Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
[from AMENDMENT I to the CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES]
The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a "wall of separation between church and state"...
[from the Opinion of the Court in Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township, Mercer County, NJ (330 U.S. 1 , delivered by Justice Hugo Black)]
I have very often opined, to my fellow American citizens and foreigners alike, that- despite the provisions of the First Amendment regarding Non-Establishment of Religion and Free Exercise of Religion, that there are- nevertheless- two "established religions" in the United States of America today:
the first is something called the National Football League and its Highest of High Holy Days every year is something called 'Super Bowl Sunday' (with a parallel to the Christian 'Low Sunday'- that immediately following Easter- being the subsequent weekend on which the Pro Bowl- the exhibition game between the top players of the year from each of the NFL's two Conferences- is played) ;-)
But the second established religion- one that is far more pervasive within the society- is, simply, 'Americanism' or, more properly where not also concretely, American Nationalism.
In his book The Wrath of Nations (subtitled 'Civilization and the Furies of Nationalism'), William Pfaff writes- of the notion of "un-American activities" (one which, at one time, led to the establishment of a Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives of that very name): Un-French or Un-Swedish activities are inconceivable, since Frenchness and Swedishness are conditions, not political commitments.
Well... not totally true... for referring to, say, a type of foodstuff served in France as le Hamburger could very well be construed as being an "un-French" activity.
Yet Pfaff's point is well taken: for there is a great difference between a Frenchman chiding someone for using an Anglicism within French vocabulary in France and, here in America, seriously questioning someone's very Patriotism because they, for instance, dare say that their country's involvement in a war overseas might actually be counterproductive, where not even also morally wrong.
And the reason for this difference is that France was, as was- and, in many cases, still is- typical of the independent jurisdictions we call "Nations" that have been popping up all over Europe ever since the dawn of Modern History down even to the present day (see 'KOSOVO: 2008')- that is, one that was, at least originally, based primarily on ethnicity: if a geographical area contained mostly Frenchmen- people who spoke French and, at least outwardly, appeared to be of French ethnic extraction- it was considered to be part of something called 'France'. Where problems in this regard would crop up, they would usually do so where it could well be argued, and on the very same basis, that the area in question could also be claimed by those who were not Frenchmen (see 'ALSACE-LORRAINE: 1870-71, 1918') or Czech (see 'the SUDETENLAND: 1938')- say, by the people known as Germans (as were involved in the two cases I just cited).
Pfaff properly points out the following: Nationalism is usually thought a primordial historical phenomenon, the emotional binding by which political communities originally emerged, and through which the ethnic community finds its historical expression and maturity... [t]his is not true. Nationalism is a phenomenon of the European nineteenth century. It is a political consequence of the literary-intellectual movement called Romanticism, a Central European reaction to the universalizing, and therefore disorienting, ideas of the eighteenth-century French Enlightenment.
All as may be... but there is even more to here be discerned within Pfaff's above summary of Nationalism's origins. Notice that he denotes a "Central European reaction" to the "French Enlightenment" (underlining, obviously, mine). Put another way: Nationalism was a further outgrowth of that very conflict I myself only just touched upon in passing: the Central European Germans vs. the French.
Those who were (or thought themselves as) ethnolinguistically German saw- in the Enlightenment- an attempt to "Francocize" otherwise historically German lands (the later struggle over Alsace-Lorraine was directly related to this fear). 'Greater Germany'- as we must call it, since a sovereign Nation-State called Deutschland=Germany did not yet exist- was in political disarray come the end of the first decade of the 19th Century: the Holy Roman Empire that had loosely (and, over recent decades, very loosely!) bound the German-speaking Deutsch together going well back into the Medieval Period, despite their being divided amongst literally hundreds of separate political entities, large and small, was gone for good- a casualty of the Napoleonic Wars (and, of course, the very Napoleon who had fomented these eponymous conflicts happened to be ruler of France).
