Rep. Ellison's Oath on Jefferson's Quran: An Elegant Epilogue
Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is clear: "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Throughout American history, people of various faith backgrounds--and none--have served quite capably in government.
It was quite a surprise, therefore, when Religious Right groups tried to sneak a religious test in through the back door. They insisted that newly elected U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) was somehow doing something wrong when he announced his intention to take the oath of office on a Quran.
Conservative columnist Dennis Prager implied that Ellison's plan was an insult to the country, writing, "Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress." The American Family Association went so far as to advocate for federal legislation requiring members of Congress to swear on Bibles.
In the end, Ellison trounced his critics by sweating on a 250-year-old Quran that had once been owned by no less a personage than Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, one of history's greatest advocates of religious liberty, opposed all forms of state-sponsored religion, and Ellison's use of his Quran was a nice conclusion to an ugly episode. …