David Barton rarely lets an opportunity go by to bash President Obama. His response to Obama’s news conference on Syrian refugees is a case in point.
Barton took issue with Obama’s criticism of calls for the U.S. to use a religious test to determine which Syrian refugees could enter the country, saying Obama’s use of the term “religious test” was an allusion to the Constitution. In an email to supporters, Barton said:
Presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz recommended that America accept only Christian refugees from Syria, but President Obama flatly dismissed that proposal, explaining:
When I hear folks say that, well, “Maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims” — when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted. . . that’s shameful.
The President’s allusion to a “religious test” is a reference to Article VI of the Constitution, which says:
. . . no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
President Obama, once again, has completely rewritten the simple wording of the Constitution to make it say something it does not. As is evident from the clear wording above, the “religious test” clause applies only to federally elected and appointed officials, and that’s all. It does not apply to immigrants or anyone who does not hold federal office.
Actually, Obama’s response to the religious issues involved was quite balanced. He did not link a religious test to get into the nation with the Constitution and he called on Muslims of good will to condemn radical groups claiming to speak for Islam. Regarding religious tests for refugees, Obama said:
And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution — that’s shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.
When Pope Francis came to visit the United States, and gave a speech before Congress, he didn’t just speak about Christians who were being persecuted. He didn’t call on Catholic parishes just to admit to those who were of the same religious faith. He said, protect people who are vulnerable.
And if we want to be successful at defeating ISIL, that’s a good place to start — by not promoting that kind of ideology, that kind of attitude. In the same way that the Muslim community has an obligation not to in any way excuse anti-Western or anti-Christian sentiment, we have the same obligation as Christians. And we are — it is good to remember that the United States does not have a religious test, and we are a nation of many peoples of different faiths, which means that we show compassion to everybody. Those are the universal values we stand for. And that’s what my administration intends to stand for.
Nowhere did Obama say that religious tests for refugees are unconstitutional. His reference to religious tests was a reference to a more general principle that America has historically valued freedom of conscience and equal treatment for all people.
Even though Obama stuck up for equal treatment, he called on Muslims to address the radical elements which claim to speak for Islam.
Now, what is also true is, is that the most vicious terrorist organizations at the moment are ones that claim to be speaking on behalf of true Muslims. And I do think that Muslims around the world — religious leaders, political leaders, ordinary people — have to ask very serious questions about how did these extremist ideologies take root, even if it’s only affecting a very small fraction of the population. It is real and it is dangerous. And it has built up over time, and with social media it has now accelerated.
And so I think, on the one hand, non-Muslims cannot stereotype, but I also think the Muslim community has to think about how we make sure that children are not being infected with this twisted notion that somehow they can kill innocent people and that that is justified by religion. And to some degree, that is something that has to come from within the Muslim community itself. And I think there have been times where there has not been enough pushback against extremism. There’s been pushback — there are some who say, well, we don’t believe in violence, but are not as willing to challenge some of the extremist thoughts or rationales for why Muslims feel oppressed. And I think those ideas have to be challenged.
Obama should be commended for calling Muslim leaders to lead the way in condemning violence perpetrated in the name of their religion. Instead, Barton strikes out on behalf of his favored GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz by doing the very thing he accuses Obama of doing.