First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
(Martin Niemöller, Germany, 1946)
It’s the U.S. presidential election season, and the question of the religion of a candidate as related to being able to be president has come up. It is rare that this type of topic would come up in a U.S. election, but someone has raised this topic. Someone famous and well-known.
This person stated that if someone belongs to a certain religion then one should not vote for him or her because he or she belongs to this religion. In fact, this person felt so strongly about his view, that he found others who shared his view and they even made a collective statement sharing this view. He stated that if a person of this religion is elected, then “our culture is at stake.”, and that such an election, “might even end free speech in America.”
For those who follow the news, you know who I’m talking about – correct? Dr. Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, who stated, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” He was asked if a candidate’s faith should matter and his response was, “I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem.” When then asked if Islam is consistent with the Constitution, Carson said: “No, I don’t — I do not.”
But I am not talking about Dr. Carson. The person I’m talking about made these statements quite a few years ago. He was a religious leader and a best-selling author. His most famous book was on the New York Times bestseller list for 156 weeks, and sold over 5 million copies. The book is “The Power of Positive Thinking” and the person I am talking about is Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.
Dr. Peale made the above statements about one of the presidential candidates, and was vocal that this candidate should not be elected president because of his religion. The reaction? Outrage. Religious leaders from all faiths immediately condemned his statements, and so did all major political leaders. He was dropped as a columnist from a dozen newspapers, and he even resigned his pulpit.
History lecturer and author S. M. Sigerson stated, “A nation which fails to adequately remember salient points of its own history, is like a person with Alzheimer’s. And that can be a social disease of a most destructive nature.” Let’s not have Alzheimer’s. Let’s remember the past, learn from it, and continue to fight to eliminate prejudice.
Oh – by the way – the candidate who Dr. Norman Vincent Peale spoke against eventually won the election. His name: John Fitzgerald Kennedy.