WASHINGTON (Dec. 1) -- The first Muslim elected to Congress hasn't been sworn into office yet, but his act of allegiance has already been criticized by a conservative commentator. In a column posted Tuesday on the conservative website Townhall.com, Dennis Prager blasted Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison's decision to take the oath of office Jan. 4 with his hand on a Quran, the Muslim holy book.
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"He should not be allowed to do so," Prager wrote, "not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American culture."
He said Ellison, a convert from Catholicism, should swear on a Christian Bible -- which "America holds as its holiest book. … If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress."
The post generated nearly 800 comments on Townhall.com and sparked a tempest in the conservative blogosphere. Many who posted comments called the United States a Christian country and said Muslims are beginning to gain too much influence. Others wrote about the separation of church and state and said the Constitution protects all religions.
Dave Colling, Ellison's spokesman, said he was unavailable for comment. Earlier, Ellison told the online Minnesota Monitor, "The Constitution guarantees for everyone to take the oath of office on whichever book they prefer. And that's what the freedom of religion is all about."
Colling said Ellison's office has received hundreds of "very bigoted and racist" e-mails and phone calls since Prager's column appeared. "The vast majority said, 'You should resign from office if you're not willing to use the book our country was founded on,' " Colling said.
"Requiring somebody to take an oath of office on a religious text that's not his" violates the Constitution, said Kevin Hasson, president of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
Members of the House of Representatives traditionally raise their right hands and are sworn in together on the floor of the chamber. The ritual sometimes seen as the swearing-in is actually a ceremonial photo op with the speaker of the House that usually involves a Bible.
"They can bring in whatever they want," says Fred Beuttler, deputy historian of the House.
Prager, who is Jewish, wrote that no Mormon elected official has "demanded to put his hand on the Book of Mormon." But Republican Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, carried a volume of Mormon scriptures that included the Bible and the Book of Mormon at his swearing-in ceremony in 1997.
Prager, who hosts a radio talk show, could not be reached for comment.
wow, is this bullshit or what? Conservative always talk about religious tolerance, but it looks like that only applies if you are a christian.