Bigots Masquerading as Patriots
By Theodore T. Hodge
First of all, it should come as no surprise that America is a pluralistic society. From the sociological perspective, cultural pluralism is defined as: “A condition in which minority groups participate in the dominant society, yet maintain their cultural differences.” The basis of this is the constitution. The first amendment to the constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; …” In common parlance, the establishment of a national religion is prohibited. Americans have a basic constitutional right to practice any religion or none at all and it is illegal and discriminatory to judge anyone on the basis of his professed religion.
Now back to the story. When Keith Ellison announced that he would use the Koran, instead of the Bible, as he took his oath of office, conservative columnist Dennis Prager fired up a column. And this is partly what he wrote: “He should not be allowed to do so -- not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization…”
Undermines American civilization? This could easily be dismissed as careless hyperbole. But people like Dennis Prager must not be so easily dismissed because they have a dangerous agenda; to sell an ideology to their fellow citizens and the rest of us based on falsehood and a certain narrow mindedness. How does a supposedly intelligent writer justify such a ridiculously careless statement? How does one single citizen, taking a single personal decision such as this, undermine American civilization?
Reading further, Prager writes: “ 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”.
He goes on, “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…”
The so-called conservative columnist went on and on, ranting and raving and spreading falsehood. The fact is, since America sanctions no state (national) religion, it must be logically concluded that it has no “holiest book”. To write that one should be disallowed to serve in Congress because one does not accept the Bible as one’s holy book is ludicrous, to put it mildly.
On a NPR show, “Religious Texts and the Swear-in Tradition”, the Deputy Historian of the US House of Representatives confirmed that other books, other than the Christian Bible, have been used for the purpose. The Hebrew Bible and the Mormons Book of Prayers have been used without any controversy; Mr. Dennis Prager must be ignorant of these facts or conveniently chose to ignore them for his contrived purpose. Most significantly, it is recorded that one of America’s most popular presidents, Teddy Roosevelt took the oath of office without using the Bible or any other holy book. If you’ve noticed, that did not destroy “American civilization”.
It is one thing when a talk show host or a columnist decides to tell his listeners or readers that the moon is made of blue cheese because he says so. It is quite another when a lawmaker does the same. That is exactly what a Virginian Congressman by the name of Virgil Goode did when he entertained the same trend of thought. Congressman Goode wrote a letter expressing displeasure over the use of the Koran and he thought it threatened American values. This is what he wrote:
”... When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped…”
If you thought the conservative was a bit disturbed, the Congressman is indeed a cuckoo. What the heck, I wonder, does this have to do with illegal immigration? It is said that Representative Keith Ellison can trace his ancestry in America to the 1700’s; surprise, surprise, his ancestors were brought here as slaves and he was born in Detroit. What exactly does this man mean by “persons from the Middle East”? You would think the Congressman from Virginia would know better. In the last election, one of his fellow Republicans lost a senatorial race by referring to another American in a racially insensitive way. Now this one is comparing a bona fide American to a Middle Easterner. He even threatened to have Rep. Ellison deported; to where, we don’t know.
Two national elections ago, Senator Joe Lieberman ran as a vice presidential candidate. He is an orthodox Jew who did not campaign on Saturdays because he observed the Jewish Sabbath.
In this next presidential race, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is considering a run for the presidency. As a Mormon, he brings certain peculiarities to the venture, mixing his Mormonism with mainstream politics. Our self-appointed moral police don’t seem as alarmed over a white Jew or a white Mormon as they are over a black Moslem.
Congressman Ellison was asked whether he thought Goode was a bigot. Politely, he said, “I don’t know the fellow, and I’d rather just say that he has a lot to learn about Islam. I don’t want to start any name calling.”
Keith Ellison finally took the oath of office along with his colleagues for the 110th US Congress. He raised his right hand and placed his left hand on the Koran. Interestingly, he used a book that was once owned by Thomas Jefferson, one of the nation’s founding fathers and its third president; apparently, Jefferson did not believe that owning a copy of the Koran made him any less an American patriot.
Conservative Columnist Prager and Congressman Goode
have a lot to learn about Islam and other religions
and cultures. They also have a lot to learn about America,
starting with the constitution and history.
Given their backgrounds, it is difficult to assume these people acted out of pure ignorance. It is more logical to assume that they acted out of indifference and a blatant disregard for the law. These folks need lessons in cultural sensitivity and tolerance. They need to shed their excessive xenophobia and embrace the reality that America is a multicultural society. Until they do, they will continue to be nothing but bigots masquerading as patriots.