Thursday, June 9, 2011
There is a lot to like about Republican presidential aspirant Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza. He is genuinely pro-life and pro-marriage; he has personally triumphed over poverty and racism; he has extensive experience as an entrepreneur and businessman, and is credited with restoring a failing company to profitability. It is being reported, however, that in comments made to Glenn Beck, Mr. Cain said that though he would permit Muslims to serve in his administration, he would demand of them a degree of "loyalty proof" that he would not demand of Catholics, Mormons, and members of other faiths. If his words are being reported accurately, what he said is wrong, foolish, and unacceptable. It is disrespectful of Muslims, the vast majority of whom in our country are, as Cain himself seems to acknowledge, loyal, honorable citizens; and it is incompatible with a sound understanding of religious freedom (and with the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution's no-religious-tests clause). It puts Cain in a camp with Martha Coakley, the hapless Massachusetts Democrat who, when running against Scott Brown for the United States Senate, infamously said that devout Catholics should not work in emergency rooms inasmuch as they are unwilling to be involved in providing contraceptives and abortions. That is a place Mr. Cain surely does not want to be. Now is his chance to show that he is the kind of man who is willing to admit a mistake and make things right. I hope that he will reflect on what he said and, at the first possible opportunity, repudiate the idea that Muslim citizens are to be held to standards of "loyalty proof" higher than those to which other citizens are held. He should make clear that, if elected President, he will hold possible appointees to his administration to exactly the same standards, irrespective of their religious faith. That would be the right thing to do. It would, moreover, be the American thing to do.