Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dennis Prager Fails the Test

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the first Muslim to be elected to Congress who will swear in with his hand on the Koran instead of the Bible. I said at the time it would be an interesting test to see how the religious right reacts.

Dennis Prager can always be counted on as a convenient Jewish tool for the Christian Right:

He should not be allowed to do so -- not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.

LOL. I should run a quiz: who said it, Stephen Colbert or an actual right-wing nut?

First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism -- my culture trumps America's culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. 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. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

Devotees of multiculturalism and political correctness who do not see how damaging to the fabric of American civilization it is to allow Ellison to choose his own book need only imagine a racist elected to Congress. Would they allow him to choose Hitler's "Mein Kampf," the Nazis' bible, for his oath? And if not, why not? On what grounds will those defending Ellison's right to choose his favorite book deny that same right to a racist who is elected to public office?

I've written to Dennis Prager a few times in the past in response to some asinine columns, none as over-the-top as this one. Considering my emails have been flatly ignored, I'll simply quote him here so my readers can see how ridiculous he is.

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)


asher said...

You mean he's wrong?

asher said...

Oh by the way, Prager and Sam (I don't have a clue) Harris, have an ongoing debate at Jewcy.com regarding belief vs. atheism. Please take note.

CyberKitten said...

I was actually confused by the phrase "American civilization".

Is there such a thing?

Maybe he meant "Western Civilisation".. in which case I think he exagerates somewhat.....

skcorefil said...

Conservatives need to stop doing stuff to make them look bad.

Ezzie said...

As a note, not all members of the religious right agree with Prager. I'm with you on this one...

David said...

Wow. That's might be a good, or possibly stupid, parlor game - upon what book would you give your oath of absolute honesty or whatever? For me, maybe Darwin's The Descent of Man, or Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. Others?

Jewish Atheist said...


Glad you agree. :-) Figured you would, considering your response to the original story.


If anything, it should be the (state? federal) constitution. But that's crazy talk. We all know swearing on the Bible kept Delay and all those good ol' Christian guys from breaking their oaths. ;-)

Laura said...

Doesn't our constitution say there cannot be any religious test for office? Who gives a flying *&%$ what book someone swears on. Having never been a witness in court, I have no experience with swearing on a book, but if I should ever end up in court, I refuse to swear on the Bible. I don't believe in it, and therefore it has no bearing on my willingness to tell the truth or not.

American civilization is not built upon the Bible, but upon the ability for all citizens** to choose how, or whether they will worship.

**some restrictions may apply ;)

beepbeepitsme said...

Swearing on a book has been traditionally seen as a sign of good faith. That is, that their responses will be truthful.

Surely, it doesn't matter which book someone swears on as long as it is a book which they consider in high esteem.

It would actually make less sense to have muslims swear on the bible, as they may NOT hold that book in high esteem, and may not feel compelled to answer truthfully.

Frankly, I think people should swear an oath to tell the truth, without religious references.

(That may not have the right level of "scare factor" for some people though.)

Random said...

"I said at the time it would be an interesting test to see how the religious right reacts."

Well, apart from a couple of flaky journalists who make a living from being loud and controversial, the religious right as a whole appears to have responded to this with indifference or even tacit approval if the likes of Ezzie and me are anything to go by (though I don't class myself as RR, I rather suspect you do:-)). At least I think you (or at least Sullivan) would have quoted more senior movement figures if any had sounded off in the same way as Prager...

In any case, for all his talk of defending American culture, it's clearly Prager who's violating the constitution here, not Ellison - forcing a Muslim to swear on a bible would surely violate the ban on any "religious test" in article VI?

CyberKitten said...

laura said: Having never been a witness in court, I have no experience with swearing on a book, but if I should ever end up in court, I refuse to swear on the Bible. I don't believe in it, and therefore it has no bearing on my willingness to tell the truth or not.

Ditto Laura. As the book is meaningless to me too it would be rank hypocrisy to swear by Almighty God that I would tell the truth.

asher said...

Can't any of you attack Prager on his logic...that would be a change.
Why not object to the "swearing" in of officials in the first place; isn't it kind of meaningless when they don't uphold the law they are sworn to defend?
And an atheist would, what, affirm on her belief that there is no higher being to defend the constitution of the state of new york.

How about swearing on "The Catcher in the Rye" or the DVD of "Forrest Gump".

Make a point.

Random said...

"Can't any of you attack Prager on his logic...that would be a change."


I rather thought I already had. Prager, for all his talk of defending American culture, is actually the one violating it here, not Ellison. Article VI of the constitution (respect for which is surely at the root of American culture) clearly says:

"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."

Forcing someone to swear on a bible when they would not choose to do so voluntarily certainly sounds like a "religious test" to me. How, pray, do you read it differently?

For that matter, "Oath or Affirmation" is a very important choice of words too - an oath is usually sworn on something (forex a bible), an affirmation however is not (this is I beleive the actual legal definition of an affirmation), it is a simple statement of intent. By including such language, the founders clearly foresaw that there would at some point be people elected or appointed to public office who would not be willing to take an oath on something they did not believe in and that therefore the constitution should be drafted in such a way that they could not be excluded from office.

beepbeepitsme said...

