Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, currently running third in the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary race, says he’s not sure if Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion apply to the followers of the world’s second-largest faith, Islam.
At a recent event in Hamilton County, Ramsey was asked by a man in the audience about the “threat that’s invading our country from the Muslims.” Ramsey proclaimed his support for the Constitution and the whole “Congress shall make no law” thing when it comes to religion. But he also said that Islam, arguably, is less a faith than it is a “cult.”
“Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult whatever you want to call it,” Ramsey said. “Now certainly we do protect our religions, but at the same time this is something we are going to have to face.”
The question, Ramsey mused, was related to the simmering topic of a new Muslim community center scheduled to be built in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Ramsey, like many conservatives weighing in on the debate, mistakenly confused the center with a mosque — which Murfreesboro already has — and then proceeded to foment fears that Sharia saw would be practiced by Muslims there.
“Now, you know, I’m all about freedom of religion. I value the First Amendment as much as I value the Second Amendment as much as I value the Tenth Amendment and on and on and on,” he said. “But you cross the line when they try to start bringing Sharia Law here to the state of Tennessee — to the United States. We live under our Constitution and they live under our Constitution.”
The community center (and Republican Congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik’s merciless attacks on it) has become a hot topic in Tennessee, and it’s likely that the man in the audience was referring to the community center when he asked his question. But it’s also worth noting the question the man actually asked when considering Ramsey’s answer.
“We’ve got a threat that’s invading our country from the Muslims,” the man said. “What’s your stand?”
Today, Ramsey gave me an answer to that question that channeled Sarah Palin’s Twitter feed.
“My concern is that far too much of Islam has come to resemble a violent political philosophy more than peace-loving religion,” he said in an email. “It’s time for American Muslims who love this country to publicly renounce violent jihadism and to drum those who seek to do America harm out of their faith community.”
Check out Ramsey’s fresh interpretation of how the Constitution applies to Islam from the recent Hamilton County event below. The Islam stuff starts at 3:10. (Note: the video, which was first posted by the Nashville Scene appears to have an edit after the end of Ramsey’s answer about Muslims, though the full answer appears to be included and the Ramsey camp took no issue with the clip when I asked for comment on it.)
Note: This post was updated to include Ramsey’s email response to the video clip.