Monday, December 11, 2006

The Errant Religious Right

I knew the minute I heard it, that America was doomed. It was the beginning of the end. Well, not actually. I was pleased, but I knew there would be an instant controversy. And so there is, and lo and behold, you would think that America is doomed.

I'm talking about the election of Jim Ellison from Minnesota to Congress. You see, Jim Ellison is a Muslim. And I thought the controversy would be around the opening of the Congressional session with a prayer. But it's not. it's about Mr. Ellison's desire to take his oath of office with his hand on the Koran instead of a Bible.

The horror of it all! I knew it would rattle the cages of the Religious fanatics of America. And it has. And they have emerged with all the smear they can, like Jesus would do, and their historical ignorance and misinformation.

It appears that some time ago is when Mr. Ellison decided to become a Muslim. Back then, he had some interactions with the Nation of Muslim, and it's controversial leader Louis Farrakhan. And so the subtle attempt to paint a black mark on Mr. Ellison, and the absolutely worst thing they could say was that Mr. Ellison supported the Million Man march. He didn't participate in it apparently, he just supported it. How radical can a guy get?! So I wonder how many of these same Christian fundamentalist leaders have associated with know meth smoker and gay sexer Reverend Ted Haggard?

The fundies of this country like to promote the idea that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. At the very least, they like to think that the Bible was what undergirded the the founding of our country. But that is only true as far as the Pilgrims and Puritans who first landed here were concerned. By the time the United States of America was actually founded, the times had changed.

This is simply evidenced by the fact that nowhere in the US Constitution is there any mention of God, or the Bible. And for good reason. The founders of this country were attempting to establish a secular government, one free of entanglement with any and all religion. Why? Because they had just fought a war against a country that was heavily entangled with it's national church, and they had seen the oppression it brought on the people, and it's abuse of power. Our founders wanted something different. Hence we have the Amendment that protects our right to freely express our religion, and the clause that prevents the government from establishing one. This is what Thomas Jefferson referred to in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists:
"Believing... that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

To this day the Religious fundamentalists of America deny this basic truth that Jefferson made so clear. In fact, to this day they still tell their sheep that the opposite is true, which in essence, is a lie. It is a questionable I guess whether or not I should call this ignorance though. it is more accurately called deception. Which is pretty much what i felt after reading what I posted above after having spent 13 years believing and being told the opposite.

I don't believe that the American fundies think the Constitution is the Supreme law of the land. They would argue that the Bible should be. But their ignorance of it is almost hard to imagine. Here is what the Traditional Values Coalition told their followers: "The Office of the Clerk for Congress has published information on the Oath of Office, which is in the U.S. Constitution: “The oath of office required by the sixth article of the Constitution of the United States, and as provided by section 2 of the act of May 13, 1884 (23 Stat. 22), to be administered to members, Resident Commissioner, and Delegates of the House of Representatives, the text of which is carried in 5 U.S.C. 3331:..."

Here is the entire Sixth Article of the US Constitution:

"All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

You'll notice that the first two paragraphs have nothing to do with our subject matter. The third one does. And does it say they shall take an oath on any holy book? No. However, as you can see in the TVC posting, they tie the the Sixth article with a law that was written later, making it appear as if the Constitution mandates an oath of a particular fashion. Nothing could be farther from the truth when the Sixth article clearly states that no religious test shall be required, ever, as a qualification for office.

I can surmise from this that the ones who write this propaganda only hope that their readers don't actually fact check the materials for themselves. I know I never did when I was in their camp. We just figured that those purportedly teaching us wouldn't lie to us. I see I was wrong.

So in true Jesus-like fashion, TVC, and most likely others, are out to smear Mr. Ellison because he is a Muslim. They will parade out their usual distortion of historical facts along with their black marks on his character in hopes that they can convince others that their narrow-minded view of life and American history is the correct one.

But like many others in this country, I follow the same vision that Jefferson did, and which is inscribed on his memorial in Washington DC: ""The clergy...believe that any portion of power confided to me [as President] will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion."

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