Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Congressman Ellison swearing in

Lots of controversey out here about Congressman Ellison, 5th CD Minnesapolis.

Commentary is abundant on the issue. Fort Wayne Indiana chimes in.


Swearing-in doesn't go by the book
The use of sacred texts is a matter of personal preference, not protocol, Capitol Hill officials say.
Brady Averill and Steven Thomma

WASHINGTON - 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.

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.

But the blogosphere and talk radio were having a field day Friday criticizing Minnesota Democratic Rep.-elect Keith Ellison's decision to use the Qur'an when he is sworn into office on Jan. 4. Ellison is the first Muslim to be elected to the House.

The American Family Association, a Christian nonprofit, has called on people to ask members of Congress to pass a law that would make the Bible the only book that could be used during swearing-in ceremonies.

When Ellison took the oath after being elected to the Minnesota House in 2002, he did not use the Qur'an, his spokesman, Dave Colling, wrote in an e-mail. As in Congress, state legislators simply raise their right hand and take the oath, he wrote.

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.
Protocol in the Senate is similar. The Senate's president -- the vice president of the United States -- usually swears in four senators at a time, who are often accompanied by their state's other senator, said Senate historian Richard Baker. It's up to the senator if he or she wants to place a hand on a sacred text or to carry one.

While religion is not part of the swearing-in ceremonies, the House routinely prays. The House chaplain designates who leads the opening prayer at a House session, often a minister brought in by a member, Beuttler said.

Several rabbis have given the opening prayer, but Beuttler said he doesn't recall a Muslim giving the opening prayer during a House session.

Prager and other right wing pundits are dead wrong on the issue. Regardless if Ellison wants to place his hand on the Bible, the Quran or any other religious book, he will do so in the ceremonial portion of the event. He's not placing his hand on the Constitution and pledging to uphold the Quran or the Bible, but the other way around.

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