Carson Challenges Congress to Step Up on Religious Liberty

Dr. Ben Carson (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)
Dr. Ben Carson (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Ben Carson made a great point during his speech on Friday at a National Press Club luncheon.  While on the topic of the Constitution, Carson honed in on the importance of separation of powers in the federal government and how constitutional checks and balances are slowly being eroded, due in large part to inaction by Congress:

But I want to touch on some of the aspects of America that I touched on in the book, like the balance of powers, the check and balance system, the separation of powers. I believe this is so vitally important. And it was a touch of genius by our Founders because they recognized that each branch — executive, judicial and legislative — would want to maintain their power. And therefore, they would push back against excesses in the other branches.

And that works extraordinarily well in a government like we have when they all are exercising their power appropriately. Unfortunately, we have a legislative branch that really acts more like a peanut gallery. You know, they sort of sit there and watch what the others do, sometimes complain about it, but really don’t offer any resistance, because they’re afraid somebody might blame them. News flash, they’re going to get blamed anyway. So what they really ought to be thinking about is: how do they get involved and be more proactive?

Carson then pointed to a particular example of this inaction: the failure of Congress to pass any protections for religious liberty following the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling.

[T]he legislative branch, however, I would have thought would have been already prepared with legislation in case the Supreme Court came down with that decision, to make sure we preserve the rights, the religious rights of everybody. Not everybody agrees with their new definition of marriage. And it’s a conviction and a religious conviction. And they need to make sure that they protect people’s religious rights. They’ve been Johnny-Come-Lately, but I call upon Congress to do that now, because there are people who are losing their jobs, their livelihood. And it’s not fair. That’s not what America was supposed to be.

But, unless all the branches of government are functioning the right way, these are the kinds of things that happen, because there will be overreach by any of the branches, because they’re composed of people and people are not perfect. But that’s why we have the counterbalance in order to be able to rectify the situation, because one group may not take into consideration the ramifications of what they are doing.

Also, the Constitution indicates that, you know, civil issues really should be dealt with at the local level, at the state level. There was a reason for that. It was because the legislators and the judiciary at the local level are subject to the will of the people. The people vote them in, the people vote them out. And our Founders felt that the people should be the ones who determine how things worked and the standards by which they lived.

When you take those issues and you bump them up to a level where the people making the decisions have no obligation whatsoever to the people, then you wind up with an oligarchy type government. That was not what the Founders intended for America. So we are somehow going to have to look into ways to rebalance that, because if we continue down that pathway, you can see how virtually everything that they intended will be upset. We don’t want that to happen.

Carson shows a good grasp of the issue here.  By abdicating its responsibility to take decisive action on religious liberty, Congress has left the issue in the hands of the other branches of government, particularly the judicial branch.  This has exacerbated an already problematic trend in which the Supreme Court continues to overstep its authority—as it did in Obergefell—with no meaningful pushback from the other branches.  This represents a breakdown of the Constitution’s separation of powers and a movement towards, as Carson puts it, “an oligarchic type of government.”

Carson also points out, correctly, that the clear losers are the American people.  The more authority the judicial branch assumes, the less liberty citizens have for self-government at local levels.  And while Congress continues its inaction, people across the country are being legally harassed, and some have even lost their jobs and livelihoods, because of their refusals to compromise their consciences.

The issue of religious liberty is too important to simply be left up to unelected judges.  The time is now for Congress to heed Carson’s call to action.  Passing something like the First Amendment Defense Act would be a good start.

Paul Dupont is the managing editor for ThePulse2016.com.