GOP candidates disavow Trump's call for Muslim database

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CNBC Update: Bush Criticizes Trump's Muslim Registration Calls

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential candidates on Friday swiftly condemned Donald Trump's call for requiring Muslims in the United States to register in a national database, drawing a sharp distinction with the GOP front-runner.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called Trump's proposal "abhorrent." Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Trump was trying to "divide people." And Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has largely avoided criticizing Trump throughout the 2016 campaign, said that while he was a fan of the billionaire businessman, "I'm not a fan of government registries of American citizens."

"The First Amendment protects religious liberty, and I've spent the past several decades defending the religious liberty of every American," Cruz told reporters in Sioux City, Iowa.

The rebuke followed Trump's call Thursday for a mandatory database to track Muslims in the U.S. In a video posted on MSNBC.com, Trump was asked whether Muslims would be required to register. He replied, "They have to be."

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GOP candidates disavow Trump's call for Muslim database
Donald Trump talks to supporters after the Republican presidential debate at the Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Jeb Bush and Donald Trump shake hands after the Republican presidential debate at the Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump (R) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) talk during a commercial break at the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) waves at the start of the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush (L) and Donald Trump (R) look on as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre on November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
John Kasich speaks during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) speaks while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) looks on while Donald Trump looks on during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Rand Paul speaks during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Ben Carson laughs during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Donald Trump, left, speaks as Ben Carson watches during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Donald Trump speaks during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Marco Rubio speaks during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Ted Cruz, left, speaks as Carly Fiorina listens during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Rick Santorum gestures as Chris Christie watches during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
John Kasich speaks during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Ben Carson speaks during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R) and Jeb Bush take the stage at the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R), Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz (R-TX), Carly Fiorina, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) take the stage in the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul take the stage during Republican presidential debate at Milwaukee Theatre, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks while Ben Carson looks on the during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R), Jeb Bush, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) take the stage at the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - NOVEMBER 10: Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R) speaks while Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) look on during the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The fourth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top eight candidates, and another for four other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush (R) and John Kasich (L) participate in the Republican Presidential Debate hosted by Fox Business and The Wall Street Journal November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. AFP PHOTO / JOSHUA LOTT (Photo credit should read Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)
Police gather in front of Donald Trump's bus outside of the Milwaukee Theatre before a Republican presidential debate Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Republican presidential candidates (L-R) John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul stand on stage during the Republican Presidential Debate hosted by Fox Business and The Wall Street Journal November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.AFP PHOTO / JOSHUA LOTT (Photo credit should read Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)
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He said Muslims would be signed up at "different places" and said the program would be "all about management."

Civil liberties experts said Trump's idea is unconstitutional on several counts, while the libertarian Cato Institute's Ilya Shapiro said the idea also violates basic privacy and liberty rights.

Marci Hamilton, a Yeshiva University legal expert on religious liberty, said requiring Muslims to register appears to be a clear violation of the Constitution's protection of religious freedom.

"What the First Amendment does and what it should do is drive the government to use neutral criteria," Hamilton said. "You can use neutral criteria to identify terrorists. What it can't do is engage in one-religion bashing. That won't fly in any court."

Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League in New York called Trump's proposal "deeply troubling and reminiscent of darker days in American history when others were singled out for scapegoating."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned as "Islamophobic" comments from both Trump and fellow GOP candidate Ben Carson, who on Thursday compared blocking potential terrorists posing as Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. to handling a rabid dog.

"If there's a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you're probably not going to assume something good about that dog," Carson told in Alabama. "It doesn't mean you hate all dogs, but you're putting your intellect into motion."

Said CAIR's Robert McCaw said in a statement, "Donald Trump and Ben Carson are contributing to an already toxic environment that may be difficult to correct once their political ambitions have been satisfied."

In New Hampshire on Friday, Carson said the U.S. should have a database on "every foreigner who comes into this country," but he rejected the idea of tracking U.S. citizens based on their religion.

"One of the hallmarks of America is that we treat everybody the same," he said. "If we're just going to pick out a particular group of people based on their religion, based on their race, based on some other thing, that's setting a pretty dangerous precedent."

At an event Friday in South Carolina at which Trump was interviewed on stage, he was not asked about the database idea.

Trump's call for a database follows the terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the carnage, elevating fears of attacks in the U.S. and prompting calls for new restrictions on refugees fleeing war-torn Syria.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton took to Twitter Friday and challenged all Republican candidates to disavow Trump's comments. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called Trump's words "outrageous and bigoted," a stance for which he should be "ashamed."

"This is shocking rhetoric," Clinton wrote. "It should be denounced by all seeking to lead this country."

Several did just that.

"You're talking about internment, you're talking about closing mosques, you're talking about registering people, and that's just wrong," Bush said Friday on CNBC.

A spokesman for Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said the candidate "does not support databases based on one's religion."

Kasich, the Ohio governor, said requiring people to register with the federal government because of their religion "strikes against all that we have believed in our nation's history." Kasich had faced criticism following the Paris shooting for saying he would set up an agency with a "mandate" to promote what he calls "Judeo-Christian values" overseas to counter Islamist propaganda.

Trump spoke Thursday a few hours after the House passed legislation essentially barring Syrian and Iraqi refugees from the United States. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has slotted the bill for possible Senate consideration, though it's unclear whether the chamber could get enough votes to override a veto by President Barack Obama, who opposes the measure.

The unified pushback against Trump was rare. Republicans have vacillated in their handling of other inflammatory comments from the bellicose billionaire, wary of alienating the front-runner's supporters but also increasingly concerned that he's managed to maintain his grip on the GOP race deep into the fall.

A super PAC supporting Kasich had started running a television advertisement in New Hampshire questioning Trump and Carson's preparedness for being commander in chief. The ad opens with pictures of Trump, Carson and Obama as a narrator says, "Job training for president does not work." The ad then pivots to a review of the national security issues facing the country and argues Kasich is the only candidate with a plan to defeat the Islamic State.

The first reference to a database for Muslims came in Trump's interview with Yahoo News published Thursday in which the billionaire real estate mogul did not reject the idea of requiring Muslims to register in a database or giving them special identification cards noting their religion.

"We're going to have to look at a lot of things very closely," Trump told Yahoo News.

According to Yahoo, he also suggested he would consider warrantless searches, saying, "We're going to have to do things that we never did before."

Asked by reporters Thursday night to explain his Yahoo comments, Trump suggested his response had been misconstrued. "I never responded to that question," he said.

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