Politics

Watch An Atheist Voter Confront Ben Carson About Separation Of Church And State

CREDIT: Emily Atkin

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks with reporters at an event in Iowa city on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016.

IOWA CITY, IOWA — Asked by an atheist voter about how his Christian faith would play a role in his presidency, Republican candidate Ben Carson said he believes there is inherently “no conflict” between God’s law and the laws of America.

“Fortunately, our Constitution, the supreme law of the land, was designed by men of faith, and it has a Judeo-Christian foundation,” the retired neurosurgeon told a packed room of potential caucusgoers in Iowa City on Friday afternoon. “Therefore, there is no conflict there. So it is not a problem.”

Carson’s comments came in response to a question from Justin Scott, 34, a Waterloo resident who has been traveling around the state to ask candidates about their faith. Last week, he asked Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) if he would “uphold [atheist’s] rights as American and not pander to one religious group,” referring not-so-subtly to the religious right.

Scott told ThinkProgress that he’s been “trying to raise awareness for secular voters,” who he said are concerned about the separation of church and state. He helped formed the Secular Coalition for Iowa, which attempt to raise the profile of atheist voters and ensure the secular nature of government.

Watch Scott’s exchange with Carson here:

In Iowa most people are not atheist — 83 percent are ‘absolutely’ or ‘fairly’ certain of the existence of God, according to a Pew research poll. But 21 percent of Iowans are not associated with any religious faith.

Carson himself is a Seventh-day Adventist, and frequently cites his religious values when speaking to voters. On Friday, Scott asked Carson if there was any situation where “God’s law trumps our country’s law.” Carson responded that Americans have an obligation to obey laws even if they don’t agree with them, but that Americans should also fight for laws that promote Judeo-Christian values.

“If we create laws that are contrary to the Judeo-Christian values that we have, then I think that we should fight against those kinds of laws,” he said. “I personally believe that we still have an obligation to obey the laws whether we agree with them or not, because otherwise we’d be a lawless nation. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fight against anything we see as unjust.”