Ben Carson offered up a new explanation for why he’s opposed to a Muslim American becoming president, citing fears of “different loyalties” that he believes the Founding Fathers articulated by barring immigrants from becoming chief executive.
As has been the case in the past, the implication was that outwardly patriotic Muslims could not be fully trusted as loyal Americans given their faith. He has previously cited theories popular on the far right
warning that seemingly assimilated Muslim Americans may be using religious edicts to conceal an extremist plot.
The latest comments came at an appearance at the National Press Club on Friday, when an audience member asked why he felt a Muslim citizen couldn’t be loyal to the Constitution as president given that there were already Muslim military officers, policemen, and judges – all positions that require fidelity to the law.
“A good understanding of the Constitution answers that question for you,” Carson said. “Because when you look at the Article II, and we’re talking about requirements for the president, they have to be a ‘natural born citizen.’ Now why is that the case?”
The clause Carson refers to bars naturalized immigrants from the position of president. There are numerous Muslims born in America, of course, and a hypothetical Muslim president would by definition have to be a natural born citizen.
The Constitution prohibits any “religious test” for public office, but Carson argued on Friday that the audience should read between the lines to divine the Founder’s intent.
“I’m sure if you had gone to the Founders and said, ‘but what about this person? They may not be a natural born citizen but you know they’ve been in America for most of their lives, and they’re a fine upstanding citizen, they served in the military, they came back they were on the police force, can’t they be the president?’… they would have said no,” Carson said. “They said ‘We don’t even want to take the slight chance that we would put someone in that position who had different loyalties.’ That’s the answer to your question.”
Several Muslim activists briefly approached Carson at a reception before the event, hoping to convince him that citizens like themselves were as American as anyone else.
“One is innocent until proven guilty, but he’s called Muslims guilty even before verifying them,” Mike Ghouse, executive director of the American Muslim Institution, told msnbc after offering himself to Carson as a resource for information about Islam. ” I think it comes out of ignorance. He needs some guidance.”