By then, France had long been (going back to its "sun king"- Louis XIV) melded into a powerful Nation-State and yet remained so, its recent Revolution and concomitant Reign of Terror notwithstanding; meanwhile, there was no comparable 'Germany' able to hold fast against it. And the one thing- if only in poorest analogy- that made Germans, whether living in the mighty Kingdom of Prussia or within the lowly County of Hauenstein in the southern reaches of what would soon become an expanded Kingdom of Baden, a German 'Nation'- the Reich (the 'Empire')- had now been unceremoniously erased from the maps of Europe, partially replaced by a Napoleon-sponsored 'Confederation of the Rhine' (as a geopolitical counterweight to Prussia itself-- also, in retrospect, a foreshadowing of Konrad Adenauer's post-World War II 'West Germany', set up under the imprimatur of the post-1945 anti-Soviet occupiers of Germany for many of the same reasons!)
Pfaff is, if but slightly, off in at least one sense: emergent 19th Century German Nationalism was not at all opposed to "universalizing" with a small "u"- that is, making something (in this case, a 'Germany') that much more comprehensive in its scope; what this German Nationalism very much feared, however, was Universality with a capital "U"- as in what we today would call "Globalization"- and it certainly feared a Universality that might only end up being dominated by France!
This, in turn, was what would eventually lead to, if only as an eventual countermeasure, the creation of the Second Reich (the Prussia-dominated German Empire of the Kaisers [1871-1918]) and, for that matter, the later distorted version of such German Nationalism known as Hitler's Third Reich. (Truth be told: the reunified Germany of today- the eastward post-Cold War expansion of Adenauer's Rhine-based Bundesrepublik ["Federal Republic"]- could fairly be described as a fourth Reich but the perversions of Hitler's regime [which destroyed any remaining neutrality within the very term Reich] nowadays forbid such a thing [in English in particular, the very word "Reich" cannot be at all separated from the very concept of Nazism- if only because of lurid tales spun by many a post-World War II Grade-B paperback novelist to whom 'Fourth Reich' meant merely a resurgence of Hitlerism after 1945, compounded by many a post-Hitler Nazi group (whether the "real deal" or merely the more usual "legends in their own minds") also utilizing-and, thereby, co-opting and corrupting- the term]).
In reality, however, Napoleon- in so sweeping away the Holy Roman Empire (that is, the First Reich)- only put to final rest a patient that had long been on life support in any event!
For that earliest of German Reichs had already been mortally wounded by the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 which ended the last of the European Wars of Religion flowing from the Sturm und Drang of the Protestant Reformation of the previous century- in this case, that which came to be known as the Thirty Years' War. The Treaty itself codified- and, in essence, politicized- the earlier doctrine of cui regio eius religio ("to whom the territory, his be the religion"): in effect, creating the very concept of Sovereignty (the Ruler having sole jurisdiction over those he ruled). Local Sovereignty weakened whatever central authority the Holy Roman Empire might still have had over its confederated German states, for Sovereignty ever trumps mere Suzerainty (put another way: there's a thin line, not only between Love and Hate, but also between Autonomy and Independence [see 'AMERICA: 1776']).
Thus, the so-called 'Westphalian' "Nation-State", so called from the Treaty itself. And note that more than one such "Nation-State" could exist within a given ethnolinguistic domain (thus, the very hundreds of mostly petty Nation-States made sovereign by the Treaty of Westphalia in the 17th Century yet yearning to be part of a single German Nation-State come the 19th [for the Saxon was as German as the Bavarian and the Hessian was as German as the Prussian]; thus, also, today's independent Austria- even though it be as German in language and culture as Germany itself). But this does not at all alter the general observation that Nationhood, Nationality and even becoming a Nation in the first place were far more usually ethnolinguistically based (and, if you happened to be of the "wrong" ethnicity and/or spoke the "wrong" language even though resident within the bounds of a given sovereign Nation-State, you were- by very definition- a "minority" [even where, in the particular section or region of the Nation-State in which you happened to live, the "minority" of which you were a part actually made up a majority of the population-- which, in turn, might give you the idea that your section or region could become its own Nation-State! (again, see 'KOSOVO: 2008']).
