December 23, 2006

Bible Thumpin' in Congress

The latest bit of news on the religious front is here. Representative-elect Keith Ellison of Minnesota, whose ancestors first immigrated to America in 1742, converted to Islam in college and wants to be sworn in over the Koran rather than the Bible. Republican Congressman Virgil Goode from Virginia has opposed Ellison's swearing in on the Koran, and he wrote a letter in response to Ellison's request that allegedly warns people of increased immigration by Muslims and people not of European descent. See here:

Goode, who represents Virginia's 5th Congressional District, said he is receiving more positive comments from constituents than negative.

"One lady told me she thinks I'm doing the right thing on this," he told Fox News. "I wish more people would take a stand and stand up for the principles on which this country was founded."

Goode also told Fox News he wants to limit legal immigration and do away with "diversity visas," which he said let in people "not from European countries" and "some terrorist states."

In his letter, Goode wrote that strict immigration polices are necessary "to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America."

"The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran," he wrote.

I'm not exactly sure how Goode is correlating Ellison's religious beliefs with immigration. After all, Ellison can trace his ancestry in this country far back before this country even existed. And why does he draw a distinction between those who are "not from European countries" and those who are? If he follows the news, he knows that there is far more religious strife in European countries than there is in the U.S., so one would expect that he would want to include European countries in his blacklist.

Oh yeah, I forgot, "European" is polite-speak for "white."

Now don't get me wrong--I'm not a supporter of Islam. I think fundamentalist Islam is just as bad as fundamentalist Christianity--though with the Christian fundie attacks on stem cell research, a women's right to choose, gay rights, and the teaching of evolution, I still have to admit that the evils of fundamentalist Christianity are much more harmful to progress in the United States. I don't think Islam is a good religion; I have yet to see any fundamentalist religion that I would characterize as being good. At the same time, I strongly believe that Ellison has a right to his own beliefs. Keith Ellison is an elected official who was chosen by his constituents, and for that reason, he should be allowed to use whatever religious text he wants. Even if he wanted to swear on the Satanic Bibile, if people elected him, he should have that right. It's part of a living in a democracy that values religious freedom.

There is a good Op-Ed piece from the New York Times here. The last sentence says it all. While all these Bible Thumping Fundies and conservative talk show hosts keep saying that the U.S. is a Christian nation and that we're opposing the Founding Framers of the Constitution by allowing the other religions, these fundies and conservatives can't provide an answer to the the most important question--if the United States is supposed to be a Christian country, why didn't the Founding Framers institutionalize it? They came from Britain, a country in which religion was institutionalized, so if they wanted so badly to create a new Christian nation, why didn't they just make it a part of their law? In fact, not only did they not make it part of their law, but the very first amendment in the Constitution that they created prevents the governmental institutionalization of religion.

The hypocrisy by the far right and the Christian fundamentalists is appalling. I'm not a supporter of Islam, but in this case, I'm very happy that Keith Ellison is standing up for his right to publicly proclaim his religion.

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