Thursday, January 04, 2007

No religious test...

(One reader seemed to misunderstand part of this post so I have edited it slightly to be better understood. By the way, my outgoing e-mail is still not working, dang it! I know it's just some little setting that's different on this machine.)

From the Constitution of the United States:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, under the United States.

That text is very clear and absolute. Any Congressman who tries to institute a religious test for a Member of Congress has broken his oath: He is NOT defending, protecting, supporting the Constitution.

Congressman Keith Ellison, our first Muslim Member of Congress
I congratulate him and wish him well.

My Median Sib, today, a remarkable woman; a loving wife, daughter, mother, and grandmother; and an honored teacher, and a person I respect and love and welcome to rebut what I write here, has, it seems to me in my anything-but-humble opinion, leapt off a cliff, gone off the deep end, climbed out of the pot and into the fire, [fill in your own cliche for "failed to wisely agree with her loving older and wiser brother"]. In reaction to the election of our first Muslim Member of Congress, she has written:
"Muslims worldwide have declared jihad on the United States and ANYONE who is not Muslim. I think it was a mistake to elect an “enemy” to Congress."
I cannot express how saddened I am by that unfortunate statement. And I cannot let it pass without comment.

My Sib's post seems to consider Congressman Keith Ellison an “enemy” simply because he is Muslim. If so, that is an affront to many wonderful loyal Americans, including some of my favorite students and their fine parents and one of the finest co-workers I have (an Iraqi-American Kurd whose brother was murdered by Saddam and who fled Iraq with her husband and children to escape some of the same terrorists that my Sib seems to be lumping her with). It would certainly be an affront to our Muslim-American soldiers past and present.

Would we force a member to be sworn on the Bible when that is not his Book of Faith? Wouldn’t that require him to be hypocritical? Isn't that a "religious test"? Does the Constitution preclude non-Christians from serving in Congress? Should we take away citizenship from those of other faiths?

I am not a Muslim. I am sure there is much to admire in their faith, but I happen to think it contains a lot of hogwash. I also think some elements of Catholicism are largely hogwash. (The saint "worship", the ridiculous veneration of a bit of bone or cloth as a holy relic, pilgrimages to venerate a cookie that vaguely resembles somebody’s idea of what Mary looked like.) And Mormonism, Lord have mercy! Shoot, I’m a Methodist, and I know there are some radical and ridiculous Methodists, too.

Still, I find much to admire in some Mormons, Catholics, and Muslims. Democratic Senator Harry Reid and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch are Mormons -- Do they really believe in Joseph Smith’s golden tablets? And does that strange belief preclude them from office? If Hatch or Reid want to use the Book of Mormon (I know they also claim the Bible) as the Book of Faith that they use for their swearing-in ceremonies, that’s fine with me.

I just want them to mean it when they say:
“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God.”
Until the Civil War, when Yankee Congressmen were concerned about domestic rebels, the original oath was used:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.”
That’s simple and to the point, though I like the addition of “defend”: the first duty of a member of Congress is to support and defend the Constitution.

You will note that Madison, et al, neglected to add “so help me God” to the Presidential oath written into the Constitution. They were determined that ours was to be a secular government, as they later specifically pointed out to the Muslim Barbary pirates. The following is part of the treaty read and approved unanimously in the Senate on June 7, 1797. President John Adams, a devout Christian, signed it and proclaimed it to the Nation.
"Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Islamic] nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

The recounting of the evils of the Islamic governments elsewhere in the world, of course, begs the question and has no legitimate relevance to how we should interpret our Constitution.

I will stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone to oppose any Muslim who tries to restrict any American's freedom of religion or speech or any other Constitutional right. But I will also stand with Congressman Ellison, or my co-worker, or my students, against anyone who tries to limit their religious rights.

I know this question sounds harsh, -- no one should take it as a personal shot -- I mean it as beginning point for an honest dialogue: How can we restrict religious speech or non-violent religious practice [that is, disallow the use of the Koran for a swearing-in ceremony] and still support and defend the Constitution of the United States? Such restriction, in my book, is counter to the Constitution and therefore quintessentially un-American.

I absolutely welcome polite debate about this issue.

1-05-07 Note: The Median Sib has written a post to clarify the post that I have responded to here. I won't try to characterize it or comment on it except to invite my readers to visit her blog to better understand her position on the issue of Keith Ellison's election, his use of the Koran, and other things.

Here is a previous post on the separation of church and state.

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