WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- House Speaker Paul Ryan made a rare comment on the 2016 presidential race Tuesday, strongly criticizing Donald Trump's call for a "shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."
"This is not conservatism," Ryan told reporters. "What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for and more importantly, it's not what this country stands for."
The statement issued by the Trump campaign on Monday called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." It goes on to refer to a Pew Research Center study that showed "great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population," and alluded to the threat of "great harm" to Americans, especially women, posed by Shariah law.
"Freedom of religion is a fundamental constitutional principle; it is a founding principle of this country," Ryan told reporters at the start of Tuesday's press conference. "Normally I do not comment about what's going on in the presidential election: I will take an exception today."
"This is not conservatism," Ryan declared. "What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for and more importantly, it's not what this country stands for."
He continued: "Not only are there many Muslims serving in our Armed Forces dying for this country, there are Muslims serving right here in the House, working every day to uphold and defend the Constitution," he said. "Some of our best and biggest allies in this struggle and fight against radical Islamic terror are Muslims, the vast, vast, vast, vast majority of whom are peaceful, who believe in pluralism and freedom, democracy, individual rights."
In a closed-door meeting with his fellow Republican members of the House prior to the press conference, Ryan reportedly said that Trump's proposal would violate the First Amendment, which protects freedom of religion, and the 14th Amendment, which forbids denying due process to anyone "born or naturalized in the United States."
The Hill reported that Ryan's office had no comment on Trump's proposal on Monday, but that his staff pointed to remarks the Speaker made on the House floor following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris that any legislation to boost screening for Syrian refugees would not do so on the basis of any "religious test."
Ryan indicated that despite his criticism, he would support Trump if he wins the nomination: "I'm going to support whoever the Republican nominee is, and I'm going to stand up for what I believe in as I do that," he said.
Other Republican House members also expressed their disapproval of Trump's remarks on Tuesday.
"We can't put that kind of a test on anybody," Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) told The Washington Post. "It's not about anti-Muslim, it's about anti-terrorism, period."
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, told The Post that Trump's remarks were "not helpful," but did not go so far as to say whether they would help ISIS recruit new members.
"I don't think ISIS needs any help recruiting," he said.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also commented on Trump's proposal Tuesday, saying: "Trump's just saying out loud what other Republicans merely suggest."