Ministers plan protest against Carson visit

Ministers plan protest against Carson visit
September 24
00:00 2015

By Donna Rogers and Todd Luck

The Chronicle

“Every American should be disturbed,” said U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, in a tweet on Sunday, Sept. 20. He was referring to the anti-Muslim comments made by Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

According to, Carson, responding to a question, said, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

Carson, who is considered a frontrunner among the Republicans, also said that Islam, as a religion, is incompatible with the Constitution.

“If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter,” he clarified.

Keith Ellison is a Muslim.

The Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity (MCWS&V) is disturbed and plans to do something about it. Carson is coming to Winston-Salem on Tuesday, Sept. 29. The Conference is planning to protest his visit because of his comments.

“That is religious bigotry,” Bishop Todd Fulton, president of the (MCWS&V), said Tuesday, Sept. 22. “Those who are conservative are using hate mongering to keep us divided. There are those who are very strategic about using religion to keep us divided.”

He said the Conference is in the process of organizing a grassroots protest.

“We definitely plan to protest because the freedom of religion is a founding principle of our nation,” Fulton said. He said the Conference is trying to build unity while certain elements are working against that.

Dr. Ronnie L. Baity, pastor and founder of Berean Baptist Church, said he was looking forward to the visit from the Carson campaign. Carson will be speaking at his church, which is at 4135 Thomasville Road.

“We are honored to host them here,” he said. “It’s not an endorsement; it’s an opportunity for people to hear him and make up their own mind. It’s a time for him to meet the people and for the people to meet him.”

Baity said it was Return America, an organization he founded in 2006 to “stand up for Judeo/Christian values,” that caught the attention of the Carson campaign when they contacted his church months ago. Return America has been active against efforts to stop Christian prayer in county commissioner meetings and to support the state’s amendment to ban gay marriage, which has since been deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Berean is no small church. It has its own radio station, WPIP 880 AM, and a K-12 Christian School.  But it’s had so many people reserve seats for the Carson visit that it surpasses the church’s capacity to seat 1,200-1,500. The church will use a screen and speakers  for an overflow crowd outside the church, for those who bring their own lawn chairs.

“I think Ben Carson is popular, along with some other candidates, because they’re outsiders,” said Baity. “I think America is tired of the inside politics that specializes in getting nothing done.”

Baity felt Carson’s comments on Muslims were taken out of context.

“He clarified unless the person could embrace our Constitution and follow our Constitution, whether it be a Muslim or whether it be a Christian, he couldn’t support them.”

Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, on Monday, Sept. 21, said on Fox News that he was referring to Muslims who had not rejected Islamic Sharia law.

“We don’t put people at the head of our country whose faith might interfere with them carrying out the duties of the Constitution,” he the told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “If you’re a Christian and you’re running for president and you want to make this [country] into a theocracy, I’m not going to support you. I’m not going to advocate you being the president.

“Now, if someone has a Muslim background, and they’re willing to reject those tenets and to accept the way of life that we have, and clearly will swear to place our Constitution above their religion, then of course they will be considered infidels and heretics, but at least I would then be quite willing to support them,” Carson added.

Baity said he did agree with Carson that Sharia was against the Constitution.

“But Sharia law and constitutional law are at odds with each other. There’s no way they can co-exist, and that’s what he was saying,” he said. “When women are told by the Sharia law that they can’t get out of their house unless they have a male escort and when they’re treated like slaves and secondhand citizens, that’s not American. And for a Muslim to become president and uphold the Sharia law, which decries America itself, the person would be at odds with himself if he believed in Sharia law because Sharia law calls us the infidels and they want to destroy us along with Israel.”

At a forum held earlier this year on Sharia, local Muslims said Sharia was not incompatible with the United States or its laws. Sharia is a moral code and religious laws taken from the Quaran and the example of the Prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. Panelists like Imam Khalid Griggs of the Community Mosque said that it doesn’t justify terrorist attacks or extremism practiced by radicals like Al Qaeda and ISIS. They said laws in North Carolina and around the country designed to ban Sharia to “protect” the Constitution is stoking fear and false stereotypes of Muslims. Such laws have been opposed by the American Civil Liberty Union and the American Bar Association, among others.

Fulton said that for Carson to make those statements as a presidential candidate “says that he would not be fair to Muslim Americans. And if we can’t trust him to be fair to Muslim Americans, we can’t trust him to be fair to African-Americans.”

Eric Ellison, president of the Forsyth County Democratic Party, is Keith Ellison’s brother. He said Carson’s comments show “his unfitness to be president of the United States.

“Freedom of religion is who we are,” Eric Ellison said. “We should be allowed to live the American Dream.”

He said there should not be a litmus test for a candidate based on religion, race or other such factors.

“Once we start putting a litmus test on people, it just works against them,” Eric Ellison said.

Eric Ellison said his brother has gone on to do a great job as a representative from Minnesota.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who was out of the country on Tuesday, left a message on his Facebook page to Carson and fellow Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who also has an issue with a Muslim president:

“The freedom of religion is a founding principle of our nation. Our Constitution gives this right to all Americans – including elected officials. 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 fear mongering to benefit their campaigns, and every American should be disturbed that these national figures are engaging in and tolerating blatant acts of religious bigotry.”

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