(CNN) – Dr. Ben Carson, a renowned neurosurgeon enjoying recent popularity in the conservative movement, compared the federal health care law to “slavery” during a speech Friday at the Values Voter Summit, an annual conservative gathering in Washington.
“Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is – in a way, it is slavery, in a way,” he said. “Because it is making all of us subservient to the government.”
At the heart of his criticism is the law’s requirement, beginning next year, for individuals to obtain health insurance or else face a penalty.
A longtime critic of the Affordable Care Act, Carson rose to fame earlier this year when he bashed Democratic policies on taxes and health care as he gave the keynote address at the National Prayer Breakfast. President Obama was sitting just feet away while he openly chided some of Obama’s positions.
He argued Friday that the president’s signature law “was never about health care.”
“It was about control,” he continued. “That’s why when this administration took office it didn’t matter that the country was going off the cliff economically. All forces were directed toward getting this legislation passed.”
He said the Obama administration was ‘neglecting’ the Constitution and imposing “their own will” by picking and choosing which provisions of the health care law to enforce.
“When they give businesses exemptions but the common people they say, ‘No, you have to do it, you know, that’s not America,” he said. “That’s Russia. That’s someplace else. How did we allow that to happen in this nation?”
He was referring to the administration’s decision to delay for a year the employer mandate for businesses with more than 50 full-time employees. The individual mandate, however, is still scheduled to take effect in 2014.
As Carson gained more attention for his political views this year, some speculated he could run for public office–an option he hasn’t ruled out.
But he sparked strong backlash in March when he equated homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality during a television interview centered on same-sex marriage. Facing loud opposition, he apologized and withdrew from speaking gigs at Johns Hopkins medical school and an event for the American Academy of Physicians Assistants.