When the history of the quest for the 2016 Republican nomination is written, the chapter on September 2015 will be among its ugliest. The front-runner allowed a racist lie about President Obama to go unchallenged. And the second-place challenger would defy the Constitution to red-line the White House to exclude Muslims. As a result, neither man is fit to sit in the Oval Office.

Ben Carson, who has seen his standing slip in the polls since last week’s debate, told “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd that a candidate’s faith should matter to voters. But only certain faiths. “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.” And does he think Islam meets that test, Todd asked. “No, I don’t, I do not.”

The last phrase of Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution could not be clearer: “… no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” In a later interview Sunday with The Hill, Carson compounded the offense.

“I do not believe Sharia is consistent with the Constitution of this country,” Carson said. “Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution.”
Carson said that the only exception he’d make would be if the Muslim running for office “publicly rejected all the tenants of Sharia and lived a life consistent with that.”
“Then I wouldn’t have any problem,” he said.

This insanity comes days after Donald Trump let an unhinged questioner say unchallenged, “We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know, he’s not even an American. Birth certificate, man.” And like Carson, Trump compounded his offense via Twitter:

Am I morally obligated to defend the president every time somebody says something bad or controversial about him? I don’t think so! This is the first time in my life that I have caused controversy by NOT saying something. If someone made a nasty or controversial statement about me to the president, do you really think he would come to my rescue? No chance! If I would have challenged the man, the media would have accused me of interfering with that man’s right of free speech. A no win situation! Christians need support in our country (and around the world), their religious liberty is at stake! Obama has been horrible, I will be great.

Yes, Mr. Trump, you are obliged to defend Obama. Not because you like him. Not because he can’t defend himself. But because, as a leader, you have a moral obligation to dispel proven racist lies that chip away at the legitimacy of the president of the United States. You don’t have to like the occupant of the Oval Office. But if you aspire to replace him, you have an obligation to respect said office and demand same from others.

That Trump won’t back off the birther bandwagon should come as no surprise. In the run-up to the last presidential election, he dabbled in the worst of the anti-Obama conspiracy theories. Trump even said he had hired private investigators to go to Hawaii to uncover “one of the greatest cons in the history of politics and beyond.” That more accurately describes his current run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump and Carson rode to the top of the GOP field on a wave of racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance. They willfully peddle lies and falsehoods. And they have dumbed down our political discourse in the process. But what Carson said is even more egregious. Not only did he display a stunning ignorance of the Constitution and one of its basic tenets, but he also is among those whinging about religious freedom.

“I do believe in God. I believe in Jesus Christ,” Carson said in an interview with a Florida television station this month. “Congress has a responsibility to step up and create legislation that will protect the religious rights of all Americans.” Unless they are Muslim, of course.

Trump’s continued dabbling in birtherism remains offensive. Carson’s anti-constitutional religious litmus is outrageous and disqualifying. And both men don’t deserve to be president, let alone be the nominee of their party. That both men are riding high shows that the Republican Party’s self-perpetuating death spiral on the national level continues unabated.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj