Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Swearing In Upon the (Fill in the Blank)

Dennis Prager has been taking heat from both sides of the aisle ever since his column, "America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on", came out. Today, it goes international.

Some fellow conservatives have disagreed with him; and liberal detractors have just been vile and nasty, making me question whether or not they've actually read the column, or listened to him speak. To call Prager "racist" and "ignorant" and a hater of Islam is to be blinded by one's own agenda and to not listen to the actual substance of what his argument and position is. As Prager would say, he "prefers clarity to agreement". And the liberal critics have neither. If they actually took the time to understand and listen, then they might achieve clarity. Then they would be able to intelligently argue against why Prager is wrong; rather than creating strawman arguments for a strawman liberal punching bag.

I've been perusing the liberal blogs, and I swear to Allah- I mean God- (peace be with Him), liberals almost carry a monopoly on hate speech and knee-jerk invectives. Rather unprofessional and juvenile, though, when it comes from a major newspaper.

Dennis Prager's airtime has been preoccupied mostly with defending his position and clarifying it, ever since his article came out. This included repeating the first hour in his second hour yesterday. He's also made appearances on Hannity and Colmes, Your World with Neil Cavuto, and Tucker with Tucker Carlson. Prager is firmly entrenched in his position, and nobly so. He offers a new, updated column today. Also today, after his program aired on KRLA870, Michael Medved, who is one of his conservative friends who fundamentally disagreed with him, had him on the first hour of his program.

Initially, when I heard about this column from Prager himself, I gently disagreed with him; when I heard Michael Medved come on right afterward on his radio show and vehemently disagree with Prager, that reinforced with substance, why I only vaguely didn't agree with Prager (at the time, I wasn't giving this issue much thought). But the next day, as more and more waves were being generated negatively (and positively) from his column, I caught some of Prager's program, and found myself understanding his line of reasoning, and leaning over onto his side of the fence. The reasoning is quite similar to why I agreed to stand and protest with Prager back when a tiny cross on the LA County Seal was to be removed.

This isn't an issue of "freedom of religion" to me. It is, as Dennis says, one of tradition and of honoring the values that this country was founded upon; or more specifically, honoring where our nation's values stemmed from. Symbols mean something. It's why we place our right hand over our hearts; it's why a piece of rag is transformed into "The Flag", and we give it reverence and meaning it otherwise would not have. Symbols and rituals mean something to humans; they define our civilization.

This issue has grown too big for me to blockquote, and dissect, and talk about in depth. I don't have the time to go through some of the anti-Prager position arguments (even when they aren't understanding Prager's position). Just check my links. Maybe I'll come back later and link some good and not-so-good lefty links.

I can see good arguments on both sides. But I have stepped over the line in the sand on this, and stand with Dennis Prager.

Prager is a Jew who has no problems being sworn in on a New Testament Bible; I, as a non-religious person, would do the same, just as assuredly as I celebrate the national holiday of Christmas, in my own non-religious way. It is about American tradition; not establishment of a specific church. I am grateful and proud to live in a nation founded upon Judeo-Christian values and principles, giving us the freedom to have such debates and disagreements without slaughtering one another over it.

Here is Prager's radio response on 11/28/06:

Column of note:
Kathleen Parker "the wolf who cried racist" Favorite passages:
The U.S. Constitution, meanwhile, leaves plenty of wiggle room for those who prefer not to make religious statements. Eugene Volokh, constitutional law professor at UCLA, has written that requiring someone to swear on the Bible would violate the Constitution's provision that ``no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.''

It appears that Prager is, at least technically, wrong. But his concerns are not those of a hate-monger. Prager is merely the quarterback in the latest scrimmage over ideas in post-9/11 America.
On a certain level, one can understand Prager's view that introducing the Koran into American government is a taunt to traditional values.

On another level, those same values allow us to see Ellison's legitimate wish to swear on the holy book of his choosing. What Christian or Jew duly elected in a predominantly Muslim country would want to be forced to swear on a Koran?

The punch line, of course, is that our religious tolerance is shared by few Muslim nations, some of which won't allow a Bible to enter the country. Our better angels may yet be our worst enemies.


Also blogging: Woman Honor Thyself
Mary Katharine Ham
Mike Gallagher
Michael Medved's Three Questions for Dennis Prager on Congressional Oaths and the Koran

41 Comments:

Blogger Dan Trabue said...

And I am an anabaptist who will swear on nothing (as the Bible says, "Don't swear on anything. Let your yes by yes and your no be no").

Anabaptists have long been a part of the American tradition (as well as in other nations) - would you try to take away our God-given right to honor our traditions and serve our God as we see fit?

I suspect the Great Republic of the US will stand solidly against Prager on this one. He's not honoring any American tradition of which I'm familiar.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 2:37:00 PM  
Blogger Gayle said...

