Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I am pleased to see that two prominent conservative voices, Eugene Volokh and Stephen Bainbridge, have spoken out against Dennis Prager's uncommonly stupid (even for him) column arguing that newly elected Muslim congressman Keith Ellison should not be allowed to swear his oath of office on a Koran. Not "because of any American hostility to the Koran," he argues, "but because the act undermines American civilization" (amazing how someone might view the latter as being indicative of the former).

Obviously, several liberal commentators (such as Steve Benen) were quick to pounce on Mr. Prager's appalling ignorance of the US constitution. But it's still nice to hear conservative voices being added to the choir--especially Bainbridge's timely reminder that Prager's proposal echoes eerily of anti-Catholic bigotry at the time of the founding.

The true danger in Prager's argument is not so much that it's wrong (that is quite easy to show). It's that--under the guise of defending "American civilization"--it proposes a political norm that would obliterate American democracy as we know it. As I've written before, America cannot be both a Christian nation and a democratic nation at the same time. Nor can it be "Judeo-Christian" or Muslim or Hindi or what have you, but Christianity ("Judeo-Chrisianity" is but Christianity's twin brother in drag) is the only religion that is actually trying to press itself as supreme inside our domestic political arena, so that's the one we must focus on. People who try and enforce Christian supremacy aren't just making a bad policy decision, they are, perhaps unwittingly, warring with the very fundamental ideals of American freedom and democracy.

Since I do believe the stakes are that high, it is quite heartening to see that some of the intellectual heavyweights of the right are pushing back. Of course, there are less sane voices that still aren't onboard with the idea that America does not just grudgingly tolerate but in fact celebrates its religious and cultural diversity. But thankfully, in this case at least, the big names appear to be onboard.

Oh, and can you imagine the uproar if anyone compared the Christian Bible to toliet paper or (as did Prager) Mein Kampf?

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