The Constitution is kind of a big deal. It helps remind us of our rights to things like free speech, freedom of assembly and, oh yeah, freedom of religion.
That last one appears to have slipped the minds of some Iowans, who voted "yes" when asked in a recent poll if they thought Islam should be illegal in the United States.
Capping a week when Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson set off a firestorm after suggesting a Muslim should not be allowed to be president, the results of a new Public Policy Polling survey are kind of alarming.
When (an admittedly modest sampling of) 488 Iowans described as "usual Republican primary voters" were asked if Islam should be legal in the country, just 49% answered "yes." Thirty percent said the religion should not be legal, and 21% weren't sure.
Among those supporting Donald Trump, 36% said Islam should be banned while 38% said it should not. When it came to supporters of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, 100% of responders said the religion should be illegal, in comparison with 6% of those backing Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
What's Going On Here?
Justin Mayhew, a communications specialist with PPP, told MTV News that the question was mixed in with other more innocuous queries about which candidates Republican voters favor in the upcoming primary, along with a number of other issues-based questions.
"We asked in a national poll in August whether Republican primary voters thought Barack Obama was born in the United States and whether he was a Christian or a Muslim," Mayhew said, noting that those questions were spurred by ongoing suggestions by several GOP presidential candidates that President Obama is not a Christian and the refuses-to-die conspiracy theory that he was born in Kenya.
Since then, in response to Carson's suggestion that a) he would not want a Muslim to be president and then b) that what he meant was that if a Muslim were elected president that person would have to renounce the tenets of their faith first, PPP added the new question about whether Islam should even be legal in the country.
(Reminder: The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.")
"The question about whether Islam should be legal is a direct product of the conversation around Ben Carson," Mayhew said. "Am I surprised? Based on the results we've seen over the last month on questions about President Obama's religion I'm not surprised. Mostly because I think when people say Barack Obama is a Muslim they just want to say something bad about Obama and take any opportunity to criticize him."
Mayhew also pointed out what he called the "cognitive dissonance" in the question in light of the controversy around Kentucky clerk Kim Davis' refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses. "There you have Christians saying they want their religion to be respected, but then [some] saying that Islam should be illegal," he said.