On Tuesday, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain dropped by Glenn Beckâ€™s radio program to argue that his previous promise to not appoint any Muslims to his Cabinet had been â€œmisconstrued.â€ As he put it: â€œI did not say that I would not have them in my cabinet. If you look at my career, I have hired good people regardless of race, religion, sex gender, orientation, and this kind of thing.â€
Cainâ€™s position now is that only radical Muslims would be prohibited from serving in his administration. That sounds reasonable. Except he told Laura Ingraham in April that heâ€™s never met a Muslim who didnâ€™t fit his definition of a radicalâ€”and in the same interview, alleged that Rep. Keith Ellison (Dâ€“Minn.), whoâ€™s Muslim, has pledged his loyalty to Allah, not the Constitution. But even if Cainâ€™s original statement, and subsequent defenses of it, were misconstrued, he still hasnâ€™t adequately explained the rest of what he told Think Progress back in April.
When asked for examples of the â€œcreeping attempt…to gradually easeâ€ Islamic sharia law into the American judicial system he explained:
One judge did it up in New Jersey, and ruled in a case. Then last week we heard about a judge down in was it Texas? It might have been Texas where a judge said there was a dispute in a mosque and he was gonna consider â€˜eclesiasticalâ€™ law in his deliberations, because of a dispute that was going on inside a mosque. This is the United States of America. Just because itâ€™s going on inside a mosque doesnt mean you execute the laws based on whatâ€™s going on in the [mosque].â€
Cain is right: This is the United States of America. But everything else here is inaccurate. In the civil case in questionâ€”which was in Florida, not Texasâ€”the judge (a Republican) ruled that he was going to use â€œecclesiasticalâ€ law because both parties had agreed, per their mutually agreed-upon contract, to settle their dispute through ecclesiastical Islamic law, in the form of a Muslim arbitrator. Thatâ€™s totally normal; Christians and Jews also take advantage of independent arbitrators to settle disputes. If the government were to ban the use of such forums, it would mark a dramatic encroachment on the First Amendmentâ€™s freedom of religionâ€”Iâ€™m fairly certain that Herman Cain doesnâ€™t want to run for President on the platform of restricting Christiansâ€™ free speech rights. The actual trial, the judge noted, would be conducted according to Florida civil law; he was simply assessing whether the arbitration process had been handled properly.
Anyone can make a gaffe, which is how Cain is spinning his â€œno Muslimsâ€ comment. But the more serious problem isnâ€™t that Cain misspoke; itâ€™s that he has taken an extreme, unconstitutional position based on a conspiracy theory that could have been debunked in 30 seconds.