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An Open Letter to Ben Carson from a Fellow Adventist: Stop the Islamophobia


Dr. Ben Carson,

As a clergy-trained fellow Seventh-day Adventist, I urge you to stop singling out Islam and Muslims. This upcoming weekend there are anti-Muslim rallies planned across the country—some of them calling for armed protesters—fueled by the anti-Muslim rhetoric you are helping advance in mainstream America. You are profiting in fundraising and in polls off the backs of a marginalized religious minority in our country.

Your singling out of a marginalized faith community is ironic, perhaps hypocritical, on many levels. As a lifelong Seventh-day Adventist, I am well aware (and assume you are, too) of the fears held by many in our community of the possibility of persecution for beliefs that differ from mainstream Christianity, such as a Saturday Sabbath. Holding membership in what many view as a small, fringe faith community, it is surprising that you are giving voice to religious discrimination.

Recently, when talking about “American values,” you raised concerns over Islam pertaining to discrimination of women, LGBTQ people, and subjugation of those with different religious beliefs. As a presidential candidate with a public platform it’s puzzling that, in addition to calling out a marginalized religious community, you would be singling these issues out in another faith group and failing to call out discrimination within your own.

Let’s take a closer look at these issues in Seventh-day Adventism.

Church leadership recently changed its “Marriage and Family” Fundamental Belief from the language of “partners” to specifying “a man and a woman” when speaking about marriage. Such discriminatory language counters the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage from earlier this year, requiring that same-sex couples be allowed to marry anywhere in the country. Given your expressed concerns about this issue it seems like you might have similar concerns about faith-based discrimination from fellow Christians. You didn’t sound concerned over whether government employee Kim Davis’s religion was “consistent with the Constitution” when she was defying the Supreme Court by denying marriage licenses to gay couples. I would expect this kind of consistency from someone who prides himself on making choices based on values rather than political expediency.

Earlier this year, our Seventh-day Adventist church leadership once again voted against the ordination of female clergy. Without ordination, female pastors can’t lead out in regional conferences or establish churches. This stained-glass ceiling and other forms of faith-based gender discrimination run counter to American values of equality and opportunity for all.

Or perhaps your statement of concern about Islam reflects a change of heart from your previous comments about women and LGBTQ people. If that is true, I invite you to join the growing chorus of Seventh-day Adventists denouncing the moral authority of Adventist church leadership as a result of its choices to perpetuate discrimination against women and LGBTQ people.

In my current role as director of the interfaith Community Organizing Residency at Bend the Arc, I have the privilege of knowing many Muslims who are working in the non-profit sector on issues such as healthcare access, housing affordability, and public education, throughout our country. We would all be fortunate to have any one of these Americans run for president one day.

Your anti-Muslim rhetoric is not only ironic, but also immoral. I can assure you that it is not in line with our faith tradition. Our sacred texts call us to love our neighbor as ourselves—this includes our Muslim neighbor. I implore you to be a better representative of our faith community. You could start this weekend by visiting a local mosque and engaging in peaceful dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters.

If you want to fight faith-based discrimination, start within our own Seventh-day Adventist faith community, not with our Muslim neighbors whom we’re called to love. As a presidential candidate you are not responsible for every individual’s words and actions toward Muslims, but you are responsible for your words and actions that set a tone for conversations and actions across our country.


Geoffrey Nelson-Blake, studied to be a Seventh-day Adventist minister, and is now director of the interfaith Community Organizing Residency at Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice. This article first appeared in Religion Dispatchesand is reprinted with permission from Religion Dispatches. Follow RD on Facebook or Twitter for daily updates.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore from Wikicommons


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