Dennis Prager is about honoring the tradition of public officials swearing an oath on the bible, which has been an American tradition ever since this Republic began. It doesn't matter whether or not Ellison believes in the bible; it matters only that he honors an American tradition of swearing on the bible during his private ceremony. I'm sure many people have taken an oath on the bible who don't believe in it; for instance, Jewish people. They do so because they honor an age old tradition of this country, something liberals don't give a fig about, since "liberal" and "tradition" is an oxymoron to begin with.

I'm glad you are no longer "sitting on the fence" on this one, Wordsmith. I have to admit I'm surprised that Medved disagreed with him; well... sort of surprised, as nothing much surprises me any more.

It's an excellent post!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 3:34:00 PM  
Blogger Dan Trabue said...

It is also an age old tradition in our country to not force people to do things that are against their moral bearings or against their religion. Anabaptists don't swear on Bibles or take oaths of any sort.

The courts have long recognized our right not to do so. (When I went to jury duty and the judge was about to swear us in, I informed him that as an Anabaptist, it was against my religion to swear oaths - he allowed me to say, "Yes, I will follow the rules," an easy allowance.)

Allowing people to honor their religion is perhaps the Greatest part of what America stands for. I don't get anyone supporting Prager on this matter.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 4:04:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

I have to admit I'm surprised that Medved disagreed with him; well... sort of surprised, as nothing much surprises me any more.

I linked to Medved's ABC News article. I can see both Medved's points and Prager's points. In a way, they are in agreement; and in another way, they are not, ending up on both sides of the fence. I don't see either one as wrong; and I liked their civil discourse today, without the racism labels (since when is "Muslim" a race?).

Dan,

Prager is not calling for Ellison to be forced against his will to swear on the Bible; nor is he arguing a legal case.

I don't get anyone supporting Prager on this matter.

If you truly wish to try and understand, then I would take the time to listen to his programs, which I've linked. And read his 2nd column. He admits, in afterthought, he'd change some of the wording in his first article, so as not to be so misunderstood by some people. If you still cannot at least understand his line of reasoning (you don't have to be in agreement; just understand where he is coming from), then I cannot help you.

I can see the good in both sides of the argument.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 7:56:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Oh, and I was in such a hurry this morning, that I forgot to link the Hannity and Colmes video of Malik Shabazz calling Prager a racist. When you call Prager a racist, it tells me that you are listening past him, and preoccupied with your own preconceived prejudices and ideological agenda.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 7:59:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Just added this:

Michael Medved's Three Questions for Dennis Prager on Congressional Oaths and the Koran

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 9:29:00 PM  
Blogger atheling2 said...

I agree with Prager, and wordsmith, your analysis about the importance of tradition and symbolism is spot on!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 9:48:00 PM  
Blogger Dan Trabue said...

Wordsmith, I had read the original essay and now I've read his response. His valid point is that traditions are important. I don't disagree with that.

I disagree with the suggestion that there is something wrong with using the Koran (or NOT swearing in at all, in the anabaptist case). The important traditions here are assuming office and religious freedom, not which book one chooses to swear in upon.

Prager said:

"That he chose not to is the narcissism of multiculturalism that I referred to: The individual's culture trumps the national culture."

And this is where he's getting it wrong, I believe. WHOSE national culture? Prager says that as if there were one culture in the US. As I've pointed out, anabaptists have been an important part of our culture from the beginning. I suspect Muslims have, too, although I don't know that.

Our "national culture" is one of diversity, it's one of our strengths. As is not forcing people to act against their religion, which seems to me to be what this is about.

An analogy: As an anabaptist, I'm in the minority that is a pacifist. Our "national culture" - meaning "the norm of the majority" (which is what Prager is talking about in his context) is one of engaging in war at times.

Ought we force the minority to "accept" the national culture - even when it is against their will?

God forbid!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 3:55:00 AM  
Blogger Gayle said...

I really feel very strongly about this, Wordsmith, because it is the Koran that we are referring to here. Can you even imagine an American of German heritage being sworn in as a congressman during WWII and swearing an oath of office on Mein Kampf? I don't see any difference.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Gayle said...

One more thing. Yes, the minority should except the national culture, even if it is against their will, because that's what a democracy is all about; the will of the majority.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Dan Trabue said...

woah. Sorry, Miss Gayle, but that's just a bit creepy. I'm sure you don't mean that the way it sounds.

Suppose that the majority just voted the Dems in and that they wanted to require gay marriage, do you still support the majority?

Fortunately for us all, we don't in a democracy. We live in a republic. Further, we live in a republic that values the notion of liberty and justice for all - not just the majority.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Dan,

Bringing up your anabaptist status doesn't hold as much power in your arguments when Prager is Jewish, and I myself can be classified as a person without religion. Religious affiliation isn't at issue in what Prager argues about. Otherwise his point is missed. Although, I do see how for others, it's legitimate to bring religious arguments into the equation on this issue. I just don't want people to confuse that for Prager he is not advocating for government to endorse Christianity as an establishment of religion.

Thanks for taking the time to read his columns.

Dan:I disagree with the suggestion that there is something wrong with using the Koran (or NOT swearing in at all, in the anabaptist case). The important traditions here are assuming office and religious freedom, not which book one chooses to swear in upon.