Hence, for the most part, Nationhood has been, at least originally, a concept based on ethnos.
Not so that of the United States of America, however!
For what became independent America was based on an ideal- yes, one at least originally ethnolinguistically based by its very name: the Rights and Liberties of Englishmen- but an ideal nonetheless, one that could well transcend ethnicity and one which the colonists in at least 13 of the colonies of the nascent British Empire hugging the East Coast of North America felt was being denied them by the Home Government run by Crown and Parliament in England itself. In order to better secure this ideal for themselves, the citizenry of these colonies revolted against the Mother Country only to discover, once said revolt had emerged successful, that they had to so soon implement a home-grown version of the British Imperial System from which they had only lately freed themselves-- hence, the Constitution for something called 'the United States of America'.
America's founding came before the emergence of modern Nationalism in the 19th Century but well after the Treaty of Westphalia; therefore, it can rightly be seen as having claimed its original 'Westphalian' Sovereignty in a pre-Nationalism context. Almost by very definition, then, its existence as a Nation-State was less about ethnos than it was about religio: in this case, the "religion" of the American (in effect, post-English [or, at least, American variant of an English]) vision of Liberty, the propagation (where not also proselytization) of which the USofA has seen as its special mission ever since and it is this "religion" that, once 19th Century-originated Nationalism broke upon these shores, transmuted itself into the very American Nationalism that I have, near the beginning of this very piece, stated as being the second of America's two "established religions" now in the very earliest 21st Century.
The crucible out of which modern American Nationalism came was, of course, the Civil War. The late historian Shelby Foote was generally correct when he stated that "prior to the Civil War, one would say 'The United States are--'; after the Civil War, one said 'The United States is--' "... but Foote was only partially right because- well into the period between the two World Wars, the USofA usually ended up, in instruments of diplomacy, among the 'A's alphabetically (as in the Annex to the Covenant of the League of Nations the U.S. would only end up never joining-- as 'the United States [plural] of AMERICA'; only later would 'the UNITED STATES [singular] of America' always end up among the 'U's in the annals of International Law).
Before the Civil War, in fact, America was far more concerned with its ideal of Liberty than Nationhood per se and, as a result, generally left the protection of such Liberties to the constituent States of the American Union. In the infamous 'Dred Scott decision' [Dred Scott v. Sandford: 19 Howard 393 (1857)], for example, the issue at bar was not whether or not Dred Scott was American; rather, the issue was whether or not he was free.
As the Opinion of the Court, authored by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney himself, itself put it:
The question is simply this: Can a negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all the rights, privileges and immunities, guarantied [sic] by that instrument to the citizen?
In Dred Scott, the High Court answered with a resounding "No!": Dred Scott might have been an American by birth, but he had no American Liberty precisely because "his ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves". Thus- while, yes, Dred Scott might have been born here- he was not- and could not ever be, in 1857- at all "a natural born citizen"; in addition, if not also as a direct result of this, there was no legal manner through which Dred Scott- or any other Negro slave born in the United States, for that matter- could even be "naturalized" back then.
Sadly, Dred Scott was proper Constitutional Law at the time it was adjudicated, despite President George W. Bush- during one of the televised debates with his rival in the 2004 Presidential Election, Senator John Kerry- claiming it was an example of "judicial activism". Putting aside the President's abject misuse of this term in order to so weasel out of a difficult question posed to him (if only to here make it most clear: 'Judicial Activism'- despite such misuse, amongst those on the Left as well as, even more so, on the Right- is defined as a decision by a court re: which there is absolutely no reasonable interpretation of existing Law to so justify the opinion underlying said decision; and it is actually quite rare [in all the time 'The Green Papers' has been in existence (this being since the Fall of 1999), I have only seen one 'activist' decision, if one fairly applies this definition- one, back in the Summer of 2000, in which a Federal District Court judge in Puerto Rico claimed Puerto Ricans had a right to choose Presidential Electors re: the 2000 Presidential Election, a decision that was overturned on appeal in the Fall of that year. Believe me, I have gotten many many e-mails claiming otherwise! To which my only response has been- and can be: it's not "judicial activism" simply because you don't happen to like it.]), the way the situation was stated in Dred Scott was the way things actually were back in 1857.
