Carson vs. Fiorina: Should a Muslim be President?

Ben Carson Carly Fiorina

Ben Carson Carly Fiorina

Believe it or not, Carson and Fiorina actually agree on this more than you might think. In spite of what you might be reading on Facebook, their positions do not disqualify either one from being a viable option for conservatives. I’m going to analyze their positions closely in just a minute, but first let’s set the stage.

Catholics: The Founding Fathers’ “Muslims”

In the medieval era, the Catholic church was a totalitarian system. The church controlled large tracts of land in most western countries, they amassed huge amounts of wealth, and they owned the souls, figuratively and literally, of citizens and sovereigns alike.

Since civil control was the underpinning of the Roman Catholic racket, they did everything they could to amass and retain their wealth and control. They plotted with allies, sent out assassins, and aided and even started wars.

You know that phrase “separation of church and state”? This is what they were talking about.

Western culture was only just coming out of that system when America was founded. The Catholic church had not yet been completely transformed into a harmless religious system with no political control, so some of the Founders were very leery of Catholics holding office in the early days of our country.


Because the Founders considered that the Catholic belief of ultimate allegiance to the Pope was completely inconsistent with American principles and dangerous to American freedom.

Did that mean that all Catholics in those days were disloyal to America and wanted to subvert the country to the political power of the Pope? No. Most of them were peaceful citizens who wanted freedom like everyone else. But because it had been such a recent danger, power in the hands of Catholics was still a legitimate concern to some.

We are at a similar place today regarding Muslims.

If you take the words of the Quran and apply them literally, you have ISIS. Does that mean all Muslims are terrorist infiltrators at heart? No, it does not. Many of them are peaceful people who want freedom like anyone else. You don’t hear about them, because they are just that: peaceful.

That doesn’t change the fact that most, if not all, Muslim nations are totalitarian in nature, that the spreading of Islam by force and violence is a consistent historical practice, and that there are numerous Muslim organizations on a crazy crusade to subdue and/or kill every person on earth who doesn’t submit to their religion.

This is why Ben Carson has concerns about a Muslim president. Carly Fiorina is catching flak for disagreeing with him, but let’s analyze what they each said a little closer.

Carson said that many of the tenants of Islam are incompatible with the Constitution. Strictly speaking, he is correct, and Fiorina didn’t disagree with that.

Carson did not say that a Muslim could not serve as president, and Fiorina pointed out that the Constitution says that religion cannot be a legal restriction. They are both correct.

Carson said that for lower offices like Congress, Muslim candidates should be evaluated individually to see if they actually stand for the right things. Fiorina basically said that Muslims candidates for all offices should be individually considered. They are both correct.

Carson’s and Fiorina’s statements differ in two areas:

1. They disagree on whether to trust a Muslim with the presidency.

Carson is unwilling to take the risk of possibly electing a closet Jihadist, and Fiorina is. And here’s the thing: neither stance is wrong.

You don’t owe any candidate trust based on skin color, religion, policies, beliefs, family ties, history, or anything else. Who you trust to represent you as an elected official is an entirely personal choice. If Ben Carson, looking at the history of Muslim interactions with “Christian” nations over the last few centuries, is unwilling to chance a Muslim in office, that doesn’t make him intolerant of Islam. Religious toleration and peace and good will toward men do not demand political trust.

At the same time, Fiorina isn’t wrong to be willing to consider a Muslim. She is not saying there’s nothing wrong with Jihad. She isn’t even saying it isn’t a threat. All she is saying is that she would give a Muslim contender for the presidency the same consideration she would give anyone else, and that being a Muslim per se wouldn’t necessarily make a bad president. Like it or no, she is right. It is possible to be a freedom-loving Muslim (see this article as well). Every vote you cast for public office is a risk. Shucks, I didn’t know for sure what kind of representative I’d be getting when I voted for my brother last year. The kind of risks you take at the ballot box are your personal decisions and yours alone.

2. They disagree on whether or not there is any value in Islam.

Technically, I can’t say they disagree on this, but I don’t think Carson would agree with Fiorina’s statement that “people of faith make better leaders, whether it’s a person of Christian faith, or Jewish faith, or Muslim faith…”

You can disagree with her, but she is only echoing the Founding Fathers:

“Such is my veneration for every religion that reveals the attributes of the Deity, or a future state of rewards and punishments, that I had rather see the opinions of Confucius or Mohamed inculcated upon our youth than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles. But the religion I mean to recommend in this place is that of the New Testament. . . . [A]ll its doctrines and precepts are calculated to promote the happiness of society and the safety and well-being of civil government.” – Benjamin Rush

What both Benjamin Rush and Carly Fiorina are referring to is this: the greatest threat to tyranny is accountability to God. Accountability to ourselves alone leads to license and corruption, which is why citizens need police officers and politicians need voters. But the consent of the governed only goes so far to keep politicians honest, as was tragically demonstrated by the French Revolution.

It’s when you believe in “a future state of rewards and punishments” that true accountability kicks in. Neither Benjamin Rush nor Carly Fiorina are commenting on which religion provides the most accountability for human sinfulness (and both gave Christianity the ultimate endorsement: their own lives). They are simply stating that any accountability is better than none.

The Founders actually spoke to the issues of Muslims in office:

“It is apprehended that Jews, Mahometans, Pagans, &c., may be elected to high offices under the government of the United States. Those who are Mahometans (or any others who are not professors of the Christian religion) can never be elected to the office of President or other high office but in one of two cases.

First, if the people of America lay aside the Christian religion altogether, it may happen. Should this unfortunately take place, the people will choose such men as think as they do themselves.

Another case is if any persons of such descriptions should, notwithstanding their religion, acquire the confidence and esteem of the people of America by their good conduct and practice of virtue, they may be chosen. – Samuel Johnston

You may disagree with Fiorina’s stance, and that’s okay. It makes for a rousing philosophical and theological discussion. But far from making either one unfit for president, both Carson’s and Fiorina’s positions have early American precedents, and are actually rooted in the oldest of American traditions and lines of thought.