Monday, December 04, 2006

A Religious Test

"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." - Article VI of the United States Constitution
To many, this story is old news, but a quick recap: Dennis Prager (who is Jewish) is upset that MN Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, plans on using a Koran to be sworn into office. Prager's statements were denounced by... well, pretty much everyone, including the ADL. CAIR now wants him removed from the board of the federally-funded Holocaust Memorial Council (which advises the Holocaust Museum), which he was recently appointed to, for his statement.

Now here's the really weird twist - Prager (who is Jewish, remember?) wants Jews to swear on the Christian Bible, too:

Prager said the ceremonial oath is no less significant than the actual swearing-in.

"Oh, that's the whole point. It's exactly because it's ceremonial that it matters to me," he said. "Ceremonies matter. Ceremonies are exceedingly important. That is the way a society states what is most significant to it."

Prager also said that he would like to see Jews swear their oaths of office on the Christian Bible — the Jewish Bible does not include the New Testament that is central to Christian beliefs.

Well, at least he can claim he's consistent and not biased against Muslims in particular... But this just further shows how stupid his opinion on this really is. What happened to the "no religious test" clause in the Constitution? His statement that everybody has sworn on the Bible seems to be wrong, anyway: In addition to T. Roosevelt, who he mentions, many Congressmen and Senators seem to have merely affirmed or sworn on an Old Testament only (in the case of some Jews).
[Note: According to the article, the actual swearing-in is only done by raising their right hand; the part with the Bible is merely a ceremonious photo-op, not even a real swearing in.]
The only valid question is where we draw the line on what people can swear on: Can a Scientologist swear on Dyanetics, an atheist on... oh, Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion? I think the simple answer to this is - if it becomes a serious issue - that everyone must either affirm or swear on the Constitution of the United States, which is the document they are swearing to uphold and protect.


  1. that everyone must either affirm or swear on the Constitution of the United States, which is the document they are swearing to uphold and protect.

    No way. That makes far too much sense.

  2. How bizarre. As I wrote in my post about him, it's getting hard to tell the difference between Stephen Colbert's parody of right-wing extremists and some actual right-wing extremists.

  3. Oh, and given the choice, I'd affirm, as I've done in court. But you're right that swearing on the Constitution would make a whole lot more sense than on the Bible, Christian, Jewish, or otherwise.

  4. Thats what makes this so rediculous. Debbie wasserman shultz made headlines when she couldnt find a chumash for her swear in - ultimately she borrowed one from garry ackerman. According to prager, this is just as "bad" as whatever is so bad about ellison using a koran. 3 presidents didnt take the oath on a christian bible.

  5. Ellison is affiliated with CAIR; worrying about Prager's views just masks that.

  6. LT - Heh.

    JA - I'm not sure if I should be insulted... ;)

    I affirmed in court as well. But I didn't see an Aron nearby, so I didn't have much of a choice.

    TC - Yep.

    SD - No, Prager being stupid helped mask it. Unfortunately, in all the hubbub about Prager's stupidity, brought on by Prager himself, everyone is ignoring the fact that Ellison is someone who has supported certain statements and opinions that are disgusting. The good thing is, if he does it in the future, everyone will have at least heard of him.

  7. Ellison's gotten a free ride despite his ties to CAIR. The NJDC and the Minnesota Jewish weekly felt it was more important to support him than the Jewish Republican running against him. If he had been accorded a reasonable amount of scrutiny along the way Prager's comment wouldn't have been the big deal that it is now.

  8. That could be. Nevertheless, Prager is only causing people to rally behind Ellison rather than against him.

  9. That could be. Nevertheless, Prager is only causing people to rally behind Ellison rather than against him.


  10. I read that the actual oath is administered to the whole group at one time, and that each individual puts his/her hand on a Bible only during what's basically a photo op.

    If this is true, the whole brouhaha is haha,

  11. It makes no sense to swear on the Constitution. The whole point swearing on a book is to say something like your link to this book will break if you break the oath. Swearing on the book you are swearing to protect is circular logic.

    As far as swearing on books (or even swearing), it seems like a rather unJewish concept. I'm curious how many Jews take the choice of "affirming" rather than "swearing" for their oaths.

    If you want something that makes me think representatives take the Constitution seriously perhaps we should make them all read the whole document out loud. Then at least we'll know they've all read they document they're pledging to uphold.

  12. Anon - I said that in the post...

    BSCI - Ha! Come on - expect politicians to know what they're there for? That's unreasonable.

  13. What can I say? I have a slightly idealistic streak.

  14. Two questions: Anybody got a source for this assertion that some elected officials haven't sworn on the Bible? I'm curious. What is this 'affirming' rather than 'swearing'? Can anybody do that? What do you have to do to get a court to let you do that?