Over the past three weeks, a troubling trend has emerged among Republican presidential candidates. In the wake of the heartbreaking terrorist attacks on Paris, even moderate contenders for the GOP nomination have overreacted in their haste to score partisan political points at the expense of the Constitution and interfaith understanding. As ever, we should take care not to allow our horror and fear at terrorism turn to hatred and discrimination. Conflating ISIS and Islam is easy, but it is also wrong. Islamophobic views have no place in our national discourse.
Yet sadly, these views are precisely what we see from too many candidates. Donald Trump has made an escalating series of offensive remarks, first in favor of government surveillance of mosques, then in support of a database and special ID card for Muslims. We find these ideas entirely objectionable. They fundamentally infringe upon our foundational right to worship freely, instead singling out a religious minority for special and unfair treatment. These measures go beyond bad policy: They run counter to American values and our way of life.
Just as troubling as his Islamophobia is Mr. Trump’s seeming lack of original views. Presidential candidates should be running because they have ideas and a vision for this country. Instead, Donald Trump makes the news by agreeing to an absurd series of hypothetical questions from reporters. For a man constantly touting his ability and willingness to stand up to Vladimir Putin and ISIS, Trump's failure to stand up to probing questions from a Yahoo News reporter is striking.
Unfortunately, Mr. Trump is not alone in his Islamophobia. Ohio Governor John Kasich recently called for the government to set up a new agency to promote “Judeo-Christian values.” Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush argued that the Obama Administration should screen Syrian refugees via a religious test—under his plan, only Christians would be permitted to come to the United States. These views may not be quite as reprehensible as Mr. Trump’s, but they are just as un-American. They run counter to our nation's belief, grounded in its Constitution, in the basic human right to practice any religion or none at all.
When even mainstream and moderate candidates espouse these views, it is a sad day for the Republican Party. It is also a sad day for our country, where millions stand behind the thoughtlessness and intolerance. Just as the road to the White House should be trod by people better than these, as citizens of the United States we should also be better—responding with respect for all faiths, and rejecting the candidates who refuse to meet that bar.
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