December 1st, 2006

Keith Ellison and the Koran

Koran

Dennis Pranger has an article on Townhall.com titled “America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on”. The article is about Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to congress, wanting to be sworn in using the Koran instead of the Bible.

First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism — my culture trumps America’s culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

Forgive me, but 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.

Pranger raises an interesting point here. The swearing in of elected officials is a time-honored ceremony based on time-honored elements (this one being the use of the Bible). The tradition of using the Bible dates back to George Washington’s own inauguration, but nowhere in law is such a practice mandated. As this page points out, there have been a few officials (enough to count on your hand) who have used other books.

My main concern is that if Ellison wants to use the Koran, then who is next with which book? Pranger discusses this issue:

Devotees of multiculturalism and political correctness who do not see how damaging to the fabric of American civilization it is to allow Ellison to choose his own book need only imagine a racist elected to Congress. Would they allow him to choose Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” the Nazis’ bible, for his oath? And if not, why not? On what grounds will those defending Ellison’s right to choose his favorite book deny that same right to a racist who is elected to public office?

Of course, Ellison’s defenders argue that Ellison is merely being honest; since he believes in the Koran and not in the Bible, he should be allowed, even encouraged, to put his hand on the book he believes in. But for all of American history, Jews elected to public office have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they do not believe in the New Testament, and the many secular elected officials have not believed in the Old Testament either. Yet those secular officials did not demand to take their oaths of office on, say, the collected works of Voltaire or on a volume of New York Times editorials, writings far more significant to some liberal members of Congress than the Bible. Nor has one Mormon official demanded to put his hand on the Book of Mormon. And it is hard to imagine a scientologist being allowed to take his oath of office on a copy of “Dianetics” by L. Ron Hubbard.

Critics of Pranger’s stance (and there are many) have repeatedly cited Article VI of the Constitution, which states in part that elected officials

“…shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

The only problem with using this statement as a defense for allowing the Koran to be used in lieu of the Bible is that neither is a qualification for office. Nobody is saying that Ellison must use the Bible, only that he should. It’s not about forcing him to do it, it’s about him doing it of his own accord. The fact that he wants to use another book is the issue. Being sworn into office by using the Bible is not a religious test. Nobody is requiring Ellison to believe in the Bible or adhere to its teachings. What Ellision is required to do is summed up in his oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Pranger’s article goes on to explain why some are bending to Ellison’s request, simply because he is a Muslim, and we wouldn’t want to offend any Muslims! Let’s bend and twist and cater to their every desire to prevent any attacks of terrorism! Please. Equating radical extremists with the main religion and society they claim to be a member of is naive. Ellison should receive no special favors because of his Muslim status, just as Mitt Romney shouldn’t be elected (or prevented from being elected) as President because of his Mormon faith.

The main issue at hand is how far America will go in catering to the desires and whims of its minorities. Whether it be using the Koran in a Congressional oath, giving homosexuals legal status as husband and husband (or wife and wife), tolerating polygamy (and worse) from Warren Jeff’s clan, or exterminating whites (that dude is crazy!), America must take a stand and honor its time-tested and trial-proved values and principles. The other option is to open up America’s policies and laws to be changed by its myriad of minorities, leading us to a Fahrenheit 451-esque state of a dumbed-down everything.

When all elected officials take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization. If Keith Ellison is allowed to change that, he will be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11.

Amen. What we need in our country is more unity, not more diversity. We need more things in common, and less in difference. We need more understanding and less grousing. We need more altruism and less hedonism. Can such a diverse people be unified? You’d better hope so.

23 Responses to “Keith Ellison and the Koran”

  1. Naiah Earhart
    December 1, 2006 at 11:45 am #

    I can see both sides of the issue, and I’d need more contemplation than one read through a blog post to craft an actual opinion.

    The unspoken statement of placing one’s hand on the Bible in an oath is ‘to swear by all you hold sacred,’ making the oath somewhat personally binding on the person, binding in a greater context than the human realm.

    So, I can see how Ellison would feel that his oath woudl be more heartfelt, more binding on him (and therefore more reliable to his constituents) if he were to swear by what he holds to be sacred.

    I also see a ‘slippery slope’ argument here, as mentioned. Where is the line drawn?

    I also see the unity–the ‘E pluribus unum’ argument. Hmm.

    Maybe everyone should swear by the Constitution or something neutral. I realize the religious, cultural, and political significance of eliminating the Bible. I also am pluralistic enough to see that not everyone does.

    Do we want honesty in oaths or do we want our truth regardless of the swearer’s truth?

