Echoing columnist Dennis Prager, Sean Hannity claimed that incoming Rep. Keith Ellison's reported intention to use a copy of the Quran apparently during the ceremonial photo op on the day he is sworn in "will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones" and suggested that using the Quran for a swearing-in is comparable to using "Hitler's Mein Kampf, which is the Nazi bible."
During a discussion on the November 30 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes about incoming Rep. Keith Ellison's (D-MN) reported intention to use a copy of the Quran apparently during the ceremonial photo op on the day he is sworn in, co-host Sean Hannity repeated the assertion made in a November 28 column by his guest, conservative radio host and Townhall.com columnist Dennis Prager, that Ellison's decision "will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones, and they'll see it as the first sign and realization of a greatest goal, which is the, you know, making Islam the religion of America," repeating Prager's warning of an "Islamicization of America." Hannity also asked another guest, New Black Panther Party national chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz, whether he would have "allowed [Ellison] to choose, you know, Hitler's Mein Kampf, which is the Nazi bible," adding, "In other words, where does this stop? Is there any limitations whatsoever?" -- again drawing from Prager's column. Ellison is the first Muslim ever elected to Congress.
As the weblog Think Progress reported, "neither the Christian Bible, nor any other religious text, ha[s] ever been used in an official capacity during the ceremony," although "[o]ccasionally, Members pose for symbolic photo-ops with their hand on a Bible."
Moreover, as USA Today noted in a December 1 article: " '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."
From Prager's November 28 Townhall.com column:
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?
This argument appeals to all those who believe that one of the greatest goals of America is to be loved by the world, and especially by Muslims because then fewer Muslims will hate us (and therefore fewer will bomb us).
But these naive people do not appreciate that America will not change the attitude of a single American-hating Muslim by allowing Ellison to substitute the Koran for the Bible. In fact, the opposite is more likely: Ellison's doing so will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones, as Islamists, rightly or wrongly, see the first sign of the realization of their greatest goal -- the Islamicization of America.
Prager appeared on the November 30 editions of Hannity & Colmes and CNN's Paula Zahn Now to discuss his column. On Hannity & Colmes, Prager asserted, "If it had been a Scientologist using Dianetics or if it had been a Buddhist using some of the works of the Buddha, I would have had the exact same reaction," later adding, "I am a Jew. If I were elected, I would use the Bible, even though the New Testament is specifically Christian and the Old Testament is for both." On Paula Zahn Now, when guest UCLA law professor and blogger Eugene Volokh noted that Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg had used "the Tanakh" -- the Hebrew Bible -- during his swearing-in ceremony in 1962, Prager appeared to retreat from his argument that Jews should use a Bible containing the New Testament, saying: "Justice Goldberg used Old Testament, which is part of the American Bible."
From the November 30 edition of Fox News's Hannity & Colmes:
COLMES: This is a personal choice issue at his ceremonial swearing-in, but you wrote in your piece that "he will be doing more damage to the unity of America" by using the Quran "and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11." Do you really believe that that's more dangerous than what the terrorists did on 9-11?
PRAGER: No, it's not more dangerous to my health. It's not more dangerous to my ability to walk the streets or fly in an airplane. But it's more dangerous -- what I wrote -- to the unity of the American people. 9-11 did not disunite the American people; it united the American people, so I wrote carefully those words. And, yes, it will do that, Alan. The ceremony is, in fact, the important part. Remember, there have been congressmen and congresswomen of all different faiths. Mormons do not use the Book of Mormon. Secularists do not use the collected works of Voltaire or whatever secular text they want to use. Many people for whom the Bible is not their personal, great religious source have used the Bible, because they are all saying, "This book is the book from which America gets its values in the final analysis."
COLMES: Let me just point out: FDR was not sworn in using a Bible. William Weld, when he was governor of Massachusetts, didn't use it --
PRAGER: No, that's not true -- I don't know who -- OK, I don't know told you this. The only president who did not have a Bible was Theodore Roosevelt, first term, and it was because [President William] McKinley had just been shot. Every president used a Bible.
