Ben Carson Would Fail U.S. History

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tags: election 2016, Ben Carson



Denise A. Spellberg is Professor of History and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and author of "Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders."

On Sunday, when GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson said: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” he entered into a debate about the presidency—and the Constitution’s religious test—that began in the 18th century. Carson now stands on the wrong side of history, projecting the distorted view of an exclusively Christian nation.

Could a Muslim be president of the U.S.? The concise, legal and constitutional answer is: yes. The Constitution’s Article VI, section 3 clearly includes Muslims: “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

The idea of a Muslim president was first debated 227 years ago, in 1788, during the state-by-state battle to ratify the Constitution. Many feared a Muslim president then, but, arguably, more feared a Jewish or a Catholic one, at a time when these religions had minorities of 2,000 and 25,000, respectively.

One Massachusetts politician insisted: “There is a door opened for Jews, Turks, and Heathens to enter into publick office, and be seated at the head of the government of the United States.” At the time, all Muslims were conflated wrongly under the ethnicity “Turks.” Delegates to the New Hampshire ratification debate worried that “a Turk, a Jew, a Roman Catholic, and what is worse than all, a Universalist, may be President of the United States.”

On July 30, 1788, in Hillsborough, N.C., the possibility of a Muslim president became a flash-point. At the ratification debate, Henry Abbot, an Anti-Federalist delegate, argued: “They suppose that if there be no religious test required, pagans, deists, and Mahometans [Muslims] might obtain offices among us.” ...




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