Ben Carson says he wouldn't want a Muslim president

Ben Carson, former neurosurgeon, addresses the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) February 26, 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland.

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Last Updated Sep 20, 2015 3:40 PM EDT

Neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Sunday that he "would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation" in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Carson was asked whether a president's faith should matter after businessman Donald Trump declined to say anything when a person asking him questions at a town hall said President Obama was a Muslim and not American.

"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," Carson said.

When moderator Chuck Todd pressed him further, asking, "Do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution?" Carson responded, "No, I don't."

"I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that," he said.

Todd followed up by asking whether he would consider voting for a Muslim for Congress.

"Congress is a different story, but it depends on who that Muslim is and what they're policies are, just as it depends on what anybody else says, you know," he said. "If there's somebody who's of any faith, but they say things, and their life has been consistent with things that will elevate this nation and make it possible for everybody to succeed, and bring peace and harmony, then I'm with them."

There are just two lawmakers who identify as Muslim serving in Congress: Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, and Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indiana. Ellison responded in a statement later Sunday afternoon.

"For Ben Carson, Donald Trump, or any other Republican politician to suggest that someone of any faith is unfit for office is out of touch with who we are as a people," he wrote. "It's unimaginable that the leading GOP presidential candidates are resorting to fear mongering to benefit their campaigns, and every American should be disturbed that these national figures are engaging in and tolerating blatant acts of religious bigotry."

Democratic presidential Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, also issued a statement condemning Carson's remarks.

"I am very disappointed that Dr. Carson would suggest that a Muslim should not become president of the United States. It took us too long to overcome the prejudice against electing a Catholic or an African-American president. People should be elected to office based on their ideas, not their religion or the color of their skin," Sanders said.

Carson also said that he does believe President Obama was born in the United States and is a Christian.

"I believe that he is. I have no reason to doubt what he says," Carson said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.