JIM CREES: Any kid can be president ... except you!

Back when I was a youngster attending elementary school in Detroit (Stellwagen, for all you former Detroiters) my third grade teacher was a rather rigid, proper woman named Mrs. Schuman. (It might have been fourth grade. It was quite a while ago!)

At one point during the school year, we studied about Abraham Lincoln and other presidents. This was the first time I remember a teacher telling me anyone who was legally qualified could become president of these United States. Anyone!

This, she proudly told us, was one of the joys of living in a democratic society.

Any kid — if he or she applied himself in elementary school — could grow up and become President of the United States.

I could be president!

Every kid in my third-grade class believed they could be the most powerful person in the free world.

It’s true! According to the U.S. Constitution a candidate for the presidency needs to be at least 35 years of age, a natural-born citizen, and must have lived in this country for at least 14 years.

So ...

Let’s imagine a third-grader in Big Rapids born in the United States, to parents both born in the United States, with grandparents who were born in this country and great-grandparents who were full-fledged Americans, born to great-great-grandparents who arrived in the U.S. in time to fight in the Civil War.

Now, tell that third-grader everyone in his or her class can be president ... except them.

Because they are Muslim.

Really!!??!! Is that what we are all about?

GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson doesn’t see a anything wrong with this scenario. Neither do others cut from the same cloth.

Carson ignores the fact there have been members of the Islamic faith in this country since before the Revolutionary War. There actually were quite a few by the mid-1800s.

Almost 300 Muslims are recorded as having fought in the Civil War. One, Moses Osman, rose to the rank of captain. A Detroit school teacher named Nicholas Said — a Muslim — left his classroom to fight with the Massachusetts Colored Regiment.

One of these heroes, fighting to preserve the Union, could have been an ancestor of a young person who Ben Carson is saying could or should never be president — because he or she is Muslim.

Carson says anyone planning to be president needs to “ ... reject the tenets of Islam.”

“I would have problems with somebody who embraced all the doctrines associated with Islam,” he added.

Carson is worried about Sharia Law — the Islamic codification of liturgical and behavioral law — but never mentions Canon Law, the religious law governing the Roman Catholic Church. He never questions the Canon Law followed by Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and that ruling the Anglican Church as well.

He doesn’t mention the Halakha — the strict and stringent codification of laws ruling the spiritual and daily life of practicing Jews.

He never mentions Dharmaśāstra — the complicated Hindu spiritual and religious law.

He doesn’t discuss the Book of Concord — the doctrinal statement of the Lutheran Church.

He doesn’t bring up the Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline — the laws, rules, policies and guidelines for The UMC.

Somewhat surprisingly, as a Seventh Day Adventist, Dr. Carson seems to focus on the Sharia codification of law for Islam, but ignores the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of his own church as a codification of his beliefs.

Every religious group has its own laws, rules and regulations. For that matter, so do most civic groups from the Boy Scouts to the Masons, Lions and the VFW.

But Carson, and many, Many, MANY others seem worried about the Muslims — even the fifth-generation American third-grader raised by his or her parents in the Islamic faith but probably knowing more about Angry Birds rules than Sharia Law.

Look folks, whether you like it or not, Islam is the fourth largest faith in this country. That still doesn’t mean there are a lot of Muslims, but they are here, have been here, and will continue to live here. Americans of the Islamic faith, their children, and their children’s children deserve the same breaks, rights and responsibilities as any other group of people living under the Constitution with specific Constitutional protections for their religious beliefs.

Carson insists Americans of the Islamic faith must “ ... deny that portion of Islam (Sharia law) ... if you are not willing to reject that, then how in the world can you possibly be the president of the United States.”

Is he willing to “deny” any portion of the 28 Fundamental Beliefs in order to be president?

I hope not. Nor should this ever be a demand on any candidate — that any person of faith deny the tenets of their faith in order to obtain political office.

And no Muslim child should ever live under the shadow of being a second-class citizen — never having a chance to be president — because of the faith of their fathers.

Not in this country.