In the post I wrote back on November 28th about Dennis Prager’s explosive column about Keith Ellison swearing on the Koran has gotten, I wish I’d have taken more time to write out my thoughts on the idea of someone – whether it be Ellison or anyone else who wants to – swearing on the Koran.
I’ve gotten a few emails and read some of the links back to that post, as well as what others have said (mainly Eugene Volokh) on the topic in general and I’d like to clarify a few things, namely the fact that I’m not calling for any religious litmus test on anyone elected to serve in government. I’m well aware the Constitution is clear on religious tests for elected officials:
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.
I’m also aware that there have been cases, as Volokh mentions, where elected officials either affirmed without having their hand on any book, or in some cases swore their oath of office on the Tanakh. That’s fine by me.
All the same, though, I can’t deny that it bothers me that Ellison (and I presume future members of Congress) will be swearing on the Koran, mainly because the Koran teaches believers that lying is ok under certain circumstances. I also wonder if someone will be allowed to swear on a book like Mein Kampf (for example), even though I’m aware that it’s not a religious book. Would it be allowed? If so, where would we draw the line on what books are acceptable to swear in on and which aren’t?
Ellison has the right to swear on the Koran, and I also have the right to be bothered, especially in a post 9-11 world, by it in terms of what the Koran symbolizes. Now, I realize “what bothers me” doesn’t equate to “what’s legal and not legal to do when swearing your oath of office” but all the same, I hope this clarifies my position on the issue.