Political hoopla

There’s been a lot of hoopla lately about Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, and his choice to privately take his oath of office on his holy book, the Qur’an. Many would prefer that he stick with the majority tradition, which is to use the Bible, although this would be a meaningless act for him, akin to a Christian taking the oath on the Qur’an. Why, I wonder, would anyone prefer to have Ellison take a solemn promise to uphold American law on a book that has no personal meaning for him? I’ve just read an article by Dennis Prager, a radio show host and contributing columnist for Townhall.com, who states that,

“America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison’s favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don’t serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.”

Huh? The American founding fathers came here for religious freedom. They came to escape persecution in Europe. Now, well over 200 years later we’re looking to persecute others over religious issues? Those of the majority religion are deciding that their holy book is the American holy book? What’s really ironic is that some of the most famous American founding fathers, were not Christian, and they strongly supported separation of church and state, since they saw the dangers of combining them in the past. John Adams rejected the Trinity, becoming an early Unitarian. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine were Deists, which began in the eighteenth century and was very popular in America. Deism is a system of thought advocating natural religion based on human reason rather than revelation. Jefferson was also a deist, who accepted some of the doctrines of Jesus. He also said in his Notes on Virginia that,

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury to my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” (Dumas Malon, Jefferson The President: First Term 1801-1805. Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1970, p. 191).

Our Founding Fathers wisely left issues faith to individuals and they created a government that must neither endorse nor oppose any religion because they saw the damage government and religion could do when combined. America is not a Christian or religious country. It is a secular country where all have the freedom to believe and practice whatever religion they choose. Also, religious practice is not a part of government activity.

Back to Prager: he also states that allowing Ellison to choose his own book, in what I might add is a private ceremony, is equivalent to allowing someone to use Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” which he calls the Nazi bible. He also refers to the Qur’an as the Muslim bible. I have two problems with this:

  1. What someone does in a private ceremony is his or her own business. Ellison was elected by the people of Minnesota, who must have seen qualities they where looking for. Maybe they chose him because he’s a Muslim. Maybe they didn’t. Never the less, what he does at his private ceremony is his business just as it’s mine whether I say grace at my table or not. I only hope that if I do it is according to my belief, otherwise I am just a liar or a fool. I will add, that I do allow the beliefs of my guests to be represented at my table in the form of prayer if it is their custom out of courtesy to them. But I would do that with any issue. Prager is acting as though the Bible is the mandated book to use, when in fact it is only the most commonly chosen book. All those in this position may chose any or no book for this purpose. In fact, no religious text is used in the public ceremony, as we have separation of church and state in the U.S., so it would be inappropriate to use any religious text.
  2. The Qur’an and Mein Kampf are not bibles and to call them such is to mix up religions and show great ignorance. I always find this an odd thing that religious people do when discussing other religions. To even put Mein Kampf in the same category as the Bible is quite the insult to Christianity, but he did it, not me.

I find it oddly fascinating and sad that some Christians are so threatened by someone taking their oath of office on a book different that what they find holy. Are their beliefs so weak that they are so easily threatened by this? Is Christianity truly so weak? Good Lord, what would Jesus think?

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12 Responses

  1. Excellent EXCELLENT post, Cavatica!!!Very well said. I absolutley agree with you!

  2. Very well said! “America’s book is the Bible”? Hmmm.. I’m afraid way too many people agree with that way of thinking.

    Since when does America=Christianity=unflagging (no pun intended) support for GWB=unflagging suppoort for war?

  3. New Girl,Since GWB was elected, apparently.

  4. Why, I wonder, would anyone prefer to have Ellison take a solemn promise to uphold American law on a book that has no personal meaning for him?Hmmmmmm. Because if you’re part of the status quo, why would you want things to change?Great post, Cavatica. Amen to everything you said.

  5. Actually, Dennis Prager’s comments on requiring that all congressmen be required to use the Bible is in direct opposition to the U.S. Constitution. Article VI, Section 3 of that document states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” I would think that being required to swear on a Bible would be considered a religious test.

  6. Sorry, I meant to say “all members of congress” instead of “congressmen”.

  7. I’ve noticed this when I have testified in my own Worker’s Comp case in court. They want me to hold my left hand on a Bible. A Bible means about as much to me as any story book….. I choose to tell the truth because I am an honest person, not because I am holding a book someone else holds sacresanct.
    If people are feeling threatened because a congress person wants to swear to a Qua’an instead of a Bible then I think they have more issues than just those of religion!

  8. Federal courts seem willing to allow you to “affirm” that you will tell the truth without having a Bible involved. It may even be the law that they have to, if you request it, but I haven’t be able to confirm it yet. I don’t know about state courts, but I suspect that they will vary widely on this.I’ve read that it’s generally a good idea to have your lawyer tell the judge ahead of time, though, and not spring it on her/him in open court. The author stated that this allows the situation to be handled smoothly and avoids any big deal being made out of it, which might prejudice the jury against you.Just something to remember if this issue is important to you and you ever need to testify.

  9. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s absolutely ridiculous to expect him to take this oath on a book that means zero to him. As Sheila stated earlier, I would not be more inclined to tell the truth, or to have more belief in what I state, because my hand is on the Bible. The Bible is a piece of literature, in my view. Why on earth would we expect Ellison to hold the Bible in higher regard than a book of his own choosing?

    Great post!

  10. on a lighter note, I tagged you on my blog for a meme, so giddyup!

  11. And to boot, it’s not the first time that a Bible wasn’t used in a private swearing-in ceremony for a congressman. A Torah has been used before, and also a Mormon Book of Prayers. Curious that the absence of the Bible becomes offensive only when it is replaced by the Qur’an.

    I’ve never listened to this Dennis Prager guy, but he sounds insufferable.

  12. You made some good points there Cavatica. I couldn’t help but chuckle over the whole thing. I’m not even sure if I expect our elected officials to keep their oaths anymore. Maybe “expect” is the wrong word. I don’t “anticipate” that they will keep their oaths. I’d be over the moon about an elected official that took their oath on a copy of “Green Eggs and Ham” if it meant that they would be honest and put the people first.

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