I really can't argue against that. Except for the fact that by saying "religious freedom", you are still hung up on the notion that Prager's argument is calling for the restriction of religious freedom. I think he's made it pretty clear that he appreciates and encourages religious diversity and wants to see people of ALL faiths, run for Congress. I'd say he has more grief with secular society than a religious one; and he doesn't mind which faith.

Swearing in upon the Bible or not swearing upon it, are acceptable to him. Replacing it with any other text- even the Torah, and he speaks as a Jew- is unacceptable because of his notion of traditionalism, right or wrong.



Dan:Prager said:

"That he chose not to is the narcissism of multiculturalism that I referred to: The individual's culture trumps the national culture."

And this is where he's getting it wrong, I believe. WHOSE national culture? Prager says that as if there were one culture in the US.


This is actually where Prager wins me over. I understand perfectly his frustrations with "multiculturalism" and what he means by "narcissism" because I feel the same passion here, as touched upon in the post down from this one.

Diversity is one of America's greatest strengths; but we also stand in danger from its divisiveness as well, and it doubly acts as a weakness for us, as well.

What Prager deplores (or perhaps I should speak for myself and say what I deplore?) is this narcissistic need for all interest groups to feel special; to have their individual ethnic and religious cultures recognized as "equal" in cultural significance to America as the Judeo-Christian foundations upon which this country was built.

This isn't the same thing as me saying that Christianity is superior to all other forms of religion (even if I may think that). Just acknowledging its role in establishing our "base" system of traditions and values which has enabled the diversity of beliefs and acceptance of these ideas of tolerance and multiculturalism. That Bible that Prager so adamantly believes in, is a symbol of this country's foundation. It is symbolic. And all he asks, is that it be recognized and acknowledged as culturally significant to the heart and soul of America.

It is little different than how many patriotic Americans choose to honor the Stars and Stripes. It is symbolic of us as one nation (...under God). We don't have subflags to say our Pledge of Allegiance to the "Jewish-American flag", the "Japanese-American" flag, the "Black-American" flag; the "Gay-American" flag; the "Koranic/Islamic-American" flag, the "liberal-blue-American" flag, the "Annabaptist-American" flag.

What Ellison is doing, (and I say this while also seeing that there is something also beautiful in his freedom to have the Koran present in his swearing in ceremony) is saying, "I want to be special by choosing a flag that makes me stand out as a 'Muslim-American' rather than just plain 'American'".

Being able to balance diversity and unity is a tricky juggling act. We need both.


Dan: As I've pointed out, anabaptists have been an important part of our culture from the beginning. I suspect Muslims have, too, although I don't know that.

Our "national culture" is one of diversity, it's one of our strengths. As is not forcing people to act against their religion, which seems to me to be what this is about.


I see it as a fight against multicultural narcissism. Which is why others who do not fit the Christian and Jewish faiths want to tear down and minimize the significant role that Christianity has played in shaping our country. I don't want to minimize the contributions of those of other faiths and cultures in adding to the "base" culture and traditions of America; but I don't want that done at the expense of purposeful dissolution of the Judeo-Christian heritage and traditions which I see as the foundation.

I'm all for change. Any attempts at preserving tradition can lead to cultural stagnation. I appreciate the power of growth in cultural cross-pollenation; of the positive influence in taking what another culture has to offer, adding and assimilating it, and creating something new and beautiful out of it.

But what I have problems with is groups like the ACLU who are ramming change down our throats by surgically going about eradicating the inroads that Christian culture has had in building and shaping this great nation. It is too traumatic to forcefully remove from our society public displays of Nativity scenes, of changing lyrics in Christmas carols to "not offend" and be "exclusive" to others. It's so much misguided insecurity and misplaced notions of equality. It is narcissism.

Dan:

Ought we force the minority to "accept" the national culture - even when it is against their will?


What I am feeling is the oppression of the minority.

Prager, btw, doesn't want to "force" Ellison to not use the Koran in his swearing in ceremony photo. He is attempting to influence public opinion and pressure; and to have Ellison to not go against his will; but to have his will shift, so that he no longer has the desire to have the Koran in the absence of the Bible. It is not about substituting one religion for another. It is about honoring the Founding and traditions that that Bible represents.

Gayle: really feel very strongly about this, Wordsmith, because it is the Koran that we are referring to here. Can you even imagine an American of German heritage being sworn in as a congressman during WWII and swearing an oath of office on Mein Kampf? I don't see any difference.

Gayle, I respect your opinion here, but have to part company on it. As you know, I share many of your frustrations and anger toward "the religion of peace". The comparison you're making, though, is exactly what Prager has been trying to stress that he wasn't making in his first column. It's given political ammo to his detractors.

Yes, we are at war with radical Islam, and in many respects, even the moderate ones who sympathize and act as apologists for their violent brethren; who also share many of the same anti-American and/or anti-Jewish opinions and prejudices.

