Saturday, December 09, 2006


Some people simply have too much time on their hands. At least, some in the conservative movement who have responded with indignation over the decision of newly elected Congressman Keith Ellison (D - MN), a convert to Islam, to take his oath of office with his hand on the Koran.

In a recent Townhall article right wing columnist and talk show host Dennis Prager is suggesting that Ellison --- who will be the nation's first Islamic Member of Congress --- not be allowed to take his oath on the Koran on the grounds that doing so "undermines American civilization".

But there are a couple of facts that Mr. Ellison and his ilk should be reminded of:

First, when we see pictures of Senators and Members of Congress taking the oath with their hands on a Bible or other book, it is not actually their official oath, but a tradition which dates back to the infancy of photography so that the politicos can have something to print back home. When the members take their actually oath, it is as a group in their respective chambers with noone having their hand on any book.

Secondly, it is not all that unusual for an officeholder to take their oath holding a text other than the Christian Bible. For instance, the late United States Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg took his oath on the high court using a Hebrew Bible, and Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle took her oath on a Torah in 2001. Four presidents did not use a Bible in their ceremony: Franklin Pierce affirmed his oath, Rutherford B. Hayes and Theodore Roosevelt had no Bibles in their ceremonies, and Lyndon B. Johnson used a missal during his first term.

Third, one should read this excerpt from Article VI of the Constitution, which describes the oaths of office for federal and state officials:

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

It really should not matter if a public official wants to use a Christian or Hebrew Bible or the Koran to take their oath of office on. As long as an individual is sincere, and is willing to swear or affirm on their holy texts to be faithful in their service, there should not be any complaint.


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