    *phew* This’ll keep my back burner cooking all day…

  2. steven
    December 1, 2006 at 2:23 pm #

    I am quite familiar with Keith Ellison. Mr. Ellison was at one time a staunch supported of Louis Farrakan. Ellison now says he has “grown”, but he has never said one word against Farrakan and his beliefs. The bottom line is we have to very careful about who we elect to Congress. Mr. Ellison’s district is basically the inner city of Minneapolis, one of the most liberal and left-leaning districts in the entire nation. Im hoping Mr. Ellison will be a one term act. Rest assured Mr. Ellison will never rest his hand on a Bible. He hates every word in the Bible. A piece of our Democracy and a piece of our Republic will dissapear the day Mr. Ellison takes office. Mark my words, “In the next two years Keith Ellison will be in the news more than any other freshman congressman and it wont be because of anything good.”
    BTW, Connor, that was a fabulous post of yours.

  3. Connor
    December 1, 2006 at 7:03 pm #

    Be sure to read the follow-ups on Pranger’s article, replete with transcripts of appearances on TV, defending his position.

  4. Curtis
    December 2, 2006 at 1:07 am #

    Interestingly, it appears that Gordon Smith, Republican senator from Oregon, swore in on a quadruple combination in 1997!

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-12-01-muslim-lawmaker_x.htm

    Unfortunately, the US is not a melting pot. Usually when we want an someone to aclimate to “American culture,” we are usually subconsciously saying we want them to subject themselves to judeo-christian/white culture. We miss out on a richness of ideas if we try to lessen diversity in our country. I hate to see stereotypical americanism running things. For that matter, stereotypical mormons make my skin creep as well. Down with both of them!

    I say let the man swear in on the Koran. As long as he serves his country well, and his God well, what difference does it make what book he swears in on?

  5. Curtis
    December 2, 2006 at 1:11 am #

    Connor, the scripture you quote at the end speaks of an economic oneness. We apparently must be one in the things of the world before we can receive the things of heaven:

    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/78/5-6#5-6

  6. fontor
    December 2, 2006 at 11:46 pm #

    Recite, please, the Eleventh Article of Faith.

  7. Connor
    December 2, 2006 at 11:53 pm #

    Recite, please, the Eleventh Article of Faith.

    ::: clears throat :::

    We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

    Now that I’ve satisfied you’re request, I’ll say that you must not understand my stance nor the implications of swearing on the BIble. I have no problem with Ellison’s Muslim faith whatsoever. I have no problem with his desire to swear on the Koran. My issue with all of this is the trend towards plurality, diversity, and minority takeover. At what cost? At whose expense? To what end? Where’s the line to be drawn? By whom? How will it be enforced? Will it be enforced?

    So yes, fontor, I fully believe the 11th article of faith, and I will “let [Ellison] worship how, where, or what [he] may”. But we’re not talking about objects of worship here. Nobody is saying that he should believe in the Bible, though he should swear upon it. Nobody is saying that he alter or suppress his own faith whatsoever. Your appeal to this article of faith doesn’t address the deeper question(s) at hand.

  8. fontor
    December 3, 2006 at 2:55 am #

    Thank you. You did very well before the gag reflex kicked in.

    Now for my point. Prager says: “What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.”

    In fact, as Glenn Greenwald points out, this is a bedrock principle of American democracy. It doesn’t matter what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his or her holiest book.

    And it’s an LDS principle too. Latter-day Saints forget this at their peril; that they are Christians seems to make them forget that they are really a minority. But still we see this tyrannical and unAmerican discourse: ‘one nation under God’ always means ‘our nation, not yours’, and Ellison should use a book of our choosing so that we can feel safe and happy.

    Anyhow, this meme has already gotten the smackdown, as members of Congress do not actually use any book to be sworn in. But thank you for engaging with me in this discussion.

  9. Stephanie
    December 3, 2006 at 9:22 pm #

    “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation and every city or house divided against itself will not stand” Matthew12:25
    I believe that America has forgotten what it stands for. Our Constitution clearly defines everyone’s right to liberty and freedom of religion, but if I am not mistaken, it also says that a Senator’ duty is to represent the citizens of the state as a whole. Until the majority of Minnesota is reading the Koran, than having a personal preference on which book to swear in on is crap. He serves the STATE, not the other way around. I may be a knuckle dragging conservative, but the idea of actually allowing this in our country should be horrendous to all American’s.

  10. John Anderson
    December 4, 2006 at 9:58 am #

    I believe that America has forgotten what it stands for.

    Apart from religious freedom, America also stands for protection of minority rights. Just because most in America are Christian, doesn’t mean everyone else has to swear on our Bible.

