On the December 4 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, conservative radio host and Townhall.com columnist Dennis Prager continued to accuse incoming Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) of "imperil[ing]" America because of Ellison's reported intention to use a copy of the Quran during the ceremonial photo op on the day he is sworn in. Prager acknowledged, as the weblog Think Progress reported, that Ellison would use the Quran for "a photo op" and not the actual swearing-in, which is conducted in a large group. Ellison is the first Muslim ever elected to Congress.
Opening the conversation, host Tucker Carlson said, "I'm no great defender of the Quran, but I'm not sure why America is imperiled by Keith Ellison's taking the oath on it." Carlson later added that the Constitution "specifies -- and it's hard for me to believe I'm defending the Quran here -- but that document says very clearly no religious test ... will ever be required for holding office, and it seems to me you're implying -- you're holding up a religious test." Carlson summarized the conversation by noting that "we have a Jew [Prager] pushing a Muslim to use the Christian Bible. This is -- that's America." Prager agreed, to which Carlson responded: "Amen."
Prager also addressed Ellison and the Quran in his December 5 Townhall.com column, which appeared to differ from other comments he has made on the subject. Prager claimed on December 5 that he is "well aware it [being sworn in on a Bible] is not a law, and I do not want it to be" even though he had claimed in his November 28 column that Ellison "should not be allowed" to "take his oath of office ... on the bible of Islam, the Koran."
On Tucker, Prager alleged that Ellison would be "substituting [another book for] the Bible for the first time since George Washington had a Bible at his inauguration." However, Prager has apparently said nothing publicly about incoming Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), who, according to an aide quoted in the November 20 issue of Roll Call, "has no plans to use any religious text in the swearing-in ceremony."
Additionally, on the November 30 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Prager acknowledged that Theodore Roosevelt did not swear on a Bible because, as a January 18, 2005, Associated Press article noted, Roosevelt "did not have a Bible available at his hasty inauguration following President William McKinley's assassination." Perhaps unknown to Prager, the article also noted that President John Quincy Adams was sworn in on a "book of American laws." According to the Architect of the Capitol, President Lyndon B. Johnson swore on a missal after President John F. Kennedy was shot.
In his December 5 column, Prager appeared to acknowledge that not all "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," saying instead that "many" do. Prager also acknowledged that some "Jews have used only the Old Testament," a decision Prager claimed to "understand" but with which he "disagree[d]." Thus, even as Prager is aware that his claim, made on Tucker, that Ellison is "for the first time in American history, substituting one religious text for another" is baseless, Prager continued to allege in his December 5 column that "neither I nor tens of millions of other Americans will watch in silence as the Bible is replaced with another religious text for the first time since George Washington brought a Bible to his swearing-in."
From the December 4 edition of MSNBC's Tucker:
CARLSON: I'm great. And I am, you know, I'm no great defender of the Quran, but I'm not sure why America is imperiled by Keith Ellison's taking the oath on it. Why is it?
PRAGER: It's not imperiled by his taking the oath on it, it's imperiled by substituting the Bible for the first time since George Washington had a Bible at his inauguration.
The issue is not the oath. First of all, he has already -- he will have already taken the oath with all other congressman. This is a photo op, but it's a very important photo op. It's the statement of the congressman of what is most important to him and to America. I have no problem with his having the Quran. I have a problem with his, for the first time in American history, substituting one religious text for another.
If he had the Quran and a Bible, as one Muslim ambassador did about 10 years ago, I think it was the ambassador to the Fiji Islands, I don't recall exactly, I wouldn't have ever written the column.
But this is a big deal to say, "I am ending this tradition that was started by George Washington in favor of another text." The question is not what he believes in. That's one question. The question is, what is the central text of the American value system? That's why I think this is important. Otherwise I couldn't care less. If it had been the Bhagavad Gita or it had been anything else or it had been a Scientologist work of Dianetics, I would have said the same thing. It's -- the Quran is not my issue. It's substituting something for the Bible for the first time in American history.
CARLSON: Well, the central text of American life is the Constitution, I think --
PRAGER: No, that's -- OK. That's not true. That's the central legal document. We had a United States of America for nine years prior to a Constitution.
PRAGER: Did we not have values then? Did we not have laws?
CARLSON: I think -- I think we did. But I think the people who founded the country used those nine years to think through what this country is --
CARLSON: -- and what ideas should govern it --
PRAGER: No, no, no.
CARLSON: -- and they came up with the Constitution. And that document specifies -- and it's hard for me to believe I'm defending the Quran here -- but that document says very clearly no religious test --
PRAGER: That's correct.
CARLSON: -- will ever be required for holding office, and it seems to me you're implying -- you're holding up a religious test.
PRAGER: I'm not implying it whatsoever. I want people of every faith to run for office.
CARLSON: Huh. This is getting very deep, and you're losing me a little bit. It may be a function of my limited IQ.
PRAGER: I don't think so.
CARLSON: Boil it down for me to a political level here. Should Keith Ellison not be allowed to take office, or what should we do about this?
PRAGER: Well, we should pressure him to doing the great thing to unify Americans and bring the Bible along with the Quran. That's not exactly a terrible demand. It doesn't in any way compromise his Islamic faith. It says that he is saying to the American people, "Look, I am part of you. I don't want to demolish the tradition that has been unbroken since George Washington." I don't think that's too much to ask of Keith Ellison.
CARLSON: Here we have a Jew pushing a Muslim to use the Christian Bible. This is -- that's America.
PRAGER: That's correct. Yes. OK.
CARLSON: Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.
PRAGER: It is America, you are quite right.
On December 5, Prager wrote:
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.
I am for no law to be passed to prevent Keith Ellison or anyone else from bringing any book he wants to his swearing-in, whether actual or ceremonial. But neither I nor tens of millions of other Americans will watch in silence as the Bible is replaced with another religious text for the first time since George Washington brought a Bible to his swearing-in. It is not I, but Keith Ellison, who has engaged in disuniting the country. He can still help reunite it by simply bringing both books to his ceremonial swearing-in. Had he originally announced that he would do that, I would have written a different column -- filled with praise of him. And there would be a lot less cursing and anger in America.