Old Wives' Tales
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Toxin du jour
Claim: A newly-elected Muslim Congressman took his oath of office on the Quran instead of the Bible.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2006]
Origins: In November 2006, Democrat Keith Ellison won election to the House as a representative of his Minnesota congressional district. When Ellison took office in January 2007, he became the first Muslim member of Congress.
In November 2006, some Americans took offense at Ellison's announcement that he planned to utilize the Quran rather than the Bible at the upcoming Congressional
While the general basis of the controversy is real, editorials like the one appearing in TownHall.com erred in maintaining that Ellison would be sworn into Congress by taking an oath with his hand upon the Quran. Actually, no Bibles or other religious texts are used during the
When newly elected members of Congress raise their right hands to take the oath of office in January, they won't be placing their left hands on the Bible or any other religious text.Accordingly, although Ellison was not technically sworn in with the Quran, after the official swearing-in ceremony he posed for photographs with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, both of them posed with their hands upon a copy of the Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson:
During official swearing-in ceremonies, newly elected members don't place their hand on any book. However, individual members may choose to carry a sacred text.
"Some members carry a Bible. You don't actually put your hand on a Bible. I can't see how anyone would object to carrying a Qur'an," said Senate historian Don Ritchie.
In Congress, the House speaker administers the oath to members en masse on the House floor. It's up to individual members if they want to hold a religious text, said Fred Beuttler, House deputy historian.
First-time members are more likely to carry a sacred text or have their family and religious leader present for a staged ceremony in the speaker's or their own office, Beuttler said.
A rebuttal to Dennis Prager's editorial written by UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh was published by the National Review.
Last updated: 7 January 2008
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