Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dennis Prager on Book Congressman Takes Oath on: Cutting More Flowers?

Dennis Prager has ignited a necessary discussion. In his latest column, "America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on," Prager strongly makes the case that a newly elected Muslim congressman should not be allowed to take his official oath on the Koran but should do so on the Bible.

There is much to say about this, even the connection to then-Cardinal Ratzinger's caution on admitting Turkey to the EU. I hope to comment more about the issue of retaining the value of symbols and retaining an identity still attached to the roots and the foundation of a people, of a country, of a culture, but for now go and read his article: "America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on."

He [Ellison] should not be allowed to do so -- not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.
[...]
Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

Devotees of multiculturalism and political correctness who do not see how damaging to the fabric of American civilization it is to allow Ellison to choose his own book need 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?

Of course, Ellison's defenders argue that Ellison is merely being honest; since he believes in the Koran and not in the Bible, he should be allowed, even encouraged, to put his hand on the book he believes in. But 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. Yet those secular officials did not demand to take their oaths of office on, say, the collected works of Voltaire or on a volume of New York Times editorials, writings far more significant to some liberal members of Congress than the Bible. Nor has one Mormon official demanded to put his hand on the Book of Mormon. And it is hard to imagine a scientologist being allowed to take his oath of office on a copy of "Dianetics" by L. Ron Hubbard.

He closes with

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. It is hard to believe that this is the legacy most Muslim Americans want to bequeath to America. But if it is, it is not only Europe that is in trouble.

This reminds me of something Dennis introduced me to back in the early 90's. In a talk he gave on multiculturalism, Dennis spoke of the importance of retaining a connection to the roots that have been key in making us who we are today. In this talk, Dennis quoted the Jewish thinker Will Herberg from his book Judaism and Modern Man:

The moral principles of Western civilization are, in fact, all derived from the tradition rooted in Scriputre and have vital meaning only in the context of that tradition. The attempt made in recent decades by secularist thinkers to disengage these values from their religious context, in the assurance that they could live a life of their own as a "humanistic" ethic, has resulted in what one writer has called our "cut-clower" culture. Cut flowers retain their original beauty and fragrance, but only so long as they retain the vitality they have drawn from their now severed roots; after that is exhausted, they wither and die. So with freedom, brotherhood, justice and personal dignity--the values that form the moral foundation of our civilization. Without the life-giving power of the faith out of which they have sprung, they possess neither meaning nor vitality. Morality ungrounded in God is indeed a house built upon sand, unable to stand up against the vagaries of impulse and the brutal pressures of power and self-interest.

I second that. If we are to retain a connection to our roots, we as a people must understand this.

1 comment:

philippe de backer said...

What about separation of church and state. He can take the oath on a swimsuit special of sports illustrated for all I am concerned.

His acts will determine whether he is a good congressman, not an oath to the bible