What Ben Carson's Latest Book Tells Us About Political Correctness, Religious Freedom

The Republican candidate's campaign offers an explanation for the uproar caused by his remarks on whether a Muslim could be president.

Republican Ben Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, speaks as he officially announces his candidacy for president of the United States at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts on May 4, 2015, in Detroit.

Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Political correctness and Ben Carson do not mix. 

Over the weekend, Carson found himself under fire for declaring that he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” On Monday, Carson's business manager said the former neurosurgeon would not apologize for that statement, and, in part, blamed political correctness for the ensuing uproar over it. 

“He was thinking like someone who loves America first, who wants to protect America. He understands that there are tenets of Islam that hates Jews, will kill homosexuals, will kill Muslims, do not advocate belief and value systems that made America into the country that it is today,” Armstrong Williams said on CNN's New Day. “Dr. Carson was asked his opinion. His opinion was, the timing at this point, he would not vote for a Muslim in the White House. This is why he's not a politician. This is why he's not trying to be politically correct. This is America. It's a place of freedom of speech.”

On the campaign trail, Carson has frequently bemoaned political correctness in American society. In his latest book, One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future, Carson describes it as a scourge that prevents Americans from truly achieving unity, and goes after those who he believes are guilty of practicing it as the “Political Correctness Police,” which he shortens to “the PCP.” Carson writes: 

Many well-meaning Americans have bought into the PC speech code, thinking that by being extra careful not to offend anyone we will achieve unity. What they fail to realize is that this is a false unity that prevents us from talking about important issues and is a Far Left strategy to paralyze us while they change our nation. People have been led to become so sensitive that fault can be found in almost anything anyone says because somewhere, somehow, someone will be offended by it.

To stop this,  Americans need to recognize what is happening, speak up courageously, avoid fearful or angry response, and ignore the barking and snarling as we put political correctness to bed forever. This is the reason why I choose to continue speaking out despite the many efforts of the secular progressives to discredit and silence me. It is also the reason why I continue to encourage Americans to stand up for the freedoms that were hard-won and must be preserved if we are to remain a free society. 

At the same time, however, a passage on religious freedom comes just a few pages after the bit about the PCP. In that part of the book, Carson mentions Islamic extremists, comparing them to Christian crusaders of the Middle Ages, and says that both of those kinds of religious expression are unacceptable. But then he goes on to say (focusing on Christianity) that non-violent religious expression should be tolerated. Carson writes:

Whether or not one likes Christianity or any other religion is not the point however. our Constitutional Bill of Rights states that 'Congress can make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' In other words, our government should not support particular denominations or religious groups, but neither should it prevent anyone form expressing their religion.  

Of course, in the wake of his comments, many of Carson's presidential rivals have also pointed to the Constitution to illustrate why his initial remarks were so off key. 

Carson's forthcoming book, A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties, will also, apparently, deal with the questions of how Americans police political speech and practice their religious beliefs. It contains the following passage:

"As someone who has performed brain surgery thousands of times, I can assure you that the Constitution isn't brain surgery ... In our age of political correctness it's especially important to defend the Bill of Rights, which guarantees our freedom to speak, bear arms, practice our religion, and much more."