You would think that swearing in the first Muslim to the United States Congress wouldn’t be that big of a deal. After all, our halls of power are pretty much completely dominated by self-proclaimed Christians (in addition to the 11 Jews in the Senate and 26 in the House). Very little there to upset the monotheist apple-cart. But you would be wrong. Apparently the simple fact of him swearing in on the Koran is enough to get conservative Christian blood pumping!
“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.” – Dennis Prager
I love how the American Family Association, who publicized the editorial, take great pains to point out how Prager is Jewish in order paint their anti-Ellison message as more than the latest evangelical smear-job. But wait, it gets worse, you want Hitler references? We have them!
“[Ellison's decision] will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones, and they’ll see it as the first sign and realization of a greatest goal, which is the, you know, making Islam the religion of America…[would you have] allowed [Ellison] to choose, you know, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which is the Nazi bible…In other words, where does this stop? Is there any limitations whatsoever?” – Sean Hannity, November 30 edition of Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes
Of course the truth is that the real swearing in isn’t done with any sort of holy book, and that religious texts are primarily used for photo-ops before or after the ceremony.
“Office of the House Clerk confirmed to ThinkProgress that the swearing-in ceremony consists only of the Members raising their right hands and swearing to uphold the Constitution. The Clerk spokesperson said neither the Christian Bible, nor any other religious text, had ever been used in an official capacity during the ceremony. (Occasionally, Members pose for symbolic photo-ops with their hand on a Bible.)”
There is also that pesky Constitution that states there won’t be any sort of religious test for elected officials. But a little thing like facts and reason can’t stop certain factions of the Conservative Christian tribe from having a cozy little hate-in.
“So you would not mind a Satan worshiper swearing by the Satanic Bible or a what if a politician wants to swear on JRR Tolkins Lords of the Rings or Mao’s little red book ~ no ? why not ? and despite the wish of the first two liberals who think that it is outdated and provincial I say “so what” who cares what you want ! I want it the way it is and will lobby to have it stay ~ by the way if they had asked O.J. to swear to tell the truth the whole so help him L. Ron Hubbard would you have said “hey thats not right”? or would you have said its his right to swear on any ol book he like its none of my business how he shows that he will follow the rules laid down to ascertain someones sincerity?”
“Think the Christians will have it hard? What about the gays, the secularists, the feminists, and other pagans who are not recognized as “people of the book”? You think they are going to contibue their “sex in the city” lifestyles under Sharia? But…no…we get some smartass liberal with his suicide-pact “constitutionality” and “freedom” and “equlaity” telling us, yeah, let the Muslims in.”
But don’t worry, they aren’t concerned with Pagans…yet.
“…And before anyone comes back with “well what about a Wiccan or something? They can just swear an oath on some pagan text?” Let’s be realistic. If someone is running as a Wiccan or something similar, I doubt they’d be elected in the first place.”
Keep in mind that this little tempest in a teapot is over a Democratic liberal black man from Minnesota. While many like to make hay about the donations he received from CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), he was also backed by the publisher of The American Jewish World. In fact his biggest scandals up to now have been whether or not he supported anti-Semtic comments made by the Nation of Islam in the 1990s, and unpaid parking tickets.
So what happens when a religious minority in America is elected that falls outside the monotheist norm? What about a Hindu? What if he or she decides to ceremonially swear on the Upanishads? Will a Buddhist get in big trouble if he or she swears in with The Pali Canon? Since most modern Pagans don’t have “holy scripture”, I doubt they would swear in on a book, but I wouldn’t want to be that first Pagan elected to national office once the Bible-worshipers catch wind of it.
Addendum: It looks like two Buddhists (Hank Johnson and Mazie Hirono) were elected in November! Jeff Wilson has the full scoop on them both at his Tricycle blog. So, no Christian outcry at what they are or are not swearing on? Or is this an “all Muslims are really terrorists” kind of party?