Editor’s Note: This was adapted from an article that was previously posted by Huffington Post
By Herb Silverman
Founder and president of the Secular Coalition for America.
With the exception of Sen. Bernie Sanders, all presidential candidates in both parties bring their Christian beliefs into the campaign. Some Republicans even base their campaign positions on what they believe God wants for America.
This is especially true of Dr. Ben Carson, whose view of the world never ceases to amaze me. It’s hard to decide which is his most ridiculous pronouncement: no abortions ever, even for rape or incest (but, maybe, in cases where the life of the mother is at stake); equating abortion to slavery and the Holocaust; equating Obamacare to slavery; asserting that there might not have been a Holocaust had Jews defended themselves with guns.
And now there’s Carson’s recent proposal to turn the Department of Education into an investigative body to monitor biased political speech by professors on university campuses. So much for our First Amendment guarantee of free speech or the concept of academic freedom. (I was a math professor who never discussed politics in my classroom, so a Secular Progressive like me probably would not be investigated by a Department of Education under a President Carson.)
Carson and many other conservative Christians think America is or should be a Christian nation, and claim their religious freedom is under attack whenever they must obey the same nondiscrimination laws required of other religions and atheists.
We can tell how much discrimination there is against Christians in this country by how many politicians are in the closet about being Christian and how many proclaim during their campaigns how proud they are to be atheists. Perhaps instead of an Openly Secular campaign, whose goal is to favorably change the public’s perspective of atheists, someone should start an “Openly Christian” campaign.
Now here’s my candidate for the most ridiculous statement of Ben Carson:
I get that Carson does not like positions taken by Sanders and other Secular Progressives, a category that has recently earned capital letters thanks to people like Carson. But I was totally astonished by his startling pronouncement that he thinks he is in great danger and needs Secret Service protection because he believes he challenges the Secular Progressive movement to its very core.
I acknowledge that presidential candidates need protection from the many lunatics in this country who would like to become famous by killing a well-known person. And I fully support giving Carson, as a leading candidate in presidential polls, Secret Service protection. But I’m taken aback, and more than a little worried, by his stated reason for his request.
Where to begin? Whether you agree or disagree with Secular Progressives, this is the first time I’ve heard them accused, even indirectly, of being violent. Sure, they may challenge Carson on just about all the political positions he takes. We may express utter astonishment that a brain surgeon, of all people, can ignore overwhelming evidence for evolution.
But … killing people we disagree with?
Sadly, this has all the trappings of carefully crafted propaganda, starring Carson as a brave patriot willing to put his life on the line for his beliefs and caricaturing his political opponents as extremists so dangerous and without scruples they would kill for theirs.
Secular Progressives like me don’t take Carson seriously and aren’t worried that the country will elect him president. Carson has about as much a chance of becoming president as Sen. Lindsay Graham, the candidate from my home state of South Carolina. For the record, that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of slim and none.
But I do worry about a Republican Party that puts a Carson at or near the top of the polls, a party in which almost half the people would like to see this country become a Christian theocracy. Now that’s Scary with a capital S.
Herb Silverman is founder and president of the Secular Coalition for America. He is a board member of the American Humanist Association and an advisory board member of the Secular Student Alliance. His latest book is “Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt.”