Where Dr. Ben Carson Stands On 5 Issues You Care About

May 4th 2015

Dr. Ben Carson just announced that he is running for President of the United States, joining Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and businesswoman Carly Fiorina in the race for the Republican nomination. Carson, who as chief of pediatric neurosurgery at 33 years old was the youngest person to ever lead at division at Johns Hopkins, rose to prominence in the conservative movement after delivering the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast keynote address, in which Carson sharply criticized President Obama, who was sitting a couple seats away:

"[Political Correctness] is dangerous," Carson said in the speech, "because you see this country, one of the founding principles was freedom of thought and freedom of expression and it (political correctness) muffles people, it puts a muzzle on them. And at the same time keeps people from discussing important issues while the fabric of this society is being changed. And we cannot fall for that trick."

Carson, who was the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins at the head, was born into difficult circumstances. He and his brother were raised by a single mother, who was one of 24 children and was married at 13. She never graduated from elementary school, but emphasized education to her sons, insisting they use their spare time to read books from the local library. This ethic led Dr. Carson to Yale, the University of Michigan Medical School, and Johns Hopkins University as a medical resident.

“[My mother] never made excuses, and she never accepted an excuse from us,” Carson said during the National Prayer Breakfast. “As I read those stories [in the library books], I began to see a connecting thread: The person who has the most to do with what happens to you in life is you. You make decisions, and you decide how much energy you put behind those decisions. At that point I didn’t hate poverty anymore, because I knew it was only temporary: I could change that."

Here's where he stands on five issues important to young people:

1. Higher Education

Saying he's for "personal responsibility," Carson opposes the president's free community college plan, which he thinks is unnecessary because poor students already have access to Pell Grants.

"The most indigent people in our society already are eligible for Pell Grants. So we're not even talking about them. We're talking about the middle class and above," Carson said in the interview embedded above. "What ever happened to working and working your way through? Is there anything wrong with that? I don't think so. I think we need to start emphasizing these things again. It builds character. It builds experience."

Carson also says we should be "looking at ways to reduce student debt...but not in ways that's going to drive [the national debt]." Carson pointed to reforms that would make the student loan system more efficient.

2. Marijuana

During a 2014 interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, Carson acknowledged the benefits of medicinal marijuana, but said it's important to note that marijuana is a "gateway drug."

"It tends to be a starter drug for people who tend to move on to heavier drugs, sometimes legal, sometimes illegal, and I don't think this is something we really want for our society," Carson said. "We're gradually just removing all the barriers to hedonistic activity, and we're changing so rapidly to a different type of society, and no one is getting a chance to discuss it because it's taboo...we should sit down and talk about ramifications [of marijuana]."

3. Immigration

While he opposes President Obama's actions on immigration, Carson backs "bipartisan" immigration reform that would include increased border security, a guest worker program to deal with undocumented workers already living in the U.S., and tougher laws punishing employers who hire undocumented workers.

He seems to also support something like Mitt Romney's "self-deportation" plan, which would require undocumented immigrants to first leave the U.S. before they could formally enroll as guest workers.

"They should in no way be rewarded for having broken our laws, but if they are wise, they will arrange with their employer before they leave to immediately offer them a legal job as soon as their application is received," Caron wrote in The National Review. "When they return, they still would not be U.S. citizens, but they would be legal, and they would be paying taxes."

"Only jobs that are vacant as a result of a lack of interest by American citizens should be eligible for the guest-worker program," he added.

When the U.S. had a major measles outbreak earlier this year, Carson suggested during a CNN appearance that undocumented immigrants were partially responsible.

"It’s not to prejudice anybody, but we have to deal with reality, and if you have people coming into your country who have not been properly screened, who have not had the same kind of care as people in this country, I don’t think you have to be a genius to figure out that that could introduce some communicable problems," Carson said. "[It's] a combination of noncompliance [with vaccine requirements] and introduction into our society of people who perhaps haven’t been well screened."

4. Climate Change

Carson is vague about climate change, not fully denying it, yet not embracing it either. Last year, Carson said during an interview in Iowa, "There's always going to be either cooling or warming going on. As far as I'm concerned, that's irrelevant. What is relevant is that we have an obligation and a responsibility to protect our environment."

When asked about the scientific consensus around climate change, Carson responded, "We may be warming. We may be cooling ... Our Environmental Protection Agency should be told to work in conjunction with business, industry, and universities to find the most eco-friendly ways of developing our energy resources."

5. LGBT Rights

Carson opposes same-sex marriage.

"Of course gay people should have the same rights as everyone else," Carson said at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2014. "But they don't get extra rights. They don't get to redefine marriage."

In spring 2013, he withdrew as commencement speaker for Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine after making controversial remarks on gay marriage that offended his colleagues:

"It's a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality," Carson said on Fox News to host Sean Hannity. "It doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition. So he, it's not something that is against gays, it's against anybody who wants to come along and change the fundamental definitions of pillars of society. It has significant ramifications."

NAMBLA refers to the North American Man/Boy Love Association, a group that advocated for the rights of pedophiles.

Carson came under fire earlier this year when he said people choose to be gay and that prison can change a person's sexual orientation. "A lot of people who go into prison straight, and when they come out they’re gay," Carson said on CNN:

When asked by host Chris Cuomo whether being gay is a choice, Carson replied, "absolutely."

Later, Carson issued a statement of regret to CNN, "I do not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation. I regret that my words to express that concept were hurtful and divisive. For that I apologize unreservedly to all that were offended​. Some of our brightest minds have looked at this debate, and up until this point there have been no definitive studies that people are born into a specific sexuality​."

During a radio interview with Sean Hannity afterward, Carson said it's still important to keep marriage between a man and a woman, "We have something that's worked just fine for thousands of years to create a nurturing environment for raising children, and I think that's where we ought to leave it."

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