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.
Substantive points from Dennis Prager's Op-Ed piece:
...only imagine a racist elected to Congress. Would they allow him to choose Hitler's "Mein Kampf," the Nazis' bible, for his oath? And if not, why not? On what grounds will those defending Ellison's right to choose his favorite book deny that same right to a racist who is elected to public office?
...for all of American history, Jews elected to public office have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they do not believe in the New Testament, and the many secular elected officials have not believed in the Old Testament either...Nor has one Mormon official demanded to put his hand on the Book of Mormon.
... 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. If Keith Ellison is allowed to change that, he will be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11.
That last bit, to me, seems over-the-top and clearly a slippery-slope fallacy and glittering generality. But at the same time, he does have a point: commonly swearing on the same document has a unifying effect in the US Congress. Or does it?
My personal preference would be for those sworn in to swear upon the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately, seeing how widespread the abuse of that document has been under the current regime (warrant-less wiretaps, incarceration of American citizens without due process, deportation of American citizens to foreign countries for cruel and unusual punishment, etc.), I don't know if that would do any good.
What do you think? Is this a violation of an honored tradition? Is the precedent of Jewish (the USA has the largest Jewish population on the planet) and nonreligious Congressmen swearing upon the Bible for generations enough call for it to continue in all cases? Or is Keith Ellison establishing a valuable new precedent?