I Swear…

This mind-boggling column by Dennis Prager has to be the favorite for Most Asinine Argument of the Year, which is sort of surprising, since I thought Prager was actually intelligent.
In it, Prager argues that incoming Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, a Muslim, is committing a grave anti-American offense by taking his oath of office while placing his hand on the Koran, as opposed to the Bible. The act, Prager writes, is “damaging to the fabric of American civilization.” He goes on to compare one placing their hand on the Koran to taking the oath on “Mein Kampf.” And finally, he argues that Ellison is contributing to “the Islamicization of America” by bringing a Koran into his swearing-in ceremony.
Where to start with this? For one thing, placing one’s hand on the Bible during the oath is not a Constitutional obligation, or even a law- it is merely a traditional custom. For another, it would be unfair to ask a man not of the Christian faith to place his hand on a holy book that is not his own.
“Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned” Prager argues, “America is interested in only one book, the Bible.” I don’t remember “America” ever being asked to vote on such a thing, and of course, the Constitution forbids establishment of religion. And I wouldn’t worry too much about this leading to the “Islamicization of Congress,” since Ellison remains the lone Muslim in the 435-member House of Representatives.
Were Ellison rejecting the Constitution itself in favor of the Koran, that would be one thing. Instead, he is merely rejecting a holy book that is not his in favor of one that is. I fail to see the outrage, I really do.
There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Keith Ellison, but how he takes his oath of office is very low on the list. And this comes just a week after another generally tolerable right-wing talk radio guy, Glenn Beck, asked Ellison on live television to “prove to me that you’re not working with our enemies.” There must be something about this guy that makes people go nuts.

5 thoughts on “I Swear…

  1. Jon Tyken

    Actually, separation of Church and State should mean that we shouldn’t use the Koran, we shouldn’t use the Bible, we shouldn’t use any religious book at all.

  2. Ev

    Steve’s right. Ellison should be allowed to use the Koran. Prager’s wrong about Jews taking oaths on the new testament. Most Jewish public officials that I know have used the Old Testament to swear on.

  3. Dave J

    I’ve agreed with Prager on some things in the past, but to use a technical legal term, this “argument” of his is totally fucking retarded. As someone who’s in court nearly every day, I don’t ever recall an oath being sworn “on” a book at all: just raise your right hand and swear to whatever.

  4. Dan

    I believe that it is part of the law that either an Oath can be sworn, OR (if your religion forbids taking an oath or you are opposed to oath-taking in some way) an affirmation can be made.
    Not particularly troubling either way. I just wonder why Prager, an orthodox Jew who would probably choose to affirm if asked to stand as a witness in a court of law, wouldn’t offer that as an option for Ellison.
    A friend of mine blogged on this very topic with a bit more legal and historical insight to boot.


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