no,” he said.

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The Anti-Defamation League, a group that fights anti-Semitism and other bigotry, called Carson’s comments “deeply offensive, un-American and contrary to the Constitution” in a statement from ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt.

“As the campaign season advances, we urge all presidential candidates to avoid innuendo and stereotyping of all sorts, including against people based on their faith, particularly American Muslims and, instead, to confront all forms of prejudice and bigotry. Remarks suggesting that all Muslims follow extremist interpretations of Islam have no basis in fact and fuel bigotry,” Greenblatt said.

Greenblatt also knocked Trump for his “failure to stand up to an anti-Muslim bigot at a campiagn rally who questioned whether President Obama was a Muslim.”

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The first [candidate attacked for his faith] and arguably the most viciously attacked was Al Smith, four-time New York governor and the Democratic nominee in 1928. Smith’s Catholicism became the target of a vitriolic campaign against him. Fliers warned voters that Smith, if elected, would annul Protestants’ marriages and confiscate their Bibles, Smith biographer Robert Slayton wrote in the New York Times in 2012, and opponents claimed that a photo of the newly built Holland Tunnel, which links Manhattan and New Jersey, was actually a secret passageway between Washington and Rome. An anti-Smith political cartoon showed the pope and several bishops seated at a table while Smith, wearing a bellboy’s uniform, waited on them. The cartoon was captioned: “Cabinet Meeting — If Al Were President.”

Even respected intellectuals questioned whether a Catholic could be trusted to be loyal to the county. In a letter published in the Atlantic Monthly, lawyer and religion scholar Charles Marshall detailed the “inevitable and irreconcilable” conflict between Catholic teachings and the Constitution, and demanded that Smith promise not to put his allegiance to the pope above his allegiance to the country.

Partly due to anti-Catholic sentiment, Smith was defeated in a landslide by Republican candidate Herbert Hoover, who wound up with a not-so-great record as president.

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While Islamophobia is nothing new in American politics—four years ago, Herman Cain argued that “a majority” of American Muslims were extremists, and said he would not appoint one to his administration—it is ironic to see some of the very same conservatives who argued so forcefully for the freedom of a government official to be able to hold on to her religious views while in office pivot so quickly to making an argument that there ought to be a religious test for serving in the nation’s highest office. Carson, for example, defended Davis. “When she took the job, the Supreme Court hadn’t made this ruling,” he said. “If they had, she might not have taken this job. So I think they have a responsibility to accommodate her.” (His statements on the case were somewhat contradictory.)…

It’s pretty jarring for politicians to make these statements right on the heels of the “religious freedom” debate. One takeaway is that the debate about religious freedom is, for many participants, actually a debate about Christian freedom. A second, however, might be that the debate about Islam is perhaps also less about religion than about wariness of outsiders. One common thread in these comments are the vast over-generalizations about Muslims: They’re likely to be terrorists, Peter King suggests. Racial profiling is reasonable, Maher insists. Their beliefs are, en bloc, inconsistent with America, Carson says. “It wasn’t people from Sweden that blew up the World Trade Center,” Trump smirks, even as he rolls out the tired “some of my best friends” retort.

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The Article VI high horse on which the left-leaning media has set itself in response to Carson is so inconsistent with its former treatment of Romney as to give one a case of intellectual whiplash.

Consider that CNN, The Atlantic, ThinkProgress, and The Daily Beast, among many, many others, have all cited Article VI in responding to Carson.  Where were such citations in the ’08 cycle?  If they appeared at all they appeared as disclaimers at the end of long pieces in which Mormon theology and history was examined in proctological detail.  And yet the average leftie that comes on the Hewitt show has not read or has only skimmed The Looming Tower, which describes in detail the development of the branch of Islam that has created so much violence in our modern world.

The most alarming thing about these contrary considerations of Article VI is what it reveals about the people making them.  In the end, the beef against Romney and his Mormonism was the deep grounding in social conservatism that Romney’s faith gave him. No one was more dismissive of Romney and his faith than Andrew Sullivan on his pro-LGBT agenda march through blogging.  Interestingly, to my knowledge no Mormon has ever hung a homosexual, but that seems to be beside the point.  Mormons are here and violent Muslims (a subset of the religion taken as a whole) are over there somewhere, where the liberal mindset does not concern itself.

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For instance, Meet the Press belabored the entirely hypothetical and ridiculous question of whether or not it would be okay to have a Muslim president. How is this question relevant to anyone’s life? Is there a Muslim candidate in the wings I am unaware of? The whole premise of the question seems to be to feed the news cycle on MSNBC (and elsewhere) for the coming week. It’s all a game. And such game-playing is exactly why so many people are disgusted with the conversation coming out of Washington…

Oh, how would I answer the question? Since you didn’t ask, I’ll tell you. Something like this:

“I think this is a ridiculous question designed to create bogus controversies that distract from real issues and paint me and my party in a negative light. But since you asked: Of course a Muslim can be a president. So can Hindus, Buddhists and atheists. For that matter so can Satanist, Klingons and Jedis (if they’re natural-born American citizens of course). But that doesn’t mean a candidate’s faith is irrelevant. It is deeply relevant. Liberal politicians love to invoke their religious faith when defending welfare programs, spending on the environment and education. They only say faith has no place in politics when faith proves inconvenient to the liberal agenda. Suddenly, they don’t think the government should be imposing religious values on others. What they really mean is that no values should ever come before the liberal agenda. If a Muslim wants to run for president, great. Throw your hat in the ring and explain how your faith informs your agenda. The rest of us have to do it, so should a Muslim. If his answers are no good, he won’t get elected.”

