Monday, November 27, 2006

Taking the Oath of Office

A thought-provoking article by Dennis Prager, who says that Muslim Keith Ellison should not be allowed to take his oath of office as a U.S. Representative on the Koran.

Prager, a Jew, writes that America, not Ellison, decides how its representatives should take their oath, and that Ellison is undermining American civilization:

"...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... 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."

Prager concludes: "Ellison's doing so will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones, as Islamists, rightly or wrongly, see the first sign of the realization of their greatest goal -- the Islamicization of America.

"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. It is hard to believe that this is the legacy most Muslim Americans want to bequeath to America. But if it is, it is not only Europe that is in trouble."

I have to admit that when I first read recently about Ellison's plan for the oath, I didn't care for the idea but didn't think much more about it, assuming it was the norm for elected officials to choose how they swear the oath of office. Prager's article, putting Ellison's actions in historic context, gave me a lot to think about.

Particularly given how cowed Europe is becoming in dealing with Muslims, I think Prager is on to something. The Koran has become rather symbolic of a large group of people who wish to suppress everything America stands for, and peaceful Muslims aren't raising their voices to stop it.

In Ellison we have a man who rejects a unifying symbol, the Bible, previously accepted by those of all faiths for swearing their oaths, and instead demands his own way...while simultaneously agitating to undermine national security.


A postscript, Free Republic has an interesting thread developing discussing whether Prager is historically accurate.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

But Prager's 'context' is incorrect. Quakers in teh early years did not swear on any book when elected to the House of REpresentatives, many Jews to day do not swear on the christian bible either and in court one need not take an oath on the bible for his testimony to be heard with the same weight as someone who does.

He is just wrong and is mistaking loyalty to the constitution, which is required under Articl 6 Section 3, for loyalty to the bible which is prohibited as a test for office under the same article.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

The discussion at Free Republic I alluded to made some of these points, such as that one can swear an affirmation without using the Bible.

I would like to know more from Dennis about his research on the historic context.

That said, I think his main point is still worth considering: that the Bible undergirds our nation's Judeo-Christian values, while radical Islam, claiming to follow the Koran, seeks to undermine our nation and those values. We are a tolerant nation, but at what point does being tolerant lead to being overtaken by that which one tolerates, leading to the nation's death?

Difficult issues, worth mulling over. Best wishes, Laura

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that was his main point - but even if it were are we willing to distinguish between the chritian and jewish bibles? Jewish congressman regularly forgoe swearing in on a chritian bible (or even refuse to as in this case:

Furthermore, it is hard to say that someone who won election in his district is overtaking us in any form - that is what it means to be a representative democracy. And so long as he still affirms to support the constitution he is supporting the document that underpins our value as a nation.

2:23 PM  
Blogger YAMB said...

Laura says she'd like to know more about Dennis' research. I think that should be his "research," because obvious he did none.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

There is a spirited debate on this article (over 400 comments) at Town Hall, for those who may be interested:,_not_keith_ellison,_decides_what_book_a_congressman_takes_his_oath_on?page=full&comments=true#postComments

Best wishes, Laura

3:22 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

"And so long as he still affirms to support the constitution he is supporting the document that underpins our value as a nation."

From my perspective, I think the point was that the Koran is seen by many as in conflict with and seeking to undermine our Constitution. Simply affirming the oath, without using the Koran, might be more appropriate in this case.

I frankly would have no problem with a Jewish representative taking the oath on a "Jewish" Bible (the Old Testament)...because it is part of our nation's Judeo-Christian heritage and because it is not used to inspire militants to hurt or go to war against our nation.

An interesting issue worthy of further research and discussion.

Best wishes, Laura

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a previous comment noted, what Prager wants to require would explictly violate Article 6 of the US Constitution.

In an online National Review article, Eugene Volokh, who is as far right as Prager, blows Prager's specious arguments away.

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops, here's a usable URL for the Volokh article:

4:08 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you for taking the time to share the link to Volokh's article, I found it an interesting read.

I think an affirmation (rather than swearing on the Koran) would be appropriate in Ellison's case because there's one issue that Volokh doesn't address -- restating what I've said in an earlier post, we may be a tolerant multicultural society, as Volokh says, but there is something inherently problematic with swearing an oath to uphold our Constitution on a book which is used by so many as the basis for terrorizing our country. The Koran and the Constitution seem, to me, to be in conflict. The issue with swearing on the Koran is not so much one of a "religious test" as it is that one could argue it is impossible to follow the Koran and want to overthrow the "infidels" of the West and simultaneously uphold the Constitution.

I recognize some would say the Koran is misused by radicals and my argument is a stretch, but based on what's been going on in the world in the last few years, maybe not...

Thanks for adding to the discussion.

Best wishes, Laura

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Brian Westley said...

The bible is also in conflict with our laws; the first commandment, "thou shalt have no other gods before me" is incompatible with the first amendment, for just one example. People are free to make graven images, covet, dishonor their parents, etc.

So isn't is equally "inappropriate" to use the bible?

4:00 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

"The bible is also in conflict with our laws"

However, the Bible is not regularly used to advocate and incite the overthrow of the West and particularly America. As such, I don't think there's a conflict with the Constitution. The Constitution provides the free environment for U.S. citizens to use their free will to choose whether to follow the Bible.

And insofar as the Bible says to "render unto Caesar," etc., I think it supports respecting government.

Best wishes, Laura

4:51 PM  

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