Retired pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson said Thursday that Americans are "being played by those people who want to divide, conquer and control."
"The trend you can see in our society is if you are pro-life, then you're anti-woman," Carson said at a town hall meeting entitled "Religion in America," sponsored by local news station CBS12
in West Palm Beach, Fla. "If you're pro-traditional marriage, then you're homophobic. If you're a white person — and you say something against a progressive black person, you’re a racist.
"We have gotten to this point to where we just like to label people and create division," Carson added. "Where the American people have to come in here is recognizing that we're being manipulated."
He said that Americans are under attack by neo-Nazi groups and others who work to keep citizens from practicing their religion freely throughout the nation.
"We, the American people, have to realize that we are not each other's enemies. The enemy are those people who are trying to divide us up."
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Carson, who is a Newsmax columnist, was among five panelists at the town hall meeting, attended by a diverse audience of nearly 100 Florida residents. He retired last summer as chief of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore and his current book is "America the Beautiful."
The town hall was live-streamed Thursday on the television station's website and taped for broadcast later this month.
Other participants were the Rev. A. R. Bernard of the Christian Cultural Center in New York City; Rabbi Leonid Feldman of Temple Beth El in West Palm Beach, Fla.; the Rev. Mark Boykin, pastor of the Church of All Nations in Boca Raton; and Kelly Damerow, director of federal and state affairs for the Secular Coalition for America in Washington.
The town hall was moderated by another Newsmax columnist, conservative talk-show host Armstrong Williams, who described it as "a debate for 'we the people.' "
Williams began the hour-long session by asking audience members whether they believed that their religious freedoms were being "trampled upon."
The response was loud applause.
"In a democracy, that would be a loud and resounding 'yes,' " Williams said.
In response to a question from Williams on political correctness, Carson said that America was founded by people seeking freedom from "those who could tell them what they could say or what they couldn't say.
"This was supposed to be a different kind of place, a place where people could envision the kind of life they wanted to pursue — and be left alone and allowed to do that as long as they were not infringing on someone else."
That has changed dramatically, he charged, because of "secular progressives" and others who "try to impose a code of silence on those who believe differently than they do.
"And interestingly enough," Carson added, "they don't want to have a discussion about it."
The audience also cheered when the possible 2016 GOP presidential hopeful refuted Damerow's position that America "certainly" was "not founded as a Christian nation."
"The fact of the matter is, this is a Judeo-Christian nation," Carson retorted. "It was founded on Judeo-Christian principles."
He noted how many of George Washington's letters reflected "a deep and abiding faith in God. That's the foundation we have.
"Courage, that's what's needed," Carson continued. "People have to be brave to stand up for what they believe.
"Anyone else is welcome to believe whatever they want, but don't allow them to take away your freedom to believe what you believe."
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