But we do need to be careful not to alienate those Muslims who are our allies in their criticism of Islam.

The Koran may need reforming; but without going overboard on political correctness, we should still show respect and reverence for those of other faiths. It just reflects back upon us better.

That being said, I agree that we should also not be blinded by political correctness getting in the way of our recognizing who the enemy is, and facing the reality that there are those who want to kill Americans....and they aren't militant Buddhists or radicalized Mormons.


Dan:Suppose that the majority just voted the Dems in and that they wanted to require gay marriage, do you still support the majority?

I support the will of the majority, yes, while still opposing an issue. Something like gay marriage should be left as a state issue; and when voted upon, the will of the people has constistently shown that they reject gay marriage. If you are going to be a part of society, you don't always get your way and should lawfully accept it, while also lawfully seeking to change people's opinion in a future referendum. It is the civilized way.

Dan:Fortunately for us all, we don't in a democracy. We live in a republic. Further, we live in a republic that values the notion of liberty and justice for all - not just the majority.

Where isn't there liberty and justice for all? Where is the majority being oppressive of the minority?! I'm sorry, I just don't know what your point is, and how you are perceiving majority/minority and "liberty/justice", or the absence of it.

Numbers matter. I don't exactly see where your problem lies, when it comes to majority rules.

This actually reminds me of the post I was going to make for you regarding moral puzzles. I'd be curious to know if your position would change, should the numbers change. Do numbers matter?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger Old Soldier said...

I believe there is a piece of the equation that is being overlooked...

Ellison voluntarily ran for a public office and was "elected." He was not drafted or conscripted into service. It was voluntary. He had to know going into the political race that should he win, he would be sworn in; that he would give an oath to protect and defend...

Dan, in this case, if you were to voluntarily run for an office, I would ecpect you to comply "voluntarily" with the expectations - swearing an oath. If you belief prohibits sush, I would expect you to refrain from running from office. To deliberately do otherwise is merely a selfish "challenge" to American traditions.

That is where I believe Ellison has gone - placing self above his electorate.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Dan Trabue said...

" Numbers matter. I don't exactly see where your problem lies, when it comes to majority rules.

This actually reminds me of the post I was going to make for you regarding moral puzzles. I'd be curious to know if your position would change, should the numbers change. Do numbers matter?"

In a representational democracy such as our own, numbers do matter for setting policy. For instance, the pacifist minority should not impose their beliefs upon the majority, short of winning over the majority to their side.

But we are also a nation that values liberty and freedom of religion.

We allow people to smoke or drink. We don't allow them to do so in ways that harm others.

We allow people to follow their religion as long as that religion doesn’t harm others. We don’t force people to take actions against their will.

We don’t force people to smoke or drink. We would never pass a law that requires that people drive or own a gun (although I recall that some town tinkered with that notion). We don’t force people to fight in wars which are against their religion.

We value freedom that doesn’t harm others. We do well when we continue to fight for that tradition and we contribute to our undoing when we oppose liberty.

Surely you all aren't saying you endorse forcing people to act contrary to their beliefs?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Dan Trabue said...

"To deliberately do otherwise is merely a selfish "challenge" to American traditions."

Would it be so? Or would it be a demanding of representation, we who are taxed?

Are you saying that you think that we taxpayers who don't believe in taking oaths because of our Christian faith ought not be allowed to run for office?

Perhaps I'd be okay with that if they quit charging me taxes to live here...

I think I'd put it the other way: IF ever I ran for president, it would be as a non-oath swearing pacifist that I ran. If the people elected me (and they wouldn't), then I'd say that the will of the people has been voiced. Including for my position against oaths and for pacifism.

I'd say in Ellison's case, the will of the people have been voiced, including his Muslim faith tradition.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

Brilliant summation Word!..I will link up when I do my own follow up post!..I agree with Prager on every solitary point and then some!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Old Soldier said...

”We value freedom that doesn’t harm others. We do well when we continue to fight for that tradition and we contribute to our undoing when we oppose liberty.”

Care to explain seat belt laws; bicycle helmet and motorcycle helmet laws? How about laws in some areas that prohibit parents from employing corporal punishment? Don’t those laws impinge upon individual liberty?

”Are you saying that you think that we taxpayers who don't believe in taking oaths because of our Christian faith ought not be allowed to run for office?”

Did I say that? I believe I said, ”if you were to voluntarily run for an office, I would expect you to comply "voluntarily" with the expectations - swearing an oath. If your belief prohibits such, I would expect you to refrain from running from office.” I did not say you should not be allowed to run for office. Clearly there is an expected action to affirm your allegiance if elected. If you will refuse to swear an affirmation, then morally and ethically you should avoid an activity that leads to such.

Believe what you wish about Ellison; I perceive he intended to capitalize upon his faith and the Qur’an the moment he realized the opportunity existed. As an American citizen, I have a moral problem with a representative affirming an oath upon a book that sanctions lying to non-believers. The Qur’an specifically condones Muslims lying to Infidels. That is not a book upon which I desire to have someone affirm an allegiance to our constitution and swear to defend it against all enemies foreign and domestic.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 4:00:00 PM  
Blogger Gayle said...

