The midterm election is barely over and the religious far right is already acting out over incoming Minnesota Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison’s stated intention to be sworn in using the Koran rather than the Bible.
Ellison, the first member of the Islamic faith to be elected to the United States Congress has served in the Minnesota Legislature. His desire to use the Koran at his swearing-in ceremony has apparently caused great consternation and hand wringing among some of the luminaries of the religious and not so religious right. Fox News’ Sean Hannity, famous for making mole hills appear as mountains could not pass up an opportunity to dig in to this nonsensical non issue last week.
His invited guest was a guy named Dennis Prager who I am told has a right wing talk-show in Los Angeles, I envision the type of show that Donald Fagin sang of in “Night Fly.”
“So you say there’s a race of men in the trees, I wait all night for calls like these.” Donald Fagin
I will probably never understand what motivates these people to worship the symbols and trappings of a particular religious faith rather than the substance, the core, the Deity. I would think it should be obvious to the fateful that it is Nature’s God that is the object of worship not the icons, the bones of the Saints, nor the pot shards of religious history.
But no, this crowd lives on symbolism, Jesus on the dashboard, eat a flag for breakfast, pray loudly in the streets and beat your breast in public so that you may be seen as pious, among the pious. of (In spite of Christ’s admonition against such behavior)
Religion aside it is a bit disturbing that after so many years and so much debate that they are still unable to read and understand The Constitution of the United States of America.
It seems to me that somewhere in that document it is clearly stated that the Constitution itself is an establishment of the People of the United States, yes now I remember clearly, it’s in the preamble:
“We the people of the United States, in order to for more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” – Preamble to the Constitution of the United States
It might be noticed that there is no mention of God, Allah, Yahweh, Jesus, Buddha, nor any others among history’s pantheon of available deities. Also notice that there is no mention of God as the establishing authority as the Jimmy Swaggart, Falwell, Robertson, Parsley, Tammy Faye shoofly pie, down home revival wing of American thought would have us believe.
In fact, the word religion or religious appears only twice in the Constitution, in the much argued over First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. – First Amendment to the United States Constitution
Less familiar to many people will be these words which appear earlier in the document in article six:
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. – United States Constitution, Article 6, section3
The words God or Allah, Jesus or Mohammed, Bible or Koran appear nowhere in the Constitution. I believe Jefferson used the term Nature’s God and Creator in the Declaration of Independence and his choice of these generic terms shows as clearly as anything the fact that Jefferson himself, like many of our Founding Dudes was a Deist, not a Christian as many of the evangelical faithful have tried to lead us to believe.
Dennis Prager appearing on Paula Zahn’s show preaches to the contrary:
“The issue is expressing religious freedom. As I also wrote in there, I would fight for his right to worship as a Muslim, to run for Congress as a Muslim. That’s not the issue. The issue is exactly as you put it earlier. What is the book that these people affirm as the essential text of American life? Now, some people will say the Constitution. But the Constitution derives its legitimacy from that Bible, secular congressman have all used the Bible. They don’t believe in it. Mormons do not ask for the book of Mormon. If a Scientologist ran, would he ask for Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard? If a racist ran, would he ask for Mein Kampf? We are starting a very unfortunate further unraveling of the fabric of American life. That’s my worry.”
I will not attempt to deny that the Pentateuch, for the Jews and the whole of the Old Testament and the New Testament for Christians have been a central force in American life and history.
To deny this would be a lie nearly as large as to state that the Constitution derives it’s legitimacy from the Bible. That is blatantly and intentionly false as well as pathetically absurd, flying in the face as it does of the words presented clearly in the Constitution itself.
In article 6 the founders intent is clear, to ask for an oath or affirmation to defend the Constitution, an oath or affirmation not based on any religion or creed but simply an oath or affirmation.
They did not ask for a Christian oath, a Jewish oath, or a Muslim oath, nor did they ask anyone to swear an oath on the spirit of Gene Autry’s horse in the Pasadena International Church of the Redeemor.
When we fill out our taxes this coming spring we will attest by our signature that what we have reported on our tax form is the truth, under penalty of perjury.
When we go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, and apply for a license, or title transfer we similarly attest to the truth of our statements on the forms we file, under penalty of perjury.
When we are called to testify in court we may swear on a Bible or we may simply attest that our testimony is the truth under penalty of perjury.
Our perjury statutes were established by the same people who established the Constitution, to wit: The People of the United States and not some Deity no matter how popular and revered he or she may be.
Lying in a court of law, on a tax return, or about the price of a vehicle on a DMV form is probably as common as speaking the truth. Swearing with one’s hand on a Bible, a Koran, or a first edition copy of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham will probably not affect the percentage of lies to truth in the slightest.
The act of swearing on any book as a symbol is simply another superstitious vestige of our distant mutual human past.
In the end it makes no difference what tome we use to attempt to somehow amplify our expressions of honesty before our peers.
The truth is the substance, the fact, the mountain.
The choice of the book is a mere symbol, the molehill.
And that’s the truth.