Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Two disturbing religious stories have been developing this month. One involves right-wing outrage at Keith Ellison's statement that he will probably take his oath of office on a Koran when he is sworn in as the first Muslim elected to Congress. Anger among idiots on the right has been building for a while, but now it's found voice in a chillingly fascistic column by radio talk-show host Dennis Prager:

America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on

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.

First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism -- my culture trumps America's culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

... 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....

I'll stop before we get to the part where Prager compares the Koran to Mein Kampf.

As Barbara at the Mahablog points out, there's no legal requirement that a Bible be used for an oath of office, the Constitution forbids any religious test for holding office, North Carolina law specifically calls for the use of the Koran if the officeholder is a Muslim, and two U.S. governors have forgone the use of the Christian Bible, one in favor of a Torah, the other using a set of Jewish prayer books.

The Republic still stands.

Elsewhere, there are widespread howls of protest at the decision by Rick Warren, the wildly popular preacher and author of the massive bestseller The Purpose Driven Life, to allow Barack Obama to appear in his pulpit to talk about combatting AIDS. Obama is verboten because he's pro-choice. (Warren also invited an anti-choice Republican senator, Sam Brownback, to join him on the same Sunday.) Outrage is coming from prominent right-wingers -- Phyllis Schlafly, for instance, and the American Family Association.

At the Carpetbagger Report, Steve says,

... these religious right leaders and activists genuinely seem terrified of Obama speaking to an evangelical audience. Why else demand that Warren pull the invitation? It’s not enough for these conservatives to simply challenge Obama's ideas, or critique his policy prescriptions; they want to make sure Christians in Warren’s church not hear what Obama has to say.

I don't agree that this is happening out of fear. I think religious conservatives are just doing what they do regularly -- staking out an absolutist position and not giving an inch. Why didn't that South Dakota abortion law include rape and incest exceptions? Why weren't years of judicial decisions in Michael Schiavo's favor enough to settle the case of his wife Terri? Why is stem-cell research using tissue from embryos that will never come to term utterly intolerable? Why is the anti-abortion movement now targeting the use of even non-abortifacient contraception? Why is the use of "Happy Holidays" -- a greeting that acknowledges not only the many belief systems in America but the many holidays that take place at the end of the year -- now deemed an act of war?

I could, of course, ask a similar series of questions about right-wing intransigence on secular issues, starting with Iraq. That's just what right-wingers do: They get angry and they stir up anger in one another. They've built a politics of rage, and a few seat switches in Congress aren't going to change that.


UPDATE: As it turns out, Prager was going of half-cocked while overlooking the fact that House members don't swear on any book at all.

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