The Islamic faith isn’t “consistent” with the U.S. Constitution, and a Muslim shouldn’t be president, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said.
“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” Carson said on NBC’s 'Meet the Press' on Sunday.
Late Sunday, he doubled down on those comments in an interview with The Hill.
“I do not believe Sharia is consistent with the Constitution of this country,” Carson told The Hill. “Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution.”
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The only exception he’d make would be if the Muslim running for office “publicly rejected all the tenets of Sharia and lived a life consistent with that,”
Carson told The Hill.
“Then I wouldn’t have any problem,” he said.
Carson "sought to frame himself as one of the few candidates running for president willing to tell hard truths," The Hill reported.
“We are a different kind of nation,” Carson said. “Part of why we rose so quickly is because we wouldn’t allow our values or principles to be supplanted because we were going to be politically correct… part of the problem today is that we’re so busy trying to be politically correct, that we lose all perspective.”
But he said the question of a Muslim president is largely “irrelevant” because no Muslims are running in 2016. He said the question, which Todd is posing to all of the Republican presidential hopefuls who go on his show, “may well have been” gotcha journalism meant to trip the candidates up.
But he did concede that it “served a useful purpose by providing the opportunity to talk about what Sharia is and what their goals are.”
“So often we get into these irrelevant things, because obviously if a Muslim was running for president, there would be a lot more education about Sharia, about Taqiya," Carson said.
Earlier, Carson told NBC's Chuck Todd that the religious beliefs of a president would matter if his or her faith was inconsistent with U.S. values. His view contrasted with that of Donald Trump, the billionaire front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, who said on the program that a Muslim as president is something that could happen in the future.
Trump said he knows many Muslims who are “fabulous,” but there’s “a very severe problem” with some Muslims around the world -- comments he repeated on other Sunday broadcasts.
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Carson, asked by moderator Chuck Todd whether a presidential candidate's faith should matter to voters, said it depends.
"If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America then of course it should matter," Carson said. "But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem."
Todd then asked whether Islam is consistent with the Constitution.
"No, I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that," Carson said.
But Congress is a different matter, he said.
"It depends on who that Muslim is and what their policies are. Just as it depends on what anybody else says. And if there's somebody who's of any faith but they say things and their life has been consistent with things that will elevate this nation and make it possible for everybody to succeed and bring peace and harmony then I'm with them."
Carson said he takes President Barack Obama at his word that he was both born in the United States and is a Christian. Trump declined Sunday to talk about either of those issues.
The issues of Muslims in American politics came to the fore over the weekend when Trump failed to correct a man asking a question during one of his rallies, who said that President Barack Obama is a Muslim. On “Meet the Press,” Trump said he wasn’t obligated to defend Obama.
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“This is the first I’ve ever gotten into hot water for not saying anything,” Trump said. Trump and Carson both said they believe Obama is a Christian.
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The nation's largest Muslim advocacy group says lawmakers from across the political spectrum should repudiate Carson's comments.
Ibrahim Hooper is a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations and says the Constitution expressly prohibits a religious test to qualify for elected office.
Information from The Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg News was used in this report.
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