For instance, in that very same year, the Territory of Oregon drafted a Constitution in order to force the issue of Statehood-- and in that very Constitution were the following two provisions:
No free negro or mulatto, not residing in this State at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall come, reside or be within this State, or hold any real estate, or make any contracts, or maintain any suit therein; and the Legislative Assembly shall provide by penal laws for the removal by public officers of all such negroes and mulattoes, and for their effectual exclusion from the State, and for the punishment of persons who shall bring them into the State, or employ or harbor them. [Oregon State Constitution, original text: Article I, section 36]
No negro, Chinaman or mulatto shall have the right of suffrage. [Oregon State Constitution, original text: Article II, section 6]
Think about that last one, by the way, will you? Under the original wording of its own Constitution, Barack Obama (who would have been defined as a "mulatto") would have had no right to vote had he been residing in a State that would end up giving him a substantial victory in its Democratic Presidential Primary more than a century and a half later!
Of course, these provisions were fully mooted (as was the Dred Scott decision itself) by the adoption of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Federal Constitution in the aftermath of the Civil War. In addition, the People of the State of Oregon finally removed the above offending provisions from their State's Constitution by popular vote in the 1920s. However, these very provisions of a State Constitution well illustrate just who had Liberty- and who didn't- before the Civil War.
American Nationalism emerged in the wake of the adoption of the 14th Amendment which emphatically states that [a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;... nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
With that, determinations of National citizenship would ever trump State citizenship as a source of such U.S. citizenship... but it would also accelerate the ongoing inquiry into just who was a "real" American.
My country, 'tis of thee,
sweet land of Liberty,
of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
land of the Pilgrims' pride,
from every mountainside
let Freedom ring.
so go the words of the patriotic hymn 'America'- written by Samuel F. Smith a generation before the Civil War and set to the tune more generally known as (as of this typing) God Save the Queen, the National Anthem of the United Kingdom (though, interestingly, Smith was evidently totally unaware of the British connection- getting the tune for his 'America', rather, from a German source!).
Children who were immigrants to America- if not also children born here whose parents were immigrants- sang this song along with their American-born second generation-and later peers in public schools across the Nation as the 19th turned into the 20th Century... but well note the very lyrics of this song:
"Land where my fathers died", the plural of the paternity implying "forefathers"- that is, ancestors!
The message here was altogether clear: "you who attend an American school who happened to have been born over in Austria-Hungary, or Italy, or Russia- or even those whose parents were born in those places, while you were born over here- you will never truly be American: your children and grandchildren, your great-grandchildren and their progeny born here- yes- they will well know the "Pilgrims' pride" and- indeed- you will become the fathers (and mothers) who will die in this land as the song says, but it is too late for you (even though you will be permitted to vote once you are both naturalized and old enough)".
The opening lines of the little known second verse make this attitude even more clear:
My native country, thee,
land of the noble Free...
Only with Native Birth (and, thus, the concomitant adoption of the customs and culture of the Natives [for even the American-born children of the immigrant would not, in the mind of the American Nationalist, be totally devoid of at least some of the trappings of "the Old Country"]) could come Nobility and its associated Liberty. "But", it seems the powers-that-were of around a century ago (give or take) were saying to the immigrant children as well as the children of the immigrant, "despite the inherent handicaps under which you will have to operate throughout the rest of your lives in this country, we will try our damnedest to make you as American as we possibly can".
