Monday, January 15, 2007

Martin Luther King

On this Martin Luther King day, I thought I might share a few words from MLK.

From his I Have A Dream speech:

"Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring — when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children — black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics - will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

During an appearance at Harvard University shortly before his death, a student asked Dr. King about Zionism, in a tone clearly hostile to Zionists. Dr. King responded:

"When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews. You are talking anti-Semitism."

Friday, January 05, 2007

Muslim in the House

I applaud Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison for asserting his constitutional right to take his oath of office on the scripture he holds most dear: the Quran.

Our founding fathers, though all Christians, were a very diverse group of Christians. Many of their sects were persecuted in Europe for their non-standard beliefs, but they held those beliefs so strongly that they or their ancestors were willing to be persecuted for them. None of them would give up their own brand of Christianity in favor of another, so the framers were wise enough to include this clause in the Constitution:

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.
United States Constitution, Article VI

Over the years, the oath (or affirmation) of office has been given on many different books, scriptural or otherwise, and even on no book at all. Our Catholic president, JFK, took his oath on a Catholic bible (one that includes the Apocrypha); Jewish officeholders like Joe Lieberman have used the Jewish scriptures (what you would call the "Old Testament" without the "New Testament"), and I wouldn't be remotely surprised if a Mormon officeholder wanted to take the oath on the Book of Mormon, though apparently the only Mormon currently in Congress did not ask for that. According to the State Department, our fourth president, John Quincy Adams, took the oath on a legal treatise, Theodore Roosevelt used no book at all, and Quakers have chosen to "affirm" rather than "swear."

The important thing is that the officeholder should swear by what he (or she) holds dear, that he should swear to the One he believes will hold him accountable if he breaks that oath on the document that he believes makes him accountable. If Keith Ellison believes that Allah holds him accountable and the Quran is the document that makes him accountable, then I would rather have him swear to that being on that document than swear to a being he doesn't believe in on a document he doesn't believe in.

I suspect that the real reason for the objection to the use of the Quran has nothing to do with the choice of book itself, but to the choice of religion. Do they really care what book he's using? Or, as I believe is more likely, do they object to people choosing to swear by Allah instead of by Jesus?

A brief aside: It's probably worth noting that Israel has had Muslims in its legislature for a long time. I have no idea what document they swear on, if indeed they are required to take their oath of office on a document at all.

The State Department's website has an excellent article about the oath of office and Keith Ellison here:
U.S. Swearing-in Ceremonies Highlight Religious Freedom Legacy