One Holy Book Cannot Be Sole Option

ByABC News
December 4, 2006, 11:27 AM

Dec. 4, 2006 — -- There is no logical or constitutional basis for denying a duly elected member of Congress the right to select the holy book he chooses to use in taking his oath of office.

In January, all 435 newly elected members of the House of Representatives will take the same oath, pledging to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Most House members will choose to pronounce the oath on some version of the Bible -- often bringing along a cherished volume of their own that represents an honored family heirloom.

Other congressmen may opt to employ the constitutionally mandated phrase "I do solemnly affirm" -- as opposed to "I do solemnly swear," explicitly authorized in Article II, Section I -- and will use no holy book for the purposes of their oath-taking.

This year, one newly elected House member -- Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim ever elected to Congress -- will choose to take his oath of office on his own sacred scripture, the Koran.

Some religious conservatives have made themselves look terrible -- mean-spirited and intolerant and theocratic -- by objecting to this innocuous gesture, and generating a phony controversy over longstanding traditions of religious pluralism.

A number of leaders and organizations on the right (including the powerful American Family Organization) have begun arguing that Mr. Ellison "should not be allowed" to use his Koran in taking his oath of office.

My good friend and highly respected talk radio colleague Dennis Prager goes so far as to suggest that this personal choice "undermines American civilization" and "will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones, as Islamists, rightly or wrongly, see the first sign of the realization of their greatest goal -- the Islamicization of America."

It is hard to see how the prospect of one House member out of 435 using his Koran to swear allegiance to the Constitution represents the "Islamicization" of anything.

If some Muslim fanatics insisted that we change our currency to bear the legend "In Allah We Trust," or demanded that government cafeterias stop serving daytime food during the fasting month of Ramadan, that would represent an outrageous attempt to Islamize the nation.

Michael Medved is a film critic, best-selling author, host of the nationally syndicated "Michael Medved Show," and a contributing editor at