I rarely disagree with Dennis Prager (although I’ve broken with him about abstinence and the death penalty in the past).
Less often still do I agree with Keith Ellison.
So mark your calendars; Ed and I are with Ellison on his current flap about taking his oath of office on the Quran.
Ed recaps some of the discussion we had on the NARN last Saturday:
Prager, who usually gets it right, got this issue spectacularly wrong. He wrote that any Congressman not willing to swear an oath on the Bible should not serve in Congress, and that the American fabric would suffer its worst damage since 9/11 if Ellison used the Qur’an instead of the Bible. This is utter nonsense. In the first place, the entire issue is somewhat moot since members have one ceremony where they all take the oath of office as a group on the floor of the House. The rules of the House, furthermore, allows for the use of an “affirmation” for those choosing not to swear their oaths as a religious preference — which demonstrates that America does have a tradition of tolerance for the needs of other religions in its processes. Quakers in particular take advantage of that option, although Richard Nixon swore his oath when elected as President.
Besides, if using a religious text for an oath has any significance at all — and our experience with courts and politics strongly suggests there isn’t much — one would suppose that it would have to be a religious text with significance to the person swearing the oath. Atheists would not feel bound by the power of Divine retribution if they swore their oath on the Bible and then broke it later. Similarly, Christians would not feel much responsibility for protecting the honor of the Qur’an if they swore their oath on that text. Why wouldn’t we want Ellison to swear his oath on the one religious text he holds sacred, if we want him to feel some responsibility for acting in its defense by fulfilling his oath?
If I were to swear an oath on the Quran, would it be worth the air I spent saying the words? Yes, it would, because my word means something, but the Quran bit would be superfluous; I don’t observe the Quran, less perhaps than Ellison does the Bible. The oath of office is being sworn to give an implied verbal warranty to the officeholder’s beliefs, not the voters’.
But while Prager is less correct than usual on this issue, he’s still more on the ball than whichever editoral-board drone wrote this bit of aromatica. (I suspect Nick Coleman, the only person in the left-leaning world who still says “wingnut” with all the glee of a toddler who just made a big, juicy pants).