For sheer imbecility, it’s gonna be awfully hard to top this column by Dennis Prager objecting to Muslim congressman Keith Ellison swearing his oath of office on the Quran. He manages to bring both the stupid and the crazy right from the first paragraphs:
Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, has announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran.
He should not be allowed to do so — not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.
I’ll take naked assertions for $1000, Alex. How exactly will this undermine American civilization, and what does that phrase even mean? He doesn’t say, of course. What, you expect reasoned arguments? Silly man. This is a purely emotional polemical screed.
First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism — my culture trumps America’s culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.
How absurd. The only hubris present in this situation is coming from loons like Prager, who think that they have the authority to decide what others must believe in and what rituals they must perform in order to stay in their good graces. It’s their hubris that motivates them to deny to others their most deeply held beliefs and practices in the name of advancing their own.
Here’s what i find so idiotic about this whole thing. There are really only two positions on such oaths: you either believe they mean something, that they actually have something to do with whether a person actually supports the Constitution, or you believe, as I do, that they are absolutely meaningless. But if you believe that they are meaningful, then the reason can only be that they mean something because by swearing on a holy book one is making a pledge to God, a pledge in the name of their most sacred beliefs, and that such a pledge has more meaning and is more likely to be followed than one who merely makes a promise. This is the same kind of thinking that says that if you “pinky swear” or spit in the palm of your hand before shaking hands, that means more than just saying you’ll do something.
But the point is that if you think swearing an oath on a holy book is a meaningful exercise, then in order to be consistent you must recognize the futility and absurdity of requiring someone to swear on a holy book that they don’t believe in. If such a ceremony actually has meaning, if it actually does correlate with one’s faithfulness in carrying out their duties, then the worst possible thing you could do is require someone to swear such an oath on a holy book whose sacredness the person does not accept; in doing so, you’ve already established right up front that his oath has no meaning to him, at least, because he is willing to play a dishonest game of pretend right up front.
Personally, I think all such oaths are meaningless. President Bush placed his hands on a Bible and swore the oath required by the Constitution:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Unfortunately, that was about the last time he actually followed the constitution. His oath, declared with his hand on the Bible, didn’t stop him from ignoring one constitutional provision after another. 4th amendment? Warrants? We don’t need no stinkin’ warrants. Only Congress can suspend habeas corpus? Pshaw. The “unitary executive” can do whatever he wants and neither Congress nor the courts can do anything about. Bush’s oath of office meant less than nothing to him and that Bible didn’t do a damn thing to change that.
I say forget holy books. The constitution has no provision at all for any holy books in such an oath anyway, it only requires that the oath be sworn. If you want to require politicians to swear on something, have them swear on a copy of the Constitution. Then give them a copy of it and maybe give them a test on its provisions as well; and until you can pass a test on what the Constitution says, you don’t get to cast a vote in Congress (for that matter, you shouldn’t be allowed to vote in an election either, in my view).
I couldn’t possibly care any less what book someone swears on when taking the oath of office. I don’t care if Ellison swears his oath with his hand on a stack of Archie comic books. What I care about is whether they actually follow the Constitution. But it seems to me that if you think such oaths mean something and indicate something about whether one is likely to do so, then the last thing you should be demanding is that someone be forced to be disingenuous in the process of taking the oath.