Old Soldier said: "That is not a book upon which I desire to have someone affirm an allegiance to our constitution and swear to defend it against all enemies foreign and domestic." Amen!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 6:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill H said...

First, the swearing in ceremony is done by raising the right hand and repeating the oath with everyone on the floor. Individual "swearing in ceremonies" are done later where pictures are taken.

Second, which "Bible" would you use the Jewish, the Protestant or the Catholic?

Third, the Constitution itself decided "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." To require someone use the "Bible" would be sush a religious test.

Thursday, December 07, 2006 7:30:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

^

That, my friends, is how you add your two cents without BOTHERING TO READ THE SUBSTANCE OF THE POST, OR THE COMMENT SECTION!

Thanks for weighing in Bill; but next time please tell us something we don't already know?

Thursday, December 07, 2006 7:35:00 AM  
Blogger Dan Trabue said...

Actually, WS, I think he may be addressing Old Soldier's comments to me. By pointing out:

"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."

He is showing Old Soldier that it is not a requirement at all that I take an oath, but that an affirmation is fine.

For the record, Old Soldier, I probably wouldn't run for president because the job description (commander-in-chief) does require something beyond what I think I could affirm.

This is not true for other representatives.

Thursday, December 07, 2006 8:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Bill H said...

Wordsmith said:

Dan,

Prager is not calling for Ellison to be forced against his will to swear on the Bible; nor is he arguing a legal case.



Prager said:

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. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

Prager in his second column says:
Response: I never even hinted that there should be a religious test. It has never occurred to me that only Christians run for office in America. The idea is particularly laughable in my case since I am not now, nor ever have been, a Christian. I am a Jew (a non-denominational religious Jew, for the record), and I would vote for any Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Mormon, atheist, Jew, Zoroastrian, Hindu, Wiccan, Confucian, Taoist or combination thereof whose social values I share. Conversely, I would not vote for a fellow Jew whose social values I did not share. I want people of every faith and of no faith who affirm the values I affirm to enter political life.

My belief that the Bible should be present at any oath (or affirmation) of office has nothing whatsoever to do with the religion of the office holder. And it never has until Keith Ellison's decision to substitute a different text for the Bible. Many office holders who do not believe in the Bible at all or who reject some part have nevertheless used the Bible at their swearing-in (I noted this in my column). Even the vast majority of Jews elected to office have used a Bible containing both the Old and New Testaments, even though Jews do not regard the New Testament as part of their Bible. A tiny number of Jews have used only the Old Testament. As a religious Jew, I of course understand their decision, but I disagree with it.

Bill says:

Can anyone really believe that to force a non-Christian to swear on the Bible is not a religious test?

Thursday, December 07, 2006 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Can anyone really believe that to force a non-Christian to swear on the Bible is not a religious test?

My answer is in my response(s) to dan. But I will try and reiterate, as succinctly as I can,

Prager's Jewish and therefore non-Christian.

I am a heathen and a pagan; therefore I am non-Christian.

I see where he is coming from. Can you?

It's ok not to agree with him; but on this point, it'd be nice if people can be clear at least on how he is interpreting things. Whether that makes him right or wrong.



This is kind of related to how ridiculous I think it is, that militant secularists make such a big deal over "In God We Trust" on our currency; the Ten Commandments appearing on government buildings; insist on Christmas carols being changed to "winter carols" to be more "inclusive".

Thursday, December 07, 2006 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill H said...

Wordsmith said:


I see where he is coming from. Can you?

Prager said:

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. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

Bill Says:

That is where Prager is coming from.

In case you missed it I will quote again "If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress".

To put it more concretely he said if you won't swear on the Bible you should not serve in Congress and that is despite all the dissebling in the world a religious test.

Thursday, December 07, 2006 2:14:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Bill,

If you've listened to Prager at all on air, you'd hear him say that he does not believe that Ellison should be legally prevented from using the Koran in taking his oath.

You are taking a paragraph out of his first article (an article he's admitted he'd reword if he could to clarify his position), and cherrypicking it from the whole trunk of his argument.

Here's the paragraph that precedes it:

First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism -- my culture trumps America's culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

Let's suspend for a moment, the fact that it is a Bible. A Christian Bible. Let's just pretend that it is a secular text of historic and cultural significance to this country's founding. What is wrong with taking oath to it, even if your ancestors, ethnicity, or whatever, isn't directly tied to the text?

