Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Q&A: Would you be comfortable?

It's time once again for my opportunity to answer the questions that no one has asked me.   As I watch the news, I often wonder what I would have said under similar circumstances.  I'm lucky because I have weeks to think about my answer. 

Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, is currently making a stir in the race for the GOP presidential nomination.  Personally, I find Cain a compelling figure.  I like his biography and his experience.  I've never been a CEO, but I've run a pizza restaurant.  I have no problem with a president who once asked, "thin or deep dish?"

The question that Cain received was, "Would you be comfortable appointing a Muslim to your cabinet or as a federal judge?"  What we receive here is only an excerpt.  Both the questioner and Cain suggest a prior conversation about the role of Islam in American society.  I can't help to think that something is missing something from the conversation.  Cain certainly looks annoyed with the questioner.  Giving Cain the benefit of the doubt, I was still perplexed with his answer.

Herman Cain emphatically states that he would not appoint a Muslim.  He then states that he is concerned about the imposition of Sharia law on American society.  I certainly wouldn't want that either.  As a Christian, I am very quick to point out that I reject the main tenets of the Islamic faith.  Nonetheless, religious bodies in the United States use their own law to regulate the life of the community.  However, there are limits to the freedom of religion.  For example, recently an appeals court in New Jersey overturned a state judge who accepted Sharia law as an excuse for marital rape.  I would suspect that the judge probably knew as little as I do about Sharia.

A president should only appoint those who he or she believes will be faithful to the U.S. Constitution and the law.  Also, I would hope that a president would inquire into how the Constitution should be interpreted.  The question is really about living and working within a pluralistic society. 

Here's my response to the question:
Q:  Would you be comfortable appointing a Muslim to your cabinet or as a federal judge?

A:  A president never appoints generic categories to positions of authority.  Each person has a name, a character, a background, particular beliefs, and talents.  These individuals will be thoroughly vetted, and I will only make the appointment if I am comfortable that they will uphold the constitution of the United States.