COLMES: Well, I'm -- Dennis, I'm quoting a Boston Globe story from 1991, when he was actually sworn in. And William Weld -- I'm sorry, the Library of Congress. That was my source for that. But according to the Boston Globe, William Weld, in 1991, when he was sworn in, also did not use a Bible, and I didn't hear any outrage or outcry. This is because it's the Quran. That's why there's this kind of reaction --
PRAGER: Wait a minute -- no, no, it's not true. If it had been a Scientologist using Dianetics, or if it had been a Buddhist using some of the works of the Buddha, I would have had the exact same reaction. It is not --
COLMES: What if it was an atheist? Should someone swear on a book that that person does not believe in?
PRAGER: Yes, because you are swearing on the book the society believes in. I don't -- we are in the age of narcissism, which all that matters is, what do I care to be valuable? I care what America cares to be valuable. I am a Jew. If I were elected, I would use the Bible, even though the New Testament is specifically Christian and the Old Testament is for both.
COLMES: All right, Malik Shabazz -- let me get Malik in here. I don't personally think the government should be able to dictate what any one person uses in terms of a religious book. That would be an establishment issue, as outlined by the First Amendment, Mr. Shabazz.
SHABAZZ: If the congressman has freedom of religion in his constitutional rights, he should be able to use the book of his choice. Fact check: Presidents [Franklin] Pierce, [Rutherford B.] Hayes, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson used no book. And --
PRAGER: It's not true. It's not true.
SHABAZZ: -- I'm sure the congressman -- as all Muslims do -- I didn't interrupt you.
PRAGER: You're right.
SHABAZZ: All Muslims respect the Bible, but he should have the opportunity. Now, your ignorance, Mr. Prager -- Islam has contributed a lot to America. In the middle of the Supreme Court is -- in the rotunda is a statue or bust of the Prophet Muhammad showing the respect that American law and jurisprudence has for the revealer of the Quran. Many of our American presidents are Masons and Shriners who got to the 33rd degree and studied the Quran in secret and have the star and the crescent on their fez.
HANNITY: Malik --
SHABAZZ: So Islam is at the basis of Western and American civilization.
HANNITY: Malik, I want to ask you a question, as it relates to Dennis' column. Thank you both for being here. And he says, you know, on what grounds will those of you defending this congressman's decision and his right to choose his favorite book, you know, would you have allowed him to choose, you know, Hitler's Mein Kampf, which is the Nazi bible? In other words, where does this stop? Is there any limitations whatsoever? Does anybody get any choice they want, Malik?
SHABAZZ: Well, I think we're not talking about that expansive of notion here --
HANNITY: Oh, yes, we are.
SHABAZZ: Well, if we are, then we should use no book. Because, really, let's be honest. If Tom Fo -- [former Rep. Mark] Foley [R-FL] and [former House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay [R-TX] can swear on a Bible and commit severe acts of corruption after that --
HANNITY: All right, this isn't about politics right now. Would you stay focused --
SHABAZZ: -- we should not mix -- it is about politics. This is about swearing into Congress using a holy book. So much unrighteousness takes place after that swearing-in, we should disassociate all holy books from Congress until Congress has cleaned up.
HANNITY: All right, let me go to Dennis Prager. Dennis, I want to ask you specifically. You said that his "doing so will embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones," and they'll see it "as the first sign and realization of their greatest goal," which is the, you know, making Islam the religion of America.
PRAGER: Well, as I wrote, there was two words there --
HANNITY: "Islamicization of America."
PRAGER: -- I wrote "rightly or wrongly" they will view it that way. Yes, that is exactly how they'll view it.
From the November 30 edition of CNN's Paula Zahn Now:
ZAHN: Radio host and columnist Dennis Prager has written that a swearing-in using the Quran would undermine the fabric of American civilization. He joins us tonight from Los Angeles, along with UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh. And here with me in New York is Daisy Khan, the executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement. Welcome all. Dennis, I want to start with you tonight and start off by reading a small part of the editorial you wrote, where you said, "When all elected officials take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization. If Keith Ellison is allowed to change that, he will be doing more damage to the unity of America than the terrorists of 9-11." How can you charge that someone expressing religious freedom would be causing the kind of damage that the 9-11 terrorists did?