Thus, the ritual recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America (in its original- that is, without the words "under God"- version) and- in New York State, for instance- come every 1 May, while foreign-born Mother and Father might well be marching with signs and listening to socialist (or, perhaps, even anarchist [sharp intake of breath here!]) "crazies" during "May Day" celebrations in Manhattan's Union Square, their children (whether foreign-born or no) would be a captive audience in, say, P.S. 2 on the Lower East Side while celebrating "Law Day", dedicated to the Constitution and Laws of the United States and the State of New York and, for that matter, the Charter of the Greater City of five Boroughs back then-so recently consolidated.
American History was, of course, ever emphasized (in, admittedly, a simplistic manner)- and, back then, the subject also included more than a little British history (among the first three History books *I* ever read- back when I was a child- were public school textbooks- published a little over a century ago now- that had been given to my maternal grandmother- a woman born in the United States, but a child of Finnish immigrants and one who did not even speak English until she first went to school at the age of 7- by a teacher in the Fitchburg, Mass. school system named Alice Fuller: two of these were histories of the United States, but one was a history of England with an emphasis on its relationship to American History), the much better to emphasize the influence of English Common Law on the American political and legal system. In the multicultural America of now, a century later, this important historical connection to England (seen, through the lens of Political Correctness, as too much enforcing a "White Anglo-Saxonness" on the whole endeavor of exposing schoolchildren to the background of American culture and society) has long been lost.
OK... so what does any of what I have outlined above re: the differences between European and American Nationalism and the century-ago attitudes of the latter have at all to do with Barack Obama's candidacy for the Presidency of the United States?
The reader may well ask this-- and I, of course, will now answer:
The basic answer is this: those century-ago attitudes of American Nationalism remain with us still.
Like my own mother, Barack Obama is the child of an immigrant father and a native-born American mother. Unlike my mother, however, Obama's immigrant father was Black; further, Obama- while raised by his white maternal grandparents (something *I* happen to have in common with Senator Obama, by the way, is that I, too, was raised by my own maternal grandparents while my Mom was "between husbands" and, thus, I found myself "between Dads")- ended up living, for a time, in Indonesia- a predominantly Muslim country...
thus, Senator Obama has quite a lot with which he has to put up, well beyond the issue of Race, as he seeks to be elected to the White House.
To this end, a website has been set up- one called 'Fight the Smears'- and its contents are rather instructive when it comes to all that I have written earlier in this piece:
One of the smears on this site is described thusly: 'Barack Obama won't say the Pledge of Allegiance/Won't put his hand over his heart' and, at a related link underneath marked 'TRUTH', one can view video of Senator Obama actually leading the United States Senate in the Pledge.
Now- if only by way of disclaimer, not also to mention Full Disclosure- let me here note the following:
To start, *I* rarely say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, even at public functions where it is being recited (the last time that I can actually recall doing so was at a candlelight vigil for the victims of 9-11-2001 taking place in the center of my town nearly twenty days after the event itself)- and, whenever I might do so- I remain silent when the words "under God" are recited because, as I have already opined on this very website- in Commentary of mine from, now, nearly six years ago;- those two words were not part of the Pledge in its original form and further, in a Nation the Constitution of which contains the very words I quoted at the very beginning of this piece, are wholly unnecessary in any event.
Why do I, more often than not, not say the Pledge?
Because I don't have to-- that's why:
First of all, I am a free Human Being (and notice I wrote "free Human Being", not "free American"-- because my Freedom was, as the Declaration of Independence itself puts it, "endowed by [my] Creator", not at all a mere grant to me by the Government of the United States or any of its constituent, albethey sovereign, States) and, by very definition of same, cannot at all be compelled to do so against my own will. After all, I am an adult and I am not in school anymore.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, my allegiance to the United States of America happens to be beyond all possible question. Only *I* know what is in my own heart and mind: thus, no one but me can possibly know how strong my own Patriotism actually is! In the end, then, I don't need to say the Pledge in order to actually be the patriotic American I am.
