While stumping in Michigan yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson paid a visit to faith-based Spring Arbor University, where he told students America should be a “Judeo-Christian” nation that will defend women’s rights.
Dr. Carson’s speech took place days after his hotly-debated comments on “Meet the Press” last Sunday, when he claimed that a Muslim should not be president because, in his opinion, Islam contradicts American values and the US Constitution.
Others, however, defended Carson, from “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade to Indian-American journalist Asra Nomani, who penned an opinion piece called “To This Secular Muslim, Ben Carson Had A Point” for the Daily Beast. No matter where Muslim communities are, Nomani writes, they “still struggle with existential questions about whether Islam is compatible with democracy and secularism.”
According to the Detroit News, Carson clarified that he would only object to a Muslim candidate who was not “willing to put the Constitution above their ideology”: an accusation some liberals might bring against Carson himself, whose image as a devout Christian with conservative social values has helped him rise to number two in the Republican field.
In Spring Arbor, Carson accused critics of over-sensitivity: “I have no interest in being like everybody else and giving away all of our values and principles for the sake of political correctness,” he said."There is such a thing as an American dream and the American way. Anybody is welcome to come to America, but they don't get to change who we are.”
As examples, he pointed to Sharia law, a diverse system of religious rules followed by some Muslim societies, arguing that it oppresses women and treats them like “chattel.” “We do not want to import that type of ideology into America,” he declared.
Carson also denounced the frequent Democrat assertion that Republicans are waging a “war on women” by advocating limits on reproductive health care, dismissing the idea as “phony” and talking about the powerful role women have played in his own life.
Carson’s own positions on such women’s issues have been difficult to pin down, despite the popular perception that he is anti-abortion.
Politico reports that, as a pediatric neurosurgeon, Carson made referrals for women seeking abortions, but he maintains that he is personally pro-life; however, he has refused to specify a legal opinion on the issue, other than saying that he supports a bill to delegalize abortion after 20 weeks. According to campaign communications director Doug Watts, Carson believes that it the debate on abortion is a battle for “hearts and minds,” not courts.
Nevertheless, some women’s advocates believe Carson’s opinions could endanger reproductive rights. In May, Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, issued a statement on Carson’s candidacy:
“If Ben Carson doesn’t trust women to make their own health care decisions, then women can’t trust Ben Carson to be president,” she said.