Ellison Won't Be First Politician to Forgo Bible in Taking Oath of Office

December 5, 2006

Author: Omar Sacirbey

Source: Pew Forum

Wire Service: RNS


When Keith Ellison, the Minnesota Democrat who last month was elected the first Muslim in Congress, announced he would take his oath of office on Islam's holy book, the Quran, he provoked sharp criticism from conservatives and some heated discussion on the blogosphere.

The ensuing discussion has revived the debate about whether America's values and legal system are shaped only by Judeo-Christian heritage or if there is room for Islamic and other traditions.

"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," Dennis Prager, a conservative talk radio host in Los Angeles, wrote in a Nov. 28 TownHall.com editorial. Prager, who is Jewish and serves on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, argued that Ellison should "not be allowed" to take his oath on the Quran.

In a subsequent interview, Prager said his objections were not to Ellison's use of the Quran, but to him not using a Bible.

"This has nothing to do with the Quran. It has to do with the first break of the tradition of having a Bible present at a ceremony of installation of a public official since George Washington inaugurated the tradition," Prager said.

Prager added that he would accept Ellison using a Quran if he also used a Bible. Ellison could not be reached for comment.