City of Roses
| Townhall.com: November 28, 2006
I thought I'd start a discussion thread on the recent Quran Oath controversy, which escalated about newly elected Minnesota representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to the U.S Congress, asked to place his hand on a Quran rather than the Bible in his ceremonial swear-in, was criticized by pundit Dennis Prager in an editorial column published November 28th of last year, suggesting that his decision "undermines American civilization" and that: "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.", adding that the Bible is the only book America is interested in.
Townhall.com: December 5, 2006
After the editorial received wide publicity and generated many e-mails from both Ellison and Prager supporters on the debate, Dennis Prager released another editorial the following week, responding to critics who accused Prager of religious intolerance and bigotry, and suggesting a possible solution to the debate, adding the following statement in the article:
"You don't have to be Christian to acknowledge that the Bible is the source of America's values. Virtually every founder of this country knew that and acknowledged it. The argument that founders such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were deists, even if accurate (it is greatly exaggerated), makes my point, not my opponents'. The founders who were not believing Christians venerated the Bible as the source of America's values just as much as practicing Christians did.
America derives its laws from its Constitution. It derives its values from the Bible. We don't get inalienable rights from the Constitution; we get them from God. Which is exactly what the signers of the Declaration of Independence wrote: We are endowed with inalienable rights by our Creator, not by government and not by any man-made document. And that Creator and those inalienable rights emanate from the Bible. Keith Ellison's freedom to openly believe and practice Islam and to run for elective office as a Muslim is a direct result of a society molded by the Bible and the people who believed in it, a fact he should be willing to honor as he is sworn in."
Star Tribune: December 20, 2006: Full Text Of Virgil Goode Letter
The controversy reached a climatic peak when fifth-term Virginia representative Virgil Goode issued a letter to constituents in his district two weeks later. The text went as follows:
Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.
The Ten Commandments and "In God We Trust" are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, "As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office." Thank you again for your email and thoughts.
Virgil H. Goode, Jr.
70 E. Court St., Suite 215
Rocky Mount, Va. 24151
Following Goode's letter, as well as several statements suggesting he wouldn't apologize to Ellison following calls for apology, other representatives openly expressed their thoughts regarding the matter. Here's a few of them:
He wants to take his oath on the Quran, that's fine. I think whatever you believe is necessary for you to uphold your obligations to the Constitution, that is fine with me."
- Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado)
"I do not believe that the law or rules should be changed to require one official holy book for use in administering our oath of office. As a Member of Congress and as an ordained minister, I believe America's founders erected a wall between church and state – not to keep religion or faith out of public discourse – but instead, to keep the government out of an individual's faith and out of churches or other places of worship. I recall that our founders prohibited any religious test to qualify for public office and our Constitution already protects public prayer and other public observances of an individual's religious expressions. Imposing one holy book for the administration of a federal oath of office will diminish the religious liberties of all Americans, including my colleagues in Congress who do not share my Christian faith but may be Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist or some other belief."
- Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Missouri)
"As we continue to seek new strategies to protect our nation, I feel strongly that America must continue its outreach to the majority of moderate, peaceful members of the Islamic faith, as partners in combating terrorism. I respect the Constitutional right of Members of Congress, indeed, of every U.S. citizen, freely to exercise the religion of their choice, including those of the Islamic faith utilizing the Koran in accordance with the tenets of their religion."
- Senator John Warner (R-Virginia)
"Each of us has every right to lay our hand on the Bible that we were raised with; that's what America is all about, diversity, understanding and tolerance. It doesn't appear that Dennis Prager has learned anything from his time on the Holocaust commission."
- Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, (D-Florida)
The Washington Post: January 3, 2007
Finally, last Wednesday (January 3rd) it was reported by the Washington Post that Keith Ellison was to make his ceremonial swear-in using a Quran owned by former President Thomas Jefferson, who officially swore in yesterday with it.
So what are your thoughts on this whole matter in general, including the debate of religious freedom vs. preservation of traditional ideals, Muslims in Congress, etc.?
In final thoughts here, I want to add these final facts in support of Ellison's argument:
1) Contrary to what Virgil Goode was arguing in that unless we get tougher on immigration that we'll see more Muslims elected to Congress and demanding use of Qurans, immigration truly has NOTHING to do with this matter, in that Keith Ellison was in fact born in Detroit.
2) Two Buddhists were also elected to the 110th Congress (Representatives Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Hank Johnson of Georgia, the latter of who defeated Cynthia McKinney in a special election) and yet you don't see it being argued: "If American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration, there will likely be many more Buddhists elected to office and demanding the use of the Mahayana Sutras, or the Tibetan Book of the Dead!"
3) Contrary to what Prager claims in his initial editorial on this matter, this ISN'T the first time an elected representative declined to make their official swear-in on the Bible. In fact, former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, John Quincy Adams and Herbert Hoover are among those who also demanded NOT to use the Bible, and President Franklin Pierce alternatively made his oath on a law book.
However, there is a happier ending to this controversy, as reflected in this article from late last week:
Winston-Salem Journal: January 5, 2007
"On a day of new beginnings in Congress, Rep. Virgil Goode shook hands yesterday with the first Muslim House member, who used the Quran during a swearing -in ceremony.
Goode, R-Va., said that during a brief conversation on the House floor, he congratulated freshman Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., on his election to Congress, and the two agreed to talk at length later.
"He said, 'I'd like to have coffee with you sometime.' I'm not a coffee drinker, but I'd be glad to talk with him," Goode said in an interview."
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other"