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Donald Trump waves to supporters in Mount Pleasant, S.C., on Monday. (Photo: Randall Hill/Reuters)
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States sparked categorical rebukes from his rivals in the presidential race, from traditionally neutral figures in his own party, and from at least one national conservative Christian leader.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who until lately had refrained from knocking Trump, ridiculed the real estate magnate’s anti-Muslim plan as the “ridiculous” utterance of a man whose reality has been shaped by his years starring in the reality TV show “The Apprentice.”
In response to the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., last week by Islamist militants that killed 14 people, Trump announced Monday afternoon that he wanted to see “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
When Trump mentioned the idea at a rally here Monday night onboard the USS Yorktown, he drew loud cheers from a massive crowd. But alarm inside the Republican Party over Trump’s idea — and his candidacy — hit a new level following his announcement.
Christie said there was “no question” that Trump’s idea was unconstitutional, but added that “there are folks in this race who don’t care about what the law says because they’re used to being able to just fire people indiscriminately on television.”
More remarkable were the comments from GOP officials in key states who usually stay neutral in presidential primary contests.
The chairmen of the Republican state parties in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — the first three states to vote in the primary process — all condemned Trump Monday evening in the strongest terms after the Republican presidential frontrunner announced his proposal.
“As a conservative who truly cares about religious liberty, Donald Trump’s bad idea and rhetoric send a shiver down my spine,” wrote Matt Moore, the chairman of the South Carolina GOP, on Twitter. “American exceptionalism means always defending our inalienable rights, not attacking them when it’s politically convenient.”
The chairman of the New Hampshire GOP, Jennifer Horn, was equally pointed in her condemnation of Trump’s idea, calling it “un-American.”
“There should never be a day in the United States of America when people are excluded based solely on their race or religion,” Horn said. “It is un-Republican. It is unconstitutional. And it is un-American.”
Jeff Kaufmann, chair of the Iowa GOP, wrote on Twitter that “our founding principles are stronger than political cynicism.”
“GOP believes that Obama has failed on ISIS, AND that we don’t make ourselves safer by betraying bedrock constitutional values,” Kaufmann wrote. He confirmed via text message that he was referring to Trump’s anti-Muslim proposal.
The Republican National Committee canceled a planned fundraiser with Trump on Wednesday night in New York, but did not announce immediately why. It did not answer questions from Yahoo News about whether the cancellation was connected to Trump’s anti-Muslim proposal.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, known more than anything for his hawkish views on fighting terrorism, said Trump’s idea was wrongheaded.
“It goes against everything we believe in,” Cheney told conservative talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt. “It’s a mistaken notion.”
Journalists from conservative outlets also denounced Trump.
“If Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims surprises you, you haven’t been paying attention. If it pleases you, you’re a bigot,” tweeted Stephen Hayes, a writer for the Weekly Standard and a regular guest on Fox News.
A prominent evangelical leader, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention, pushed back forcefully against Trump as well.
“Anyone who cares an iota about religious liberty will denounce the reckless, demogogic @realDonaldTrump plan for Muslims,” Moore wrote on Twitter shortly after Trump’s announcement.
“A government that can shut down mosques simply because they are mosques can shut down Bible studies because they are Bible studies. A government that can close the borders to all Muslims simply on the basis of their religious belief can do the same thing for evangelical Christians,” Moore wrote later Monday evening. “A government that issues ID badges for Muslims simply because they are Muslims can, in the fullness of time, demand the same for Christians because we are Christians.”
Yahoo News sent text messages to spokespersons for all 11 Republican presidential candidates to ask if their respective candidate would still support Trump if he is the party’s nominee.
Only a spokeswoman for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee answered, saying that Huckabee “believes any Republican in this race is better than [Hillary Clinton].”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in fact, said Monday that the U.S. should pause all immigration from the Middle East until “we can get a handle on: ‘Are we admitting people who want to attack and kill us?’“
The difference between Trump’s idea and Paul’s is that Trump has proposed to discriminate against an entire religion, rather than from immigrants or refugees from a certain part of the world. And for a country founded on religious freedom, Trump’s criteria offended what many still consider to be a foundational American value.