Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz said that his GOP rival Ben Carson was flat-out wrong to say that a Muslim would not qualify to serve in the Oval Office because Islam goes against U.S. values.
Cruz, a Texas Republican, said during a taping of an Iowa Public Television show that basing qualifications for a president on religion is unconstitutional.
“You know, the Constitution specifies there shall be no religious test for public office, and I am a constitutionalist,” Cruz said.
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who in recent weeks has commanded a strong showing in GOP voter polls, has come under fire for saying on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that a Muslim should not be president of the United States because his or her religion would contradict this nation’s core values.
“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that,” Carson said.
Attitudes towards Muslims became a focal point of the presidential campaign in recent days after a member of the crowd at a rally for Donald Trump said that Muslims were a problem in the United States and identified President Barack Obama as being Muslim.
Trump did not challenge the man’s anti-Muslim assertions and incorrect depiction of the president’s faith, drawing criticism from many.
Trump later said he was not referring to all Muslims and said he knew of many upstanding adherents of that faith.
Cruz did not take issue with Trump’s handling of the anti-Muslim remark.
“My view, listen. The president’s faith is between him and God. What I’m going to focus on is his public policy record,” Cruz said.
Cruz has refused to criticize Trump’s many controversial remarks during his presidential appearances, which have included swipes at Mexico, Mexican-Americans, presidential hopeful Jeb Bush’s use of Spanish on the campaign trail, women and U.S. Sen. John McCain’s time as a political prisoner, among other subjects.
Cruz, in fact, has made an effort to ally himself with the real estate mogul, inviting him to go with him to the U.S.-Mexico border – a trip which the senator was unable to go on – and recently to a rally in Washington, D.C., to oppose the Iran nuclear deal.
Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, at his annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration recently, took aim at controversial comments by GOP candidates.
"I want to be very clear, we are not going to build any walls," Menendez said. "We are going to build bridges. We will make sure our community is not given second-class citizenship – not now, not ever. We will not accept mass deportations of millions. And we will never allow our U.S.-born children to be denied their citizenship in the world’s most powerful country.”
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