Dennis Prager has written a column that tackles an issue I feared one day would come up. It seems that Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, has announced that he will take his oath of office on the the Koran, instead of the Bible.
Obviously, this raises a whole gamut of emotions. At first glance, before I read Mr. Prager's piece, my first reaction was "so what?" I realize we live in a post-9/11 world, but does it really matter? Do we really think that Ellison, although connected with the Nation of Islam - and noted anti-Semite - Louis Farrakhan through his involvement in organizing the "The Million Man March", is a terrorist- affiliate?
But upon reading the article, I began to understand a great deal more about the issue. On one hand, when we elect a politician to office, we expect him to carry out his duties in good faith of the laws of the land. Furthermore, being a free country, one does not have to be of any religion, or can be of any religion, in order to serve. In this light, perhaps even the oath of office, with the traditional "hand on the Bible" act is unconstitutional.
However, it is still the act required to prove loyalty to the country, whether you are becoming a citizen, a witness in court or an elected official. Therefore, it is that very act of Americana, as opposed to religious belief, that symbolizes that loyalty.
In demanding that his oath be made on a Koran, as opposed to a Bible, Ellison is doing exactly what most Americans have been overly concerned with every time a Jew or a Catholic politician is elected - that their loyalties will be split between their faith and their country. It dogged Joe Lieberman and it certainly cost JFK a tremendous amount of votes. The question as to what influence the Church would have over Kennedy's decisions came very close to costing him the election. Even in 2000, many people wondered whether Joe Lieberman's Judaism would conflict with American policy in the Middle East.
Now, unlike before, we have a reason to be concerned. Neither Lieberman, nor Kennedy, put anything above their loyalty to the United States. Although, to be fair, neither of them had any concern about using a Bible either.
But Prager makes an interesting point. If it's the Americana that binds us to the oath, no other book can be used for the oath anyway. In other words, whose to say that if Tom Cruise becomes an elected official, he won't demand to use the book, Dyanetics, to make the oath on. And what about an Atheist? Can they use Horton Hears A Hoo?
Prager also asks what of the non-Religious politicians? Maybe they aren't to be trusted because they don't believe in the strength of the Bible?
No, the only conclusion must be that the Bible that is used in the swearing in ceremony is there not for it's religious application, but for it's Americana. It's the one book, or item, that Americans trust for the purpose of just this task. Putting your hand on a Bible and swearing, or affirming an action is tantamount to when someone tells you something that's hard to believe and when you question it, that person looks you right in the eyes and says, "honest to G-d." It's that we are using G-d as a witness. It's that we are being very truthful. In light of the amount of lies people get away with, it's still the closest thing to be able to trust.
Putting a hand on a Koran, a Talmud, the Book of Mormon or just about any other book, is simply not enough to make us trust the person who swears by it. And in light of 9/11, regardless of there being "good" Muslims or "bad" Muslims, to Americans - who are fighting a war against Muslim fanatics, it's simply insulting.
You can read Dennis Prager's excellent article here.