Donald Trump

Donald Trump Proves Once Again That He Is Both a Bully and an Authoritarian

The GOP frontrunner's call to close mosques shows he doesn't understand how the First Amendment works.

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Gage skidmore

Donald Trump, still the co-frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, has doubled down his initial suggestion that, in the wake of last Friday's attacks in Paris, we must "strongly consider" shutting down some mosques.

Last night, Trump followed up on his initial statement by declaring that mosque closing was not just a possibility but an imperative.

"Nobody wants to say this and nobody wants to shut down religious institutions or anything, but you know, you understand it. A lot of people understand it. We're going to have no choice," he said on Fox News (via Politico).

As is so often the case when it comes to Trump's ideas about governance, it's not exactly clear whether he is merely ignorant of the law or actively choosing to disregard it. Either seems like a possibility in this case.

Regardless, closing mosques is the sort of practice that is clearly prohibited by the First Amendment's decree that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." I strongly suspect that most courts would interpret that to mean that shutting down places of worship is off limits, as the free exercise of religion would be difficult to maintain under a system in which the government had unchecked power to close religious gathering places.

Maybe Trump's suggestion was not meant entirely practically? After all, his cable news pronouncements won't be up for review in any court. If so, that merely illustrates—for the umpteenth time this campaign—that in beyond his obvious lack of qualifications for the job of the nation's chief executive, he is also an insolent bully whose first instinct when confronted with any challenge is not only to attack but to smear.

And he is a dim, dull bully at that. Whether Trump is ignorant of one of the most famous and important parts of the Constitution or simply disdainful of its existence, his deliberate amplification in this particular instance is yet another reminder that he is not just a poorly informed blowhard, but an unapologetic knee-jerk authoritarian who cares little for the most basic and fundamental principles upon which the country he says he wants to lead was founded.

Trump has insisted throughout his campaign that his only goal is, in the words of his campaign slogan, to "make America great again," but every time he opens his mouth, he offers a reminder that if granted the opportunity he would casually decimate what made it great in the first place.