These benign gestures fall within our long-standing traditions of religious pluralism (like allowing Hanukah Menorahs, alongside Christmas trees, in public places) and serve to recognize the presence in our midst of several million Muslim citizens, who play a role in our economy, our educational system, our military and, now, our Congress.
We may not like their religion, but as long as its adherents conduct themselves as loyal and law-abiding Americans we have no right to restrict its practice.
Personally, I'm no fan of the stridently liberal Mr. Ellison. During his campaign, I spoke on radio against his candidacy, especially in light of his past associations with the racist brand of Islam associated with Minister Louis Farrakhan.
But the voters in his Minnesota district ignored my advice (and that of other prominent conservatives) and elected him as their representative in Congress by an overwhelming margin.
His Islamic faith received extensive coverage during the campaign and no one from his district will be surprised when he takes the oath on the Koran. If we respect the electoral process, aren't the voters entitled to choose a Muslim representative, and having made that choice, aren't they also entitled to expect that his new colleagues won't compel him to hide or disregard the Islamic faith he very publicly professed?
Unfortunately for conservatives who argue against Mr. Ellison, there's also the inconvenient but highly relevant matter of the Constitution of the United States. Article VI, Clause 3 states: " ... no religious Test shall ever be required as Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."
Michael Medved is a film critic, best-selling author, host of the nationally syndicated "Michael Medved Show," and a contributing editor at Townhall.com.
If insisting that an office-holder honor the Bible as part of his oath doesn't constitute a "religious test," then what, exactly does?
Should the Congress force new members to choose one particular version or translation of the Bible, because that's the edition favored by a majority? There are obvious and important differences in the Biblical text approved by the Catholic Church, various Protestant denominations, by Jews (no New Testament), and by Mormons (adding the Book of Mormon). Do we need a new bureaucracy to approve certain Holy Books and disapprove others?
In the column that launched the controversy, Dennis Prager baldly declares: "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."
This startling, flat-footed assertion is the equivalent of declaring the Bible to be America's sole, official, governmentally sanctioned Holy Book.
Wouldn't such endorsement represent precisely the sort of "establishment of religion" that our founders explicitly prohibited in the First Amendment?
No, the "establishment clause" doesn't mean what radical secularists claim it means -- banning "under God" in the pledge, for instance, or blocking opening prayers at sessions of Congress. But it does mean something, and clearly signals an intention to restrict some aspects of the federal government's promotion of organized faith.
For instance, if the Pledge of Allegiance included the words, "one nation, under God, and under supervision of His one true church and Pope Benedict XVI," that would obviously amount to a Constitutional violation.