Perhaps that's too confusing to grasp. Let me try another way: I'm Asian-American. More specifically, I am Thai. I understand where Prager is coming from when he states, " it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism -- my culture trumps America's culture." I understand his charge of cultural narcissism. What Prager advocates for, imo, is something selfless and noble: That one doesn't put one's personal ethnic and religious ties before one's ties to what he (and I) consider to be American tradition. It's root history, and cultural heritage. All cultures are welcomed to contribute to it, and build upon it. But not replace the root founding. He's a Jewish American who places America above his identity as a Jewish American. I am a Thai-American whose loyalty is to America first. Any ties I may have to Thai culture or the Thai community is secondary; and I don't need to feel special about myself, by propping up Thai culture as somehow on a par of cultural significance as the Judeo-Christian culture has been in shaping this country's origin. Prager seeks something that unifies rather than divides us. He sees the symbolic act of Ellison as divisive. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But I understand Prager. I understand his disgust with the negative aspects of multiculturalism.

To put it more concretely he said if you won't swear on the Bible you should not serve in Congress and that is despite all the dissebling in the world a religious test.

And I'm telling you, that you are wrong in saying Prager doesn't believe Ellison shouldn't be prevented from serving in Congress; certainly not be any legal means. He fully observes Ellison's rights as a citizen to serve in Congress. I've linked to some of his radio programs. You're interpreting his words in a manner in which he doesn't mean for them to be taken.

Thursday, December 07, 2006 9:00:00 PM  
Blogger sbw said...

What matters is the oath, not the placement of the hand, and that the tradition grew to put the one being sworn in in touch with that which would hold him or her most truthful to the oath, to the office, to the citizenry, and to the individual.

It is not an indication of allegiance, and a Christian or an Atheist could just as well take such an oath with his or her hand on a Koran as a bunch of flowers. What is more, an oath can be "taken" and need not be "sworn" if swearing is against one's tradition so long as the truth and honesty of the pledge is affirmed.

Friday, December 08, 2006 5:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Bill H said...

Wordsmith,

The only way Prager could clarify his position is to say that he re-thought his position and changed it. To say "I wrote that but didn't meant to" is silly. This was not a grammar mistake or a misspelling or a spur of the moment argument, it was thought out.

Friday, December 08, 2006 2:17:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

To say "I wrote that but didn't meant to" is silly.

When his lefty critics were accusing him of comparing the Koran to Mein Kampf, he didn't change his position: he clarified it.

As for "changing his position" regarding Ellison, the only area where he did that was in seeking a "compromise" by saying he'd be satisfied if Ellison could at least have the Bible present as well as the Koran.

But you see what you want to see and I see what I want to see, I suppose.

Having listened to Prager for several years now, I'd say that he is honest when admitting mistakes; or when he's been swayed by someone he initially disagreed with, into changing his position. He'd have no shame in that.


sbw,

I really have no problem with your view; I respect it, because it's one I shared with you initially, before aligning with Prager. Really, the way you see it, then it is no big deal, either, if one does swear on the Bible without being Christian.

Friday, December 08, 2006 10:25:00 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Prager:

Second, the very fact that it is a ceremony makes my point far more forcefully. Obviously, Mr. Ellison will have already been officially sworn in. Therefore, the use of the Koran has absolutely nothing to do with taking an oath on the book he holds sacred. It is used entirely to send a message to the American people.

And the message will go out beyond our borders as well.

Ellison intended to stir up something with this bit of symbolism. He publicized it.

Prager is spot on about tradition and symbolism. Ellison's using the Koran is loaded with the latter.

And CAIR is pushing for those of us who disagree with Ellison to be labeled as guilty of hate speech. See THIS. Just like the praying imams on the plane, this thing with Ellison is another orchestrated event, with the agenda of Islamification.

Saturday, December 09, 2006 9:01:00 AM  
Anonymous bill h said...

Either Prager is a liar or he does not understand what he wrote. Yes, he would change the wording now that he has been criticized. Indeed, he probably wishes he had never wrote that paragraph but now his position is that he never wrote what he wrote.


Prager said:

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.

Prager in his second column says:


Response: I never even hinted that there should be a religious test.

Bill says
Such is Prager's hubris and pliancy of conscience, neither of which is commendable.

Sunday, December 10, 2006 6:04:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Either Prager is a liar or he does not understand what he wrote.

Prager is not a liar, and it is YOU who does continues to not understand what he wrote, as exemplified by what you quoted. You are interpreting his words, the way YOU see it. The second column is meant for people like you, who read the first column as a religious test. Do you not understand that he is referring to his ideas of American tradition? Of honoring the Judeo-Christian foundings? He is Jewish. How can taking an oath on the New Testament Bible be a religious test, when he'd swear on it himself, and it isn't even his Bible?!

Hence, the need for clarification. Yet you still refuse to "get it".



Yes, he would change the wording now that he has been criticized. Indeed, he probably wishes he had never wrote that paragraph but now his position is that he never wrote what he wrote.

Then you really don't understand Dennis Prager.

Sunday, December 10, 2006 6:49:00 AM  
Anonymous bill h said...

Prager said:

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.


Bill says:
the above is a religious test.

Prager said:

Response: I never even hinted that there should be a religious test.


Prager's first and second columns contradict one another.

Conclusion:
Either Prager does not understand what a religious test is or he is a liar or he is a poor writer.

