Rep. Virgil Goode, Jr. (R-Virginia), in a letter to constituents obtained by a Charlottesville newspaper, joined a right-wing attack on an incoming Muslim congressman, and linked the presence of the Koran in Congress to a supposed need for draconian immigration laws to stop the influx of Muslim congressmen streaming across the border. “[I]f American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran,” wrote Goode.
When right-wing columnist and radio host Dennis Prager lashed out against incoming Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) for “announc[ing] that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran,” he created a small firestorm. Wrote Prager late last month:
He should not be allowed to do so — not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.
He added, “If you are incapable of taking an oath on [the Christian Bible], don’t serve in Congress.”
Not least among the criticisms were (1) that the Constitution specifically prohibits any religious test for office, and (2) that members of Congress do not take their oaths of office on the Bible at all. Instead, they raise their right hands as a group, and then pose for pictures after the fact.
However, Prager stood by his ridiculous attack, and a few right-wing figures came out of the woodwork to support him. WorldNetDaily wove a complicated conspiracy attempting to link Ellison to international terrorists, and Roy Moore – the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was removed from office for refusing to relinquish a two-ton Ten Commandments monument from his court – argued that Islam “rejects our God” and is “simply incompatible with our law.” William Donohue of the Catholic League and Don Feder, under the auspices of his obscure group “Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation,” issued a joint statement calling critics of Prager “scurrilous” and repeating the false factual claim that all congressmen historically swear an oath on the Christian Bible. Feder went further, writing, “It’s no coincidence that most terrorists on four continents are Muslims. Nor is it a coincidence that those who are killing U.S. servicemen in Iraq do so in the name of the bible of Islam. And it isn’t by chance that Osama bin Laden, Hamas, Hezbollah and Imanutjob in Iran all cite the Koran as the source of their lunacy.” Feder added that he would rather Ellison swear on “The Pop-Up Kama Sutra.”
Now, at least one fellow congressman is joining this quixotic right-wing campaign against Ellison and the U.S. Constitution. Goode, a Republican representing the southside of Virginia, wrote his letter in response to constituents complaining about Ellison. One accidental recipient forwarded it to an alternative newspaper in Charlottesville. In it, he connects the anti-Islam message of the Right to the anti-immigrant positions that he has made his political hallmark:
Dear Mr. Cruickshank:
Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.
The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.” Thank you again for your email and thoughts.
Virgil H. Goode, Jr.
70 East Court Street
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Tell Goode to apologize! A spokesman for Goode says that the congressman “stands by the letter” and refuses to apologize for the letter he wrote to constituents despite universal condemnation from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Virginia Muslim PAC, James Zogby of the Arab American Institute, the ACLU, and at least one Democratic congressman. A spokesman for incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) called the remarks “offensive.”
Goode has made illegal immigration a primary target of his congressional career – introducing a bill to build a fence along the US-Mexico border and pushing to make English the official language of the US.
Representative Ellison has the right idea about what it means to be an American – telling Rep Goode that he has “nothing to fear” because “the fact that there are many different faiths, many different colors and many different cultures in America is a great strength.”