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Paul Ryan's GOP primary foe calls for 'a discussion about' deporting all US Muslims
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Paul Ryan's GOP primary foe calls for 'a discussion about' deporting all US Muslims

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The Republican primary challenger to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan told a radio host this week that it’s time for a national discussion about deporting all U.S. Muslims — a step that almost certainly would violate the U.S. Constitution, according to a prominent Wisconsin conservative legal scholar.

Paul Nehlen, a Delavan businessman, made the comment on a Chicago-area radio talk show earlier this week.

Asked if he’s suggesting the nation deport all U.S. Muslims, Nehlen responded: “I’m suggesting we have a discussion about it, that’s for sure.”

Later in the interview, Nehlen denied having said that, saying instead that he wants to deport only the U.S. Muslims who adhere to Sharia — the religious system of laws governing members of the Muslim faith.

Nehlen also characterized Islam as “the only major religion that encourages lying.”

Nehlen’s comments go beyond his party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, with whom he has aligned his own long-shot challenge to Ryan, R-Janesville. Nehlen’s candidacy recently has gotten a crush of national attention after Trump used his Twitter account to praise Nehlen. Reports also show Trump supporters from outside of Wisconsin are coming here to help Nehlen oust Ryan, who has feuded with Trump.

Trump has proposed banning Muslims from traveling to the U.S., spurring criticism from officials in both parties, including Ryan and other top Republicans.

Nehlen is discussing going much further, targeting the more than 3 million Muslims who live in the U.S. — many of whom are U.S. citizens.

Rick Esenberg, a legal scholar who runs the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, said any proposal to deport U.S. citizens based on their religious views likely would be unconstitutional on multiple fronts. It likely would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion, he said.

“If you’re talking about deporting U.S. citizens based upon their religion, I think you’d have a constitutional problem,” Esenberg said.

Nehlen also said in the interview that he wants 24-hour surveillance of U.S. mosques.

“They should be monitoring all the mosques very closely,” Nehlen said.

Nehlen’s comments drew a swift rebuke from one of the leading Republicans in the state Legislature. Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke said of Nehlen in a post to his Twitter account: “He’s a special kind of stupid. You can quote me on that.”

Steineke, R-Kaukauna, has been among the most vocal Trump critics among Wisconsin Republican elected officials.

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