Though there are a few often recurring accusations against him, the most intellectually meaty is the following:
Accusation: I am advocating something unconstitutional by demanding that the Bible be included in oaths of office. I am reminded that Mr. Ellison has a right to practice the religion of his choice and that there shall be no religious test for candidates for office in America.
Response: I never even hinted that there should be a religious test. It has never occurred to me that only Christians run for office in America. The idea is particularly laughable in my case since I am not now, nor ever have been, a Christian. I am a Jew (a non-denominational religious Jew, for the record), and I would vote for any Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Mormon, atheist, Jew, Zoroastrian, Hindu, Wiccan, Confucian, Taoist or combination thereof whose social values I share. Conversely, I would not vote for a fellow Jew whose social values I did not share. I want people of every faith and of no faith who affirm the values I affirm to enter political life.
My belief that the Bible should be present at any oath (or affirmation) of office has nothing whatsoever to do with the religion of the office holder. And it never has until Keith Ellison's decision to substitute a different text for the Bible. Many office holders who do not believe in the Bible at all or who reject some part have nevertheless used the Bible at their swearing-in (I noted this in my column). Even the vast majority of Jews elected to office have used a Bible containing both the Old and New Testaments, even though Jews do not regard the New Testament as part of their Bible. A tiny number of Jews have used only the Old Testament. As a religious Jew, I of course understand their decision, but I disagree with it.
I agree with the tens of thousands of office holders in American history who have honored the American tradition -- I am well aware it is not a law, and I do not want it to be -- of bringing a Bible to their ceremonial or actual swearing-in. Keith Ellison is ending that powerful tradition, and it is he who has called the public's attention to his doing so. He obviously thinks this is important. I think it is important. My critics think it isn't.
Why wouldn't Ellison bring a Bible along with the Koran? That he chose not to is the narcissism of multiculturalism that I referred to: The individual's culture trumps the national culture.
You don't have to be Christian to acknowledge that the Bible is the source of America's values. Virtually every founder of this country knew that and acknowledged it. The argument that founders such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were deists, even if accurate (it is greatly exaggerated), makes my point, not my opponents'. The founders who were not believing Christians venerated the Bible as the source of America's values just as much as practicing Christians did.
America derives its laws from its Constitution. It derives its values from the Bible. We don't get inalienable rights from the Constitution; we get them from God. Which is exactly what the signers of the Declaration of Independence wrote: We are endowed with inalienable rights by our Creator, not by government and not by any man-made document. And that Creator and those inalienable rights emanate from the Bible. Keith Ellison's freedom to openly believe and practice Islam and to run for elective office as a Muslim is a direct result of a society molded by the Bible and the people who believed in it, a fact he should be willing to honor as he is sworn in.
I cannot name any Western European country that does not have a document similar to the American Constitution and something akin to our Bill of Rights. It is, therefore, not the Constitution that has made America unique and a moral beacon to the world's downtrodden. What has made America unique is the combination of Enlightenment ideas with our underlying Judeo-Christian values. (I have described 24 of those values in 24 columns in 2005, all available on the Internet through www.pragerradio.com.)
It was understood from the beginning of the republic that liberty is derived from God, not from man alone. That is why the Liberty Bell has an inscription from the Bible (from the Torah in the Old Testament) on it, not an inscription from any secular Enlightenment (or ancient Greek) source.