Carson and the constitution — Andy McCarthy’s take

Andy McCarthy has weighed in on Ben Carson statement that Islam is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution and that therefore he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” Like me, McCarthy disagrees with Charles Krauthammer’s view that Dr. Carson’s statement is inconsistent with the Constitution.

Krauthammer’s position is based on the idea that the Constitution isn’t just a legal document, it is a “didactic one” that “expresses a national ethos.” McCarthy points out, as I did, that this view of the Constitution is a tenet of progressive jurisprudence. As such, it is a recipe for serious mischief.

McCarthy argues:

The Constitution is not a pedagogical tool, teaching us values. It is a legal and political limitation on government’s intrusion into the realm of free thought and action.

It is in that realm that we acquire values, knowledge, and common sense. Thus armed, Americans have been taking the belief systems of candidates for public office into account since the Constitution took effect in 1789.

There is, moreover, a cottage industry of scholarship on how the religious beliefs of the framers and of presidents have shaped the course of American history. It would defy logic to ignore the patent connection between a candidate’s convictions and how he is likely to govern.

McCarthy goes beyond the constitutional question to defend the merits of advocating against electing any Muslim to be U.S. president:

Given that a mainstream interpretation of Islam requires Muslims to follow sharia, and that classical sharia is antithetical to our Constitution, there is no moral outrage in recognizing the dilemma the [president’s] oath [to uphold the Constitution] could pose for a devout Muslim. There is wisdom, not shame, in concluding that we’d rather not have to worry about the potentially divided loyalties of a Muslim president, just as the Constitution relieves us of worry over the potentially divided loyalties of a foreign-born president.

Like naturalized citizens, Muslims can be extraordinary Americans. But until Islam is reformed in such a way that a pluralistic, pro-liberty Islam is the world’s dominant Islam — and Islamic supremacism is the marginal exception, not the all-too-familiar rule — it is perfectly reasonable for Ben Carson, and any other American, to oppose the idea of a Muslim president of the United States.

It is more than reasonable to base one’s decision in a presidential election on the ideology of candidates. In my view, however, it is better to assess ideology based on a candidates’ record than to use Muslim status as a surrogate for ideology and end the inquiry there.

From a constitutional point of view, however, there is nothing objectionable about a citizen advocating the latter approach, as Dr. Carson seemed to do before rethinking his position.