Now, this is not to say the reader who might wish to question my Patriotism has no right to so question-- so long as such a reader well understands that I have a concomitant right to tell that reader to go to Hell! ;-)
Simply put: I am an American Patriot because I say I am (and, if you don't happen to believe me, you can always ask me [;-)])-- put aside the fact that I, so long as 'The Green Papers' remains available on the Internet, prove my Patriotism daily in cyberspace. Again, I don't need to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in order to be a Patriot:
I don't talk... I do!
However, if you might want to recite the Pledge, I'm not going to at all stop you, for that would be an unconscionable infringement of your own Liberty on my part; and, if you might want to also say "under God" as well-- hey!-- vaya con Dios!
But you could also say "one Nation under Wicca, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice..." for all *I* care! (Well... it is the very day of the Summer Solstice- Wiccan 'Litha'- as I type this [;-)])
For it is an indivisible Nation providing Liberty and Justice to all- Wiccan or God-fearing, religious or not- that is far more important.
Hence, when I happen to be attending an event at which the Pledge is recited, I stand up along with everyone else so as not to unduly interfere with the event itself (not to also mention so that I am not at all causing a scene!), as well as not interfere with those who wish to so recite. Again, if those attending said event wish to publicly recite the Pledge as a public affirmation of their own Patriotism, that's their right... of course, those who are only doing so because they much more worry what the person standing next to them might think of them, then these have a problem I myself don't happen to have.
But, then again, I am not (nor, given what I have already written for TheGreenPapers.com, will I ever become [;-)]) a presumptive Major Party presidential nominee who would very much like to have a shot at actually winning the election...
whereas, Barack Obama is... and, or so I reckon, if he wants to win the election, he is going to very much have to worry about what millions- if not tens of millions- of those at least figuratively "standing next to him" might be thinking of him.
Secondly, one of my pet peeves are those hard-core American Nationalists (one is sorely tempted to here write 'American National Socialists'- as in Nazionalsozialistisch, and note well the very first four letters of the German!) who go around questioning other people's Patriotism in the first place.
"Physician, heal thyself", *I* say!
For example, news has broken this month about Becky Hammon- a player in the Women's National Basketball Association on the San Antonio Silver Stars- who, apparently not having a really good shot at making the United States women's Olympic basketball team, will be playing for Russia in this Summer's Olympic games in Beijing (Hammon is eligible to do so because she so recently played professional basketball in the Russian Federation during the WNBA's off-season and, in addition, holds a Russian passport).
In a way, Hammon is to women's basketball what Obama is to American Politics: a living symbol whom, or so it seems, people either love... or love to hate.
In Hammon's case, she is a "cute" girl-next-door type in looks who happens to also be tough as nails on the basketball court (she is, therefore, the basketball equivalent of racing's Danica Patrick- with the notable exception that Patrick competes against men and Hammon does not); more to the point, she happens to be a white woman playing a sport in which there are quite a lot of non-white women, some with the very kind of body ornamentation that got radio personality Don Imus in trouble last year because of rude comments he made about Black basketball-playing women such as these. Sad to say, Hammon is- therefore- something of a "white hope" in the world of women's basketball and so, when she now has agreed to play in the Olympics- and for Russia no less (still, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union more than a decade and a half ago, the stuff of the average American's nightmares-- you can't have "ducked and covered" all those times during drills back in elementary school and not have been so scarred [;-)])- she has now become, to legions of Americans, a "traitor" (even the coach of the U.S. women's Olympic basketball team herself has said as much!).
And all of this only goes to show how much American Nationalism has become- as it seems to have ever been- so largely wrapped up with issues involving Race...
which is precisely why African-American Senator Obama has to have a video of himself leading the Pledge of Allegiance posted on this 'Fight the Smears' website.