    I have no problem with people using their holy book of choice, and I think it ought to be encouraged.

  11. Connor
    December 4, 2006 at 10:19 am #

    I have no problem with people using their holy book of choice, and I think it ought to be encouraged.

    Then what of Pranger’s argument that allowing such things might lead to somebody wanting to use Dianetics or Mein Kampf? If anybody can use their “holy book of choice”, what if I choose Kama Sutra? Who can make an argument against it, if it’s my choice?

  12. John Anderson
    December 4, 2006 at 11:01 am #

    America: land of choice.

    If we lock in the Bible as the book of choice, because we hold the majority, what happens in 20 years, when American Christians are in the minority (hypothetically)?

    If someone actually picked some of those titles, I think they’re either trying to kill their political career, or they’re trying to illustrate the same point I am: people have the religious freedom to choose. I think if a fledgling politician wants to swear on a hamburger, he’s just flexing his constitutional muscles.

    I don’t think there’s a legal or LDS argument you can make to force people to use the Bible and nothing else.

  13. Connor
    December 4, 2006 at 11:10 am #

    I don’t think there’s a legal or LDS argument you can make to force people to use the Bible and nothing else.

    I’m not arguing that we force Ellison (or anybody else) to use the Bible. My concern with this issue is the trend we’re seeing of a vocal minority wanting to get their way in spite of years of tradition, law, and common belief? Diversity (most forms of it, anyway) is detrimental to a society—especially a Republic.

    It’s not about forcing Ellison to use the Bible, it’s about the desires of a small minority spitting in the majority’s face. Yes, our country exists to protect minority rights, but the subjective issue at hand is just what those rights are, and who gets to decide.

    On a related note, I don’t think there’s an easier way to get a headache than to contemplate the appropriate implementation of politics and religion in a society that is becoming more and more secular. :)

  14. Steve M
    December 4, 2006 at 11:41 am #

    It’s not about forcing Ellison to use the Bible, it’s about the desires of a small minority spitting in the majority’s face.

    As a Christian, I don’t feel that Ellison is spitting in my face by wanting to be sworn in using the Koran. I think it’s just fine. There are so many more important things to worry about in America these days.

    I really don’t understand why you and others are making such a big deal about this, Connor.

  15. Connor
    December 4, 2006 at 11:58 am #

    There are so many more important things to worry about in America these days.

    This is one of the arguments I dislike the most. It’s a cop-out to dismiss anything not deemed “important” by somebody. There will always be “more important things”. Is that an excuse to ignore anything you deem unimportant? What if it is important to somebody else? Who decides what is most important? If everybody made this claim, we’d never get anything done in the Legislature. Oh wait, that’s already been the case… :)

    I really don’t understand why you and others are making such a big deal about this, Connor.

    Then perhaps I haven’t explained my stance sufficiently. I’m not so much concerned about the minutia of Keith Ellison’s situation (unlike Steven) as I am the larger implications of what this matter entails.

  16. John Anderson
    December 4, 2006 at 12:04 pm #

    My concern with this issue is the trend we’re seeing of a vocal minority wanting to get their way in spite of years of tradition, law, and common belief? Diversity (most forms of it, anyway) is detrimental to a society—especially a Republic.

    I’d have to disagree. Diversity makes you stronger (though it can get out of hand). European nations are very heterogeneous, yet America, with all its divisions and conflicting cultures is a very strong force in the world (too strong at times, really). Sexual reproduction takes advantage of diversity as well. Software development processes are becoming more diverse too: it really helps to have multiple viewpoints and backgrounds in on the project.

    Sure, you can become so diverse you can’t get anywhere, but I don’t think this particular issue is guilty of that.

    It’s not about forcing Ellison to use the Bible, it’s about the desires of a small minority spitting in the majority’s face. Yes, our country exists to protect minority rights, but the subjective issue at hand is just what those rights are, and who gets to decide.

    Regardless of what this issue is about, the practical result is that you are forcing him to use the Bible. And there’s also nothing wrong with minorities refusing to go along with the majority. Its their right to metaphorically spit in anyones face they wish. No one is getting hurt or robbed of their own rights, so I don’t see anything wrong with it.

    The subjective issue at hand is that the rights are religious freedom, and each individual gets to make that choice, as long as it doesn’t hinder someone else.

  17. Steve M
    December 4, 2006 at 12:17 pm #

    My concern with this issue is the trend we’re seeing of a vocal minority wanting to get their way in spite of years of tradition, law, and common belief?

    The mere fact that certain traditions, laws, and common beliefs have been in place for years does nothing to show that they ought not to be reevaluated and/or changed.

