By Pamela K. Taylor
In the past few weeks, the blogosphere has been afire over Rep.-Elect Keith Ellison's plan to take his oath on the Qur'an during the ceremonial Congressional swearing-in that is taking place this week. Led by nationally syndicated pundit Dennis Praeger and goaded on by Republican representative from Virginia, Virgil Goode, Ellison's critics have complained that using a Qur'an is un-American, claiming that only Bibles are acceptable for taking oaths as this country is a Christian nation.
Now it has surfaced that Ellison is planning to take his oath on a Qur'an owned by none other than, our third President, Thomas Jefferson, the principle author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was also author of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, and a staunch supporter of religious freedom.
This law reads:
"No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."
One can't help but think that Thomas Jefferson would wholly approve of Mr. Ellison swearing on the religious book that means the most to him, especially as it is one from Mr. Jefferson's personal library.
As an Ellision spokesperson says, "Jefferson's Quran dates religious tolerance to the founders of our country," he added.
The Qur'an itself was published in 1764, some twenty years after Ellison's ancestors arrived in America.
One can only hope that representatives with opinions such as Mr. Goode's -- who called Mr. Ellison's proposal a threat to American values -- will reconsider just what America's values are. We have never been a nation dedicated to implementing Christianity, or even to Christian values. Rather, we were founded on the notion that religion and morality is fundamentally a personal issue, one which the state has no business regulating, whether that relates to the God you worship, your choice of marriage partner, or any other moral issue.
For more discussion on the issue, look at In This Moment's comments and click here, or here, or here.