Words have meanings, I understand what he wrote and the meaning and consequences of those words.

In regard to tradition:

The tradition of the United States in this regard is stated in the Constitution whether you or Prager or anyone else likes it. Ellison is honoring that tradition Prager is not.

Sunday, December 10, 2006 8:04:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

You think you understand Prager, but you really don't; or refuse to even try.

Of course words have meanings; but sometimes things mean different things to different people; and you are being intellectually lazy, if you are refusing to see how HE is perceiving his own words. Far easier to just dismiss him as a liar then try to understand where he is coming from.

So what you end up doing is to insist he meant a religious test, then accuse him of backtracking when he tries to clarify for people like you. I'm saying he's not backtracked on the part you cite out of his first column. You perceive it as a religious test (which is a legitimate point); what I'm saying is Prager never meant it that way. You deny what he meant, because you only want to see it, the way you see it.



In regard to tradition:

The tradition of the United States in this regard is stated in the Constitution whether you or Prager or anyone else likes it.



Which proves to me that you still do not undestand Prager. All I can conclude is that you don't know much about him, beyond reading these columns because they caused a stir.

Where do you think the Constitution derived its "values" from? The Bible is representative of the Judeo-Christian values that made the Constitution and America possible. When swearing an oath on the Bible, you are not swearing fealty to Christianity; you are swearing an oath of allegiance to the Constitution.

Ellison is honoring that tradition Prager is not.

Ellison and Prager both stand in good stead, in honoring tradition; however, I'd suggest Prager more than Ellison is motivated by nobler reasons. Prager's heart is in the right place. Is Keith Ellison's?

Sunday, December 10, 2006 8:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Bill H said...

He is writing for an audience, if he wants that audience to understand what he writes he must be clear to the audience not to himself. He has to be clear on the concepts he is using and he must express himself in a way the audience understands.



I am not a mind reader, I am only going by what he wrote:

Prager said:

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.


And what he wrote is calling for a de facto religious test.

What did Prager mean when he wrote "If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book (the Bible), don't serve in Congress"?

If he meant something else why did he write that instead of what he did mean?

Then he had time to consider what he wrote note the meaning that it conveyed and write a second column in which he writes "Response: I never even hinted that there should be a religious test."

What did he mean if he meant something else other than what he did write?
Does he really not understand that he did call for a religious test?


I have no powers of divination to see in to his mind I can only go by what he wrote and it is clear that he can not write well enough to make his meaning clear to his readers for him.

Ellison wants to abide by his conscience, Prager wants to deny him that and what Prager suggests is against the tradition in the United States. If you and Prager don't understand that then all I can do is pity you. I am not going to argue with you any more it is a waist of time to argue with someone for whom words have no definate meanings.

Monday, December 11, 2006 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Bill...for God's sake: My response is in about only...all of my comments in this thread?!

I don't know how many ways I can say it, and I don't know how many more times you're going to keep quoting your favorite Prager line from his first article.

He is writing for an audience, if he wants that audience to understand what he writes he must be clear to the audience not to himself.

He probably thought he was clear. But seeing how people like yourself aren't understanding what he meant, you cannot fault him for wishing to clarify his position in a 2nd article. Perhaps it's his fault for not being a better writer for people like you to not misunderstand him; but at a certain point, it becomes the fault of the reader, should he just keep seeing what he wants to see, and keep reading into it, what he wants to read.


He has to be clear on the concepts he is using and he must express himself in a way the audience understands.

I understand it. Why can't you?



I am not a mind reader, I am only going by what he wrote:

Prager said:

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.


And what he wrote is calling for a de facto religious test.


That's your interpretation of what he "called for". Since he deemed such an interpretation on your part to be wrong, and admits that perhaps he should have worded it differently so that there wouldn't be such confusion and misinterpretation, he wrote his 2nd column. Instead of going, "oh, that's what he really meant." You impune that he is a liar or that he is backpedaling. He does neither.


What did Prager mean when he wrote "If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book (the Bible), don't serve in Congress"?

How many more times are we going to go through this?! He clarified in his 2nd column. Should he write a 3rd column just to clarify for you, who seem fixated solely on your interpretation, and nothing but?

Maybe listening to Medved and Prager debate would do you some good; but somehow, I doubt it. You've already closed your mind off from any possible explanation, other than the one you want to believe in.

If he meant something else why did he write that instead of what he did mean?

Buddy....he did write what he meant. You and others just read it in a way that he didn't mean for it to be taken; hence, the need for clarification. You might not be a mind-reader; but neither is he a mind-reader of all readers out there. What means something to him, means something else for you; and vice versa.

Then he had time to consider what he wrote note the meaning that it conveyed and write a second column in which he writes "Response: I never even hinted that there should be a religious test."

What did he mean if he meant something else other than what he did write?


I've already told you. He's already told you. How can I spell it out any clearer? You almost make me feel like there was never anything at all wrong in the wording of his first column; that the problem lies in the readers who have a comprehension deficiency (I don't mean to insult you; I'm just at my wits end and feel like I'm just wasting time, just to indulge you).