RE: "Can't any of you attack Prager on his logic...that would be a change."

Did he use any?

Tal Benschar said...

Agree with Ezzie. I would normally identify my thinking with that of the religious right. Here, Prager's opinion is not only silly but simply wrong. The Constitution and the various laws permit one to "affirm" instead of swear -- which involves no Bible or anything.

Since halakha generally requires one to avoid swearing, Orthodox Jews routinely "affirm" before they testify or before accepting an office. (When I was "sworn in" as an attorney in NY, the clerk took one look at my yarmulka and said, "So you'll be affirming, right?")

For that matter, an oath does not require that one hold a Bible or anything. A religious person can swear he will do or not do something and that is binding whether he holds onto a Bible, a newspaper or anything else or nothing. Most of the time when I have seen a witness sworn in in Court, there is no Bible to be seen. The Clerk just says, "Raise your right hand and repeat . . ."

Skcorefil said...

What book did Prager swear on? Is it the same one that most people used?

skcorefil said...

nvmd. I was thinking he was a congressman too.

Agkyra said...

Amazing! We all agree on something. What book you place your hand on is a triviality. The only reason to insist on the Bible over other books is the tradition. I like tradition, myself, but that's just a matter of personal preference. Certainly not something to kick up dust about.

Part of me wonders whether Prager really cares about this (I naturally have to take his word) or isn't trying to create a controversy to keep people entertained. Being a talk show host is more about entertainment, in my estimation, than anything else.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Hey, I posted on this as well. I received a notification from the AFA no less.
The bibble is a load of crap anyways, may as well swear an oath on the Popul Voh, the Brothers Grimm, or any other unhistorical work of fiction.

asher said...

The term "oath of office" means nothing.

The idea of swearing in someone is offensive.

Public officials need only be elected in order for the public to assume they will uphold laws.

The years old tradition of swearing in officials, attorneys, witnesses is just stupid.

I imagine that would be using logic.

Stardust said...

(As I commented over at ka's blog) My husband recently had to go to a court hearing because of a guy who was suing him over a little traffic accident that was the guy who was suing's fault! (My husband won...) anyway, at the swearing in time "to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you gawd"...my husband refused to swear on any book or to any sky daddy, and he said "I agree to everything except the god part...I swear to tell the truth on my own good name."
There was a moment or two of confused silence, and then things proceeded as normal. The looks on everyone's faces was priceless.

asher said...

Wow....his word as a gentlemen! We've come a long way since Victorian England haven't we?

Anonymous said...

ouch, shut down by the law!

BTA said...

Prager is lost, totally lost. But then again, he's the "happiness expert" going through his second miserable divorce. He's the "observant jew" (his term) who so clearly picks and chooses whatever he deems important and claims to be following the "torah, but not the rabbis."

What matters to Prager more is that a christian bible be used, not that the President who takes the oath actually tries for a minute or two to uphold it rather than fast-tracking a "partnership for a new american century" war in iraq.

BTA said...

Guess that marital oath that he took didn't mean much either:

"I have a sad personal announcement to make. After seventeen years of marriage, my wife Fran and I are divorcing. This is sad first and foremost for Fran and for me. We've known each other nineteen years, have raised three children, and assumed we would be together forever. It was not only our hope. This is a value that we shared."

And as a pretending Ortho Jew (and she as a OJ convert) took an "oath" in the form of a ketuba. Why not do the christian wedding since it's the american custom? Anyway, here he continues in all his phoniness...:

But despite our values and despite years of work on our marriage, not to mention prayer over it, we could not sustain it. There are no villains here, just two decent people who have endured a lot of heartache and pain. It is also sad, of course, for our three beloved children, two of whom are in their twenties and living on their own, and the youngest who is 13. All five of us are very close to one another. While unhappy about it, our children do understand why this divorce is happening. And all of our closest friends likewise understand why it is necessary and in fact, none of our closest friends were surprised.

I am sure, however, that many of you are surprised, if not actually shocked. After all, for many years I would talk about Fran on the show, and knowing how much I make the case for marriage and family, you had every reason to believe my marriage was sound and even wonderful. When you add that to my happy demeanor, and to my dispensing of advice on happiness and male-female relations, you surely had no reason to assume otherwise.

Jewish Atheist said...

It seems like a lot of those moral busibodies who monger fear about gay marriage destroying America have been divorced multiple times.

asher said...

And this has to do with swearing in on the koran how?

Kyaroko said...

I would like to point out that all off congress is sworn in all at once inside the capitol building in their respective house as a group. No hands are laid upon any books of any sort. They simply raise their right hand.

There are other swearing-in ceremonies which the elect are free to have at will, in which I personally believe it would be most appropriate for them to swear on the Constitution, but whatever.

I would also like to quote SNL's Weekend Update last week and point out that Mark Foley and Richard Nixon also swore on Bibles.

littlefoxling said...

This is sickening. Watch John Stewart make a total fool of the conservative phobia of Ellison