…On a stack of Bibles?

I just read about the incoming Muslim Congressman who is already under fire because he wants to carry a Koran at his swearing-in ceremony. I can’t help but comment.

Asking a Muslim to swear an oath on a Christian Bible would be completely illogical, because the Bible is not sacred to Muslims.

Now, we here in the US have a powerful cultural image of our politicians taking oaths on a Bible. However, as the Monitor points out, this is actually a cultural image (from the swearing in of the President) and not an actual requirement of office.

Au contraire, it would actually be a violation of the US Constitution to require anyone to swear any religious oath: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

I feel that I have to quote Dennis Prager, something I would not normally do, in order to most aptly express the opposition to Keith Ellison’s consitutionally protected religious expression:

“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.”

Last I checked, America has about 300 million people. Saying that “America” is interested in only one thing is ridiculous. Does Prager think we work on absolute consensus here?

I agree that a nation can have shared values (shared by a majority and/or historically in that culture). And I agree that the Europeans who first colonized this country were Christians.

However I disagree that for the US the Bible is the only religious document that expresses our values. President Bush’s first campaign focused on “compassionate conservatism.” What better to teach us about compassion than the Dhammapada? Where can we find a better guide to ethical, generous charity than in the Torah?

Prager again, in a more recent response: “The Bible is the repository of our values, not the Constitution … and I’m asking him to honor that and include the Bible along with the Koran.”

Last I checked, things like freedom of speech and religion, both protected in the Constitution, were American values.


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