Rep. Keith Ellison blasted Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson Sunday for statements by the Republican presidential candidates condemning the idea of a Muslim president. Ellison, D-Minn., became the first Muslim-American to be elected to Congress in 2007 when he was sworn in on a Quran rather than a Bible as is traditionally done.
“The freedom of religion is a founding principle of our nation. Our Constitution gives this right to all Americans -- including elected officials,” Ellison said in the statement. “For Ben Carson, Donald Trump or any other Republican politician to suggest that someone of any faith is unfit for office is out of touch with who we are as a people. It's unimaginable that the leading GOP presidential candidates are resorting to fearmongering to benefit their campaigns, and every American should be disturbed that these national figures are engaging in and tolerating blatant acts of religious bigotry.”
Ellison's remarks came in response to the controversy that began last week when Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and reality TV show host-turned-Republican front-runner, said nothing when an audience member shouted President Obama is a Muslim. The audience member also appeared to call for the forcible removal of all Muslims from the United States. Trump's silence has been compared with an incident during John McCain's presidential campaign in 2008 when he took the microphone and corrected an audience member who said she couldn't trust Obama because he is “an Arab.”
“No ma'am. He's a decent family man and a citizen who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that's what this campaign is all about,” McCain said.
Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who trails Trump in Republican polls, was asked to respond to the controversy during an appearance on NBC's “Meet the Press” Sunday.
“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” he said. “I absolutely would not agree with that.” Carson also said practicing Islam as a religion is not compatible with the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “No religious test shall ever be a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the leading Democratic candidates, also criticized Carson.
It took us too long to overcome the prejudice against electing a Catholic or an African-American president.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) September 20, 2015
Still, a recent Gallup poll found 38 percent of U.S. voters wouldn't vote for a Muslim presidential candidate.
Ellison previously said being the first Muslim to hold congressional office has gotten easier over time. His decision to be sworn in on a Quran triggered a media firestorm nearly 10 years ago, but since then, a second Muslim, Andre Carson of Indiana, has also been elected to the House of Representatives.