PRAGER: Well, the issue isn't expressing religious freedom. As I also wrote in there, I would fight for his right to worship as a Muslim, to run for Congress as a Muslim. That's not the issue. The issue is exactly as you put it earlier. What is the book that these people affirm as the central text of American life? Now, some people will say the Constitution. But the Constitution derives its legitimacy from that Bible. Secular congressmen have all used the Bible. They don't believe in it. Mormons do not ask for the Book of Mormon. If a Scientologist ran, would he ask for Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard? If a racist ran, would he ask for Mein Kampf? We are starting a very unfortunate further unraveling of the fabric of American life. That's my worry.
ZAHN: Eugene, does the Constitution say anything about using a religion text when being sworn in for Congress?
VOLOKH: Well it actually does say a couple of things. First, it doesn't even require congressmen to use any religious text or any religious component. It specifically provides that they may affirm, rather than swearing. That was for the benefit of people who have a religious objection to invoking God at all in an oath. Quakers were a traditional example. And for example, President Herbert Hoover was sworn in without using -- without putting his hand on any book. So already -- we've already departed from Dennis' vision of everybody swearing on the same book. It also says no religious test shall be used for government office. And when you're required to swear on the book of a religion that is different from you, not traditionally you've done it but you're required to that, that would be an impermissible religious test. More importantly, the purpose of an oath throughout American --
ZAHN: OK, we've just lost Eugene. A quick reaction, Dennis from you, before we hear from Daisy.
PRAGER: Well, there's no religious test. The issue is what is -- what is the work that he wishes -- that we wish to affirm as our central text? There's no religious test. I want Muslims to run for office, I want atheists, I want Buddhists. It is no religious test of Keith Ellison. It is, what decision does he wish to convey? What message to the American people? Do our values derive from the Bible or from the Quran? That's, to me, the question. No religious test of Keith Ellison.
ZAHN: Does this show a disregard, do you think, on Mr. Prager's part for Muslims, Daisy?
KHAN: Well, I think the foundational values of America are freedom of religion and freedom to express your religion and to practice in the way that you see your values. And I think what's important is this is a very proud moment for Americans, American Muslims and all Americans, and I think it's sad that somebody would try to, you know, ruin this moment for all of us by trying --
PRAGER: Am I ruining it for Mormons when I cite that Mormons don't use the Book of Mormon? I'm not ruining -- I don't want to ruin it for anyone. I want to keep Americans united on one, basic thing: We are endowed by our creator with certain fundamental rights.
KHAN: And that is --
VOLOKH: But that's not the purpose of an oath. The purpose of an oath is not affirm the correctness of the book that you use. The purpose of using a book is to invoke God as your witness and as a means of firming up your resolve to abide by the oath.
ZAHN: But Eugene, let me close with a final quote from Mr. Prager's editorial. Let me close with this.
VOLOKH: All this stuff is to use the work --
ZAHN: Hang on, gentlemen, for one moment. He says, "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." Eugene?
VOLOKH: Well, for starters, the Constitution specifically says that you may refuse to use any book for that. You may refuse even to give an oath.
PRAGER: That's right.
VOLOKH: You may affirm. That's what Herbert Hoover did. Justice Goldberg, a Jewish Supreme Court Justice --
PRAGER: Herbert Hoover had a Bible.
VOLOKH: He affirmed. He didn't even swear an oath --
PRAGER: Herbert Hoover did. He just didn't swear by it because, I believe, he was a Quaker. That's a very different story.
VOLOKH: Justice Goldberg -- Justice Goldberg used the Tanakh, the Jewish Bible.
PRAGER: Justice Goldberg used the Old Testament, which is part of the American Bible.
VOLOKH: What you're saying about you have to use the same book --
ZAHN: Daisy, you get the final word tonight as we close out this debate.
VOLOKH: -- is already being violated.
KHAN: Well, I'm saying that America is great, and we have to uphold America's greatest values, which is coming together of all. You know, we're a multicultural, multi-religious society and we have to work together to create a good society. There are eight million Muslims in America now, 25 million Muslims living all over the West.
ZAHN: I understand. But you're saying he should be able to take the oath office on the Quran?
KHAN: Absolutely, because -- because, you know, an oath is something that is very important. And I think it's -- I think it's -- I think it's his integrity that he's speaking from, not a lack of integrity. And I think we should -- we should really -- you know --
ZAHN: We've got to leave it there. Sorry to have to cut you off. Commercial's ready to take us off the air here. Daisy Khan, Eugene Volokh, Dennis Prager, appreciate your time.