    My main beef, Connor, and my main reason for pointing out that there are so many more important issues facing America these days, is that you have yet to show how a public official being sworn in on the Koran is detrimental to society.

    Diversity (most forms of it, anyway) is detrimental to a society

    As with your previous claims, I think this deserves some qualification.

  18. Naiah Earhart
    December 4, 2006 at 3:56 pm #

    “I don’t think there’s an easier way to get a headache than to contemplate the appropriate implementation of politics and religion in a society that is becoming more and more secular.”

    No kidding. Days later, my back burner’s still running in circles with this one.

    I’m actually leaning towards the camp that says to allow a swearer to choose his own sacred book. As I said above, it is a symbol of his promise to the people being binding on him beyond the earthly realm of politics,swearing by all he holds sacred, and I’d rather have a believing/practicing Muslim swear by the Koran an oath that he means than ‘go through the motions’ of an oath on the Bible that, to him, is relatively meaningless. the latter feels a little like there’s too much wiggle room for the swearer–something akin to making a promise with your fingers crossed behind your back. When push comes to chove, do you honor that promise that was made on something with little meaning to you?

    This is America, and we do not have a “most holy book.” There is no national church. Sure, the founding fathers and earliest settlers were, by and large Christian (indigenous peoples aside, of course), but it should be remembered that Christianity is a wildly diverse faith among its various denominations, and therefore even that argument of commonality in roots is diltued to near-meaninglessness. They may all have believed in Christ, but few of them exercised that belief in the same ways, and no one way trumped another.

    As for the Dianetics/Mein Kampf issue, I have to say that if any elected official went to use one of thoe, then my guess is that his or her constituancy would be throwing an emergency election and beginning procedures to remove him/her. I just don’t see it happening. If a Mormon is deemed a potentially too-radical candidate for president, then the field is narrow, indeed.

    Stefanie brings up the idea that the item sworn on should be at the preference of the majority of the constituency, and again I disagree on the grounds that the promise, the oath is being made by the individual, and to be morebinding on that individual, the oath should be made on something meaningful to the individual.

    As far as where we draw the line, I would call it at recognized/organized churches. If a body of believers has taken the time and effort to be recognized as such, then their stated sacred book deserves such recognition in what is undoubtedly a guaranteed pluralistic society.

    Such guarantees are not only Constitutional in nature, but also for Latter-day Saints stem from our own sacred, core beliefs. Again, referencing the 11th article of faith. That very freedom that allowed the existence of our faith, and protects our freedom must needs protect others as well. Again, the USA as a political institution, has no holiest book, but it does have guaranteed religious freedom for all to choose their own.

  19. fontor
    December 5, 2006 at 12:53 am #

    Thank you, Naiah, for your well-reasoned and constructive comment.

    I’d say your suggestion of drawing the line at organised churches is as good as any.

  20. Zamia
    December 21, 2006 at 6:22 pm #

    Ellison should be able to use oat on the Koran . There is freedom of religion, and there is no where says that the bible is the only book been use for oat.

  21. Sam
    January 3, 2007 at 5:35 pm #

    Teddy Roosevelt, at least, did not use a Bible when he was sworn in.

    I guess the country has already gone to hell in a handbasket.

  22. reyna
    January 5, 2007 at 3:05 pm #

    I am from Indonesia, a country with the most moslem population in the world. Our founding fathers in 1945 modeled many parts of our state system based on United States, including the way americans value freedom and multiculturalism. But now seeing how Americans react to Keith Ellison decision to be sworn using Koran, I’m really disappointed. How can you call yourself as the one who value freedom and multiculturalism if you expect people from other faith to swear on Bible? That is the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard.
    In Indonesia officials are sworn using holy books of their religion, be it Bible, Koran, Tripitaka or Vedha. The reason is very logic, as other commentator, Naiah Earheart, has pointed out ” to be morebinding on that individual, the oath should be made on something meaningful to the individual.” That is exactly the reason. How can you expect someone to feel bound by his/her oath, if he is forced to swear on something he/she doesn’t believe in?
    I don’t know whether Keith Ellison is a good moslem or not, particularly if he comes from Louis Farrakhan group which has some different tenets with the common moslem. So, whether he would bring bless or troubles to America would depend on his personality. And please note, don’t judge the whole moslems population based on the acts of small percentage of the group. I am sure you would object if moslems say that all Christians are as cruel as Hitler who swept away Jews from Europe or the Serbs who slained the Bosnian-moslems.

  23. Connor
    January 15, 2007 at 6:42 pm #

    This article was an interesting read on Ellison’s use of Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Koran.

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