So, a Muslim is coming to the United States House of Representatives and he wants to be sworn into office with his hand on a Koran and not on a Holy Bible. Some conservatives have decided this may well be the end of American civilization. One columnist writes, "He should not be allowed to do so -- not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization." Some people's election loss grief counseling isn't going well.
The writer, Dennis Prager, goes on to argue that this all comes down to "multicultural hubris." After all, "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."
So the Bible is America's holiest book? Was there a vote? Did Oprah decide? Was it Jefferson? And if so was it his version of the Bible? Does that mean it is true of every American citizen? Even Kevin Federline? And if it is true then America, with its indifference to the poor and lust for money and power, would be seriously backsliding and in need of spiritual counseling.
No, the BIble isn't Ameirca' holiest book. America doesn't have a holy book. It does have two holy documents, however. One is called the Constitution. The other is known as the Declaration of Independence. That's it. Book study finished.
The Bible may be America's most symbolically holy book for many people. But that is only within the context of American civil religion. And only within the context of civil religion is there a question of whether or not the Koran can be used for a swearing in ceremony.
There, again, the answer is an easy one - yes. In courts across America today, people pledge to tell the truth and the whole truth without putting their hands on the Bible if they so choose. (The same thing is true in swearing-in ceremonies). President Bush participates in celebrating Ramadan. If Islam is good enough for President Bush, I suppose its holy book is good enough for a swearing in ceremony.
What is more deeply troubling than Prager's column, however, is the reaction of a group called the American Family Association. Its head, a man named Donald Wildmon, has called for his supporters to egg on Members of Congress to pass a new law - one requriing every official to be sworn in using the Holy Bible. Good idea except for that dreaded Constitution again. After all it contains these diabolical words in Article VI, section 3, "...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Darn those liberal Founders.