False Prophets

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you’ve probably noticed that I have no use for people who substitute fiction for fact. I don’t mind if someone disagrees with me and wants to argue about it. However, if that argument is based on falsehoods, you’re wasting your time.
It’s one thing to share your opinion. For example, you might say that Johnny Unitas is the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL. I’d probably be tempted to come back with Joe Montana’s career stats. We’d likely spar back and forth a bit and never reach a real consensus because we’re both offering opinions from our individual perspectives.
It would be different if you said Johnny Unitas had more passing touchdowns than Joe Montana. In that case, you would be able to go to the record books and show me the facts. [Note: Unitas is #9 in TD completions. Montana is #11.] See the difference? Instead of relying on your emotions which can skew your thinking, stating your case with solid evidence — real facts that can be proven without a doubt — is the way to win an argument.
It’s really that simple: if you stake your reputation on a specific matter, make sure you’ve got your facts straight. As it is with sports chatter, so it is with politics, religion, and any other topic of discussion.
I mentioned politics and religion because it’s clear that many people are willing to go to great lengths to use one to influence the other. Such is the case with many prominent entertainers in those two realms.
Take for example Dr. Ben Carson, a truly gifted neurosurgeon and political neophyte, who recently was a guest on the Sunday morning talk show circuit. He used the occasion of his Meet the Press interview to let it be known that he thinks people of certain faiths should not be elected President of the United States. Specifically, he said, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” Notice that Dr. Carson wasn’t talking about anyone specifically… giving reasons why the actions and attitudes of a named individual would disqualify that person from holding office. No, Carson is suggesting that you should withhold your vote solely based upon a candidate’s religion. Why? Because Carson thinks that, when it comes to a candidate’s faith, “…if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem.”
Carson — and anyone who agrees with him on this point — is arguing that there needs to be a method of determining a person’s qualifications for elected office based upon religion. And while Carson is entitled to his opinion, the fact is clear: the Founders of this nation rejected that notion. Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution includes this key phrase: no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. Essentially, no one’s faith is ever to be used to challenge his ability to serve. Equally important, no one’s faith is ever to be used to give a candidate an easier pathway to office. Try telling that to the television preachers who lead their followers in prayers calling for misfortune and death to fall upon their political opponents.

It is discouraging that people like Dr. Carson will declare their devotion to the Constitution while also being so horribly ignorant to what the document has to say. But then, it’s not that surprising, since we live in an age where it’s becoming commonplace to hear someone claim that their religious beliefs grant them authority over others.
The Constitution does grant a certain collection of rights to you and me, but it’s up to us to understand the limits to those rights. As free speech advocate Zechariah Chafee Jr wrote: “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.”   
Dr. Carson is not alone. The current presidential campaign has several hopefuls who are pandering to extremists. making promises to impose some form of legal framework that would regulate many aspects of both public and private life based upon religious tenets.
Gee, that sounds a lot like Sharia law, doesn’t it?
(Originally published in the Morrisons Cove Herald October 1, 2015.)

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