GOP presidential hopeful Carson discusses Constitution before Rock Hill visit

Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson will hold a book-signing Saturday in Rock Hill.
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson will hold a book-signing Saturday in Rock Hill. AP

The Constitution of the United States isn’t brain surgery.

That’s the basic message behind “A More Perfect Union,” a book that author Ben Carson hopes will tell his reader, as the subtitle puts it, “what we the people can do to reclaim our constitutional liberties.”

Carson admits up front he’s no constitutional scholar. His expertise and most of his fame come from being a pediatric neurosurgeon, although his conservative political views have propelled him to the forefront of the GOP presidential race. But while surgery is complicated, Carson views the supreme law of the land as sublimely simple.

“That’s the wonderful thing about the Constitution, it’s written in a way that people can understand,” Carson said in a phone interview with the Herald. “There are those who want you to think it’s so complex you can’t understand it, but if you read it, it’s written at an eighth-grade level.”

Carson will be in Rock Hill on Saturday to sign copies of the book at Books-A-Million in Manchester Village between noon and 3 p.m.

“A More Perfect Union” hits on the hot-button issues of the day: same-sex marriage, the right to bear arms, birthright citizenship for the children of immigrants and religious liberty.

Carson is adamantly opposed to the Supreme Court’s June decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the country, ruling that the equitable application of marriage law is a question of “equal protection of the laws” under the Fourteenth Amendment. But the doctor says the people’s vote in states that had banned recognition of gay marriage shouldn’t be ignored by federal courts.

“The reason we address civil issues at the state and local level is because it’s a question of lifestyle,” and local officials will be more in tune with locals’ views on such sensitive issues than federal ones. “They can decide what’s most compatible with their belief system, and someone else shouldn’t impose their will on them.”

If that means gay couples can only wed in certain states, “that’s why we have 50 states. Some will say, ‘Come one, come all, we love you,’ and others will say, ‘We prefer to live our lives this way.’”

Another part of the Fourteenth Amendment that Carson has spoken against is the requirement that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States ... are citizens of the United States.” This “birthright citizenship” clause has received pushback from conservatives when applied to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

Carson believes Congress should set stricter guidelines on how to “interpret” the clause, based on language in Section 5 of the amendment that “The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

That would allow, Carson claims, for a simple federal statute to say, “If the parents are not here legally, their child is not an American.”

In the aftermath of the mass shooting at a community college in Oregon, Carson says he wouldn’t have a problem with new gun regulations as long as they don’t compromise Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Stronger background checks would not violate the Second Amendment, he said, but Carson believes it would be a violation for gun laws to target certain weapons “as long as they are acquired legally.”

While in the religious liberty section of “A More Perfect Union,” Carson spells out that “government positions should not be denied to anyone because of their religious affiliation, nor should any particular religious litmus test by applied,” Carson has come under fire recently for saying he couldn’t support a Muslim president. He doesn’t see a contradiction between the two.

“I’ve been very clear that it’s not illegal and I don’t advocate changes (to the Constitution),” Carson said, but he says he “can not support someone who has a different value system.”

“If they reject the tenets of Islam, the hadith, the fatwas, they would need to reject that stuff and embrace the Constitution,” he said.

Carson says his comments aren’t specific to Islam but are applicable to any worldview that challenges the central tenets of America’s founding document.

“Does anyone believe it’s OK for someone to be president if their beliefs are not trumped by the Constitution?”

Bristow Marchant: 803-329-4062, @BristowatHome

Want to go?

What: GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson signing copies of his book, “A More Perfect Union.”

Where: Manchester Village Books-A-Million, 540 John Ross Parkway.

When: Noon to 3 p.m. Saturday.