Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Congress Member to be Sworn in on Jefferson's Koran

The lunar right wing loves to bleat that the founders of this country were devout conservative Christians. I’ve spent a lot of time looking through the writings of Jefferson, Madison, and Adams, among others, and all I can see is that they maintained a rather staid politeness toward churches and churchgoers. They were not overly religious men—spirirtual, perhaps, but not religious. Yet the right wing cycles through their fantasy at least once a year—sort of like their attempts to force a Biblical historical view on everyone. No matter how much evidence you shovel up in front of them, they continue their harangues.

It’s like listening to Maoists.

One of the latest outbreaks of this virus has come from Virginia Senator Virgil Goode. He has been utterly outraged that a newly elected member of Congress said he would take his oath on a copy of the Koran.

It really doesn’t make any difference, Mr Goode. Your intolerance is certainly not sanctioned by the New Testament—on which your hand rested when you were sworn in. Or, say, Rick Santorum. What did Joe Lieberman put his hand on? Did Ben Nighthorse Campbell hold a plains Indian pipe when he took his oath? Does it matter? Of course not.

So the in-coming Keith Ellison chose a copy of the Koran. And the copy he chose once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, who apparently richly annotated it, indicating he had read it. Perhaps Mr Goode could do the same.

But It's Thomas Jefferson's Koran!
By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Wednesday, January 3, 2007; C03

Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, found himself under attack last month when he announced he'd take his oath of office on the Koran -- especially from Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode, who called it a threat to American values.

Yet the holy book at tomorrow's ceremony has an unassailably all-American provenance. We've learned that the new congressman -- in a savvy bit of political symbolism -- will hold the personal copy once owned by Thomas Jefferson.

"He wanted to use a Koran that was special," said Mark Dimunation, chief of the rare book and special collections division at the Library of Congress, who was contacted by the Minnesota Dem early in December. Dimunation, who grew up in Ellison's 5th District, was happy to help.

Jefferson's copy is an English translation by George Sale published in the 1750s; it survived the 1851 fire that destroyed most of Jefferson's collection and has his customary initialing on the pages. This isn't the first historic book used for swearing-in ceremonies -- the Library has allowed VIPs to use rare Bibles for inaugurations and other special occasions.

Ellison will take the official oath of office along with the other incoming members in the House chamber, then use the Koran in his individual, ceremonial oath with new Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "Keith is paying respect not only to the founding fathers' belief in religious freedom but the Constitution itself," said Ellison spokesman Rick Jauert.

One person unlikely to be swayed by the book's illustrious history is Goode, who released a letter two weeks ago objecting to Ellison's use of the Koran. "I believe that the overwhelming majority of voters in my district would prefer the use of the Bible," the Virginia Republican told Fox News, and then went on to warn about what he regards as the dangers of Muslims immigrating to the United States and Muslims gaining elective office.

Yeah, but what about a Koran that belonged to one of the greatest Virginians in history? Goode, who represents Jefferson's birthplace of Albemarle County, had no comment yesterday.

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