That website also shows how much American Nationalism has also gotten so wrapped up with Religion!
For another smear so listed on that website is: 'Barack Obama is a Muslim'.
The 'TRUTH' section underneath this smear notes the following: "Senator Obama is not a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian"... when one clicks on the related link, there is- among other things- a picture of the photo-op ceremonial "swearing in" of Obama with his hand on a Bible ("swearing in" is in quotes here, by the way, because United States Senators are actually sworn by the Vice President of the United States, on the day a new Congress first convenes, in groups of four at a time that come up to the dais to be so sworn; the photo shown of Obama's "swearing in" is of a private ceremony that allows family and friends to attend; by the way, I wrote about all this, on the House of Representatives side of things, in a Commentary of mine in which, among other things, I chided a commentator who had criticized the first Muslim ever elected to Congress (Keith Ellison of Minnesota) for utilizing the Qur'an at his own similar ceremonial "swearing in").
However, it would have been nice- where not also more advancing of the cause of Liberty itself- if Obama could have simply said: "I'm not a Muslim-- but, if I were, so what?"
Ay! Such be the state of things in post-9/11 America... but I am certain that Senator Obama had at least some inkling of what he was getting into once he had decided to seek the Presidency.
Again, I honestly believe Senator Obama is actually trying to win this particular election!
But it also brings up yet another of my own pet peeves:
While I was growing up, my maternal grandfather often told me that, while- yes- he came to the United States from Finland back in the early 1920s because it promised him better economic opportunity, he was also glad he could come to- and become a naturalized citizen of- a Nation that had a Constitution that contained the very words I quoted at the beginning of this very piece.
Back when he first sought to leave Finland, when he was but 14 years of age, a Finnish law (which ended up being repealed not all that long after my grandfather left, by the way) required that one prove that one would have been eligible for Finnish citizenship once one became of age (that is: reached adulthood) before an emigration visa (necessary in order to embark via ship from Finland) would be granted. Because my grandfather had been baptized in the state-supported church, the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church (his maternal grandfather happened to be a pinnacle of a local Lutheran congregation also), he was required to become a full member of that church before he could then prove his potential citizenship and, thereby, even be allowed to leave the country!
Thus, he was forced to take Confirmation classes, something that ended up delaying his coming to America for two years and something that very much stuck in his proverbial "craw" for the rest of his life (he and I even had a conversation about all this but months before his passing now more than a decade ago and, while he tried his best to make light of it, I could tell it still bothered him so many decades later). He would often tell me, over the years, that a government should never be allowed to force someone to so publicly prove their religious beliefs and that freedom from such a thing was one of the things he most appreciated about the United States of America.
Sadly, however, when one is trying to be chosen as the leader of that same United States of America, things are not quite so simple!
As I myself even acknowledged in a response to a 'vox Populi' late last year:
The prohibition in Article VI, clause 3 ["... no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States"] is a legal prohibition- that is, a constitutional one binding only upon Law and the Government. The prohibition means that no element of government- not Congress, nor the courts, nor the outgoing Administration- can prevent someone from taking a Federal Oath of Office- in the case I am here discussing, that for President of the United States- on the basis of their religion, or lack thereof (so long as, as I've already said, they are otherwise qualified [met all constitutional and any other legal requirements] to serve in that office). Having so noted, however, there is nothing whatsoever to prevent a voter- in the privacy of the voting booth on Election Day- from applying his or her own "religious test for office" while deciding for whom to vote.
It is the very last sentence in the above quote from myself with which Senator Obama most has to deal as the 2008 Presidential Campaign now goes forward. If many voters come 4 November might believe, despite evidence to the contrary, that he is a Muslim and, accordingly, vote against him- or, even if many voters do not think he is a Muslim but, at the same time, do not believe he is, indeed, a "committed Christian" and, similarly, vote against him on that basis- then this, obviously, is something he will have to try and overcome if he wishes to reside in the White House come next 20 January.