Does he really not understand that he did call for a religious test?


What he understands, is that some people mistook what he wrote as a call for a relgious test. It is not what he meant; and it is a point to which he addressed in his 2nd column. That is not "changing his position". It's clarifying it. It's expressing and rewording it, so that there'd be no confusion.


I have no powers of divination to see in to his mind I can only go by what he wrote and it is clear that he can not write well enough to make his meaning clear to his readers for him.

You realize, he's authored many books? Not too bad for a "bad writer" when he has a pretty large audience of listeners and readers. I don't think the problem is Prager. Ask yourself why you, personally, Bill, are having such a difficult time in understanding.

Ellison wants to abide by his conscience,

From what I've learned of Ellison, he does not share the values I hold dear, as an American citizen.

Prager wants to deny him that and what Prager suggests is against the tradition in the United States. If you and Prager don't understand that then all I can do is pity you. I am not going to argue with you any more it is a waist of time to argue with someone for whom words have no definate meanings.

Well, seeing as how this is my blog, you're the one who has been a waste of time for me. I think I've been a pretty patient host.

The problem here is that words do have meaning; but you can't seem to understand the meaning, even when it is spelled out for you. You give your own meaning, your own interpretation to words without even bothering an attempt at understanding. If you were intellectually honest with yourself, you would at least try to look beyond the limitations you've put upon yourself. I don't know if you are stuck-in-the-mud mentally, because of ideological blindness; or because of something else.

You choose to stay stuck in a mental rut, even though I've tried to help you out of it. I don't expect you to agree with Prager. I even respect those who disagree with him (as Medved disagrees with him). But what I find frustrating is your seeming indesire to understand the position of Dennis Prager. As he would say, he prefers clarity to agreement.

If you want to disagree with what he meant, disagree with what he meant; don't fabricate a strawman opponent and put ideas into his mouth- ideas that he doesn't endorse. Reality is not what you choose it to be. And the reality is, you are disagreeing with someone whose position you don't even understand; or more accurately, refuse to understand.

It's like there's a wall in front of you, and even though a way around the wall is shown, you refuse to turn and walk around the wall; instead, you just stand there complaining that there is a wall in front of you that you can't go through.

Monday, December 11, 2006 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Where the devil did you come from anyway?

Monday, December 11, 2006 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Why would Prager originally have meant "a religious test" in his first article, when he himself is Jewish?


Jesus, man....

*insert rolleyes emoticon*

Monday, December 11, 2006 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Mike's America said...

Wordsmith, Wordsmith, Wordsmith.

I just scratch my head when I read some of this.

I'm sorry I am so late to the party. I wouldn't even know where to begin.

Would it be enough for me to say you are 100% right?

Monday, December 11, 2006 12:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Skye said...

Right with you Word!

Symbols are powerful unifiers in any culture. They link our collective past history with our future. We are a nation of many blended into one by our symbols.

Respecting our symbols and traditions does not diminish your personal cultural identity, quite the opposite - it affirms it.

Monday, December 11, 2006 4:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill H said...

Why would Prager originally have meant "a religious test" in his first article, when he himself is Jewish?


Jesus, man....

*insert rolleyes emoticon*

Because he is does not understand that he called for such a test and because his conscience is pliant enough to allow him to swear on a Christian Bible even though he is Jewish.

Understand this:

Prager is asking Ellison to violate his conscience in order to serve in Congress that is a religious test. It is the tradition in America that such things are left to an individual's conscience not someone else.

As to where I am coming from I am a conservative American who believes in the Constitution of the United States and happens to understand what Prager actually wrote and understand that Prager's second column only confused matters. I understand America's tradition of religious tolerance that stems from the enlightenment.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006 9:40:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Because he is does not understand that he called for such a test and because his conscience is pliant enough to allow him to swear on a Christian Bible even though he is Jewish.

I know Jews who have Christmas trees in the home. They are religious and have no problems honoring an American tradition. They respect the influence of Christianity on our nation's history, rather than make attempts to erase, minimize, or extract its cultural significance and impact upon who we are today.

I see Prager's views regarding the swearing in on the Christian Bible as no different.

Understand this:

Prager is asking Ellison to violate his conscience in order to serve in Congress that is a religious test. It is the tradition in America that such things are left to an individual's conscience not someone else.


I don't dispute that this is a legitimate way of looking at the situation. You have a valid point. What you seem to confuse, is in recognizing that Prager has a point and that what he means and what you interpret him to mean, only means that you misunderstand him. Irregardless of whether he spoke "perfect English" or not; for you to be so lazy as to choose not to understand him when he attempts to clarify his language for you, is just being obstinate because you're hung up on what you think his sentence means, rather than attempting to understand what he meant.

As to where I am coming from I am a conservative American who believes in the Constitution of the United States and happens to understand what Prager actually wrote and understand that Prager's second column only confused matters.

Confusing to you, maybe.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006 9:53:00 AM  

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