Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Prager's Christianist America

America is a Christian nation in which every person respects and believes in the Bible, or at least that is what Dennis Prager would have us believe.

Today, he argued that the newly-elected Congressman Ellison should be required to swear his oath of office on what he considers to be America’s book: the Bible. Heaven forbid that he would prefer to use a religious text used in his own religion!

Apparently, when I wasn’t looking, the US Constitution was redrafted with an addendum to the 1st Amendment stating that we can have all the freedom of religion we want, so long as that religion is of a Judeo-Christian nature. As such, Ellison’s Muslim faith is incompatible with the freedom of religion we honor and so he must swear his oath on the Bible instead of the Koran.

Strangely, that argument makes more sense than the arguments Prager uses in his opinion piece. He draws a poor comparison with racists stating that if a racist chose to swear his or her oath on Mein Kampf, we would certainly not allow it. Nor would we allow an agnostic liberal to swear an oath on a stack of New Yorker editorials. Both statements are probably true, but neither Mein Kampf nor the New Yorker are widely considered sacred religious texts.

To that end, why are members of Congress required to swear upon a religious text at all? Or are they even required to? Certainly, I think they should be allowed to as it can give a meaningful foundation to the oath they have spoken if they do it before their own God. However, if they have a different God or do not believe in God, what purpose does it serve to place a hand on a book with little significance to the elected official?

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