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[I]n the West, we recognize a division between the spiritual realm and political life – a division reflected in our Constitution. Mainstream Islam recognizes no such separation. While Islam unquestionably has tenets that we would recognize as religious in nature (e.g., the oneness of Allah), it is also teeming with rules that control law, governance, the economy, military affairs, social life, hygiene – virtually everything we see as the realm of politics and self-determination.

Islam’s sharia is a code premised on the principles that Allah has prescribed the ideal way for human life to be lived; that people are required to submit to that prescription; and that Islamic governments exist to enforce that requirement. Our Constitution, to the contrary, is premised on the principles that we are free to choose how we will live; the laws we make are not required to comply with the principles of any religion; and that government is our servant, not our master.

The Constitution has nothing to say about Islam’s purely religious tenets. It could not be more obvious, though, that mainstream Islamic ideology and the Islamic law that reflects it are not consistent with the Constitution. As I have repeatedly catalogued, citing an authoritative sharia manual endorsed by, among other prominent Muslims, the scholars at al-Azhar University (the center of Islamic scholarship for over a century), Islamic law rejects the premise that people are free to govern themselves as they choose, rejects freedom of conscience, rejects freedom of speech, rejects equality between Muslims and non-Muslims, rejects equality between men and women, justifies wars of aggression against non-Muslims, and rejects our safeguards of liberty and privacy – prescribing draconian penalties, often including death, for apostasy, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, and other personal choices.

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I fear that many Americans, including many conservatives, haven’t fully reckoned with the extent to which rising diversity, including rising religious diversity, is a fact of life that we will have to deal with for a long time, regardless of what happens to, say, future immigration levels. The cultural consensus that was dominant when Ben Carson came of age is no longer dominant, and those who champion conservative ideals need to learn how to navigate this new landscape.

Over the past few decades, there has been a marked increase in the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans, at least some of whom are assertive in their hostility to religious practice and to the expression of religious beliefs in the public square. Moreover, there are many Americans who embrace an idiosyncratic blend of spiritual traditions, and not just in bohemian enclaves. I would argue that these trends — this turn away from traditional religious practice and religious community — are a much bigger deal than the increase in the size of the U.S. Muslim population. When Carson suggests that a Muslim should never be president, he isn’t just alienating Muslims. He is alienating other Americans as well.

I appreciate that many conservatives who find the idea of a Muslim president distasteful have no qualms with the idea of a Jewish president, or perhaps a Buddhist or a Hindu president. It is worth noting, however, that Buddhists and Hindus, like Jews and Muslims, are heavily Democratic constituencies, as Razib Khan has observed. One possibility as to why this is the case is members of these small religious minorities see the Democrats as the party of tolerance and inclusion and Republicans as the party of intolerance and exclusion. I happen to believe that the GOP should be the party that celebrates the idea of a common culture, and that promotes assimilation and integration. If such a stance is seen as intolerant or exclusive, so be it. But in the culture wars to come, I believe that observant evangelicals, Catholics, and Jews are going to need allies, and that they can find them among seculars who embrace our tradition of religious freedom as well as among Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims who feel the same way.

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Carson, on the other hand, is running a more content-free campaign. Like Trump, he’s underinformed and prone to wild rhetorical flights, but unlike the Donald he doesn’t have a distinctive platform. He’s offering a collection of pieties and crankery; mostly, his candidacy is just about the man himself.

And unfortunately evangelical voters have a weakness for this kind of pitch. From Pat Robertson in 1988 through thin-on-policy figures like Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, even Michele Bachmann briefly in 2012, the evangelical tendency has been to look for a kind of godly hero, a Christian leader who could win the White House and undo every culture-war defeat. (The resilience of evangelical support for George W. Bush as his presidency went sour reflected a persistent hope that Bush might be this hero in the flesh.)…

In this election cycle, though, the evangelical hero quest is particularly self-defeating. With same-sex marriage established nationwide and social liberalism ascendant, religious conservatives have a clear policy “ask” they should be pressing every major Republican contender to embrace. They need guarantees that the next G.O.P. administration will move proactively — through something like Senator Mike Lee’s evolving First Amendment Defense Act — to protect religious schools and charities from losing grants or accreditation or even tax-exempt status because they maintain a traditional position on sexual ethics.

I’m sure that a President Ben Carson would deliver these protections. I’m equally sure that the longer the fantasy of a Carson presidency persists, the less likely it becomes that religious conservatives will get them.

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