- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

An Illinois Democrat yesterday called on Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. to meet with Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, whom the Virginia Republican criticized for his intention to take the oath of office using the Koran rather than the Bible.

“If he meets with Keith, he’ll see what I saw: a good American with good values of a different faith who’s trying to do right by the people he represents,” Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who is Jewish, said of Mr. Ellison, Minnesota Democrat, who is the first Muslim elected to Congress.

Earlier this month, Mr. Goode sparked a controversy when he told constituents that if Americans “don’t wake up” and strengthen the country’s immigration laws, more Muslims will be elected to Congress and will demand to use the Koran when they take the oath of office.

“I will not be putting my hand on the Koran,” Mr. Goode said at a press conference yesterday at the Franklin County Courthouse.

Mr. Goode made the comments in a letter he wrote responding to an onslaught of e-mail complaints he received from constituents who were angered by Mr. Ellison’s decision to use the Koran during the swearing-in ceremony.

“The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of the 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,” he said in the letter. “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.”

Mr. Goode said he is receiving more positive than negative comments from constituents.

“One lady told me she thinks I’m doing the right thing on this,” he said in a Fox News interview yesterday. “I wish more people would take a stand and stand up for the principles on which this country was founded.”

Mr. Ellison was born in Detroit and converted to Islam in college.

In the letter, Mr. Goode also wrote, “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.”

Franklin County Sheriff Quint Overton said he had extra officers at the courthouse yesterday because Mr. Goode had received several threatening phone calls.

Asked whether he had received any death threats, Mr. Goode responded, “No comment.”

Mr. Ellison offered his comments in a statement released yesterday.

“Let’s remember that diversity is a great strength of America. People of all faiths, all cultures, all colors coming together in support of one great nation is a beautiful thing,” Mr. Ellison said. “On January 4th, no matter the faith, gender, or culture of the congressperson, all of us will swear to uphold one Constitution the Constitution of the United States.”

When asked whether he does not support Muslims in Congress, Mr. Goode told The Washington Times, “That’s not said in the letter.”

Mr. Goode has stood by his letter, and has not given into the request of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a civil rights group, that he apologize.

“Representative Goode’s Islamophobic remarks send a message of intolerance that is unworthy of anyone elected to public office,” said Corey Saylor, national legislative director for CAIR. “There can be no reasonable defense for such bigotry.”

House members are sworn in en masse in the chamber, and no Bible or other religious document is used for the oath. However, several incoming House members use Bibles for their individual swearing-in, which is administered by the House Speaker and takes place after the official group oath.

In addition, the U.S. Constitution states that ” no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Mr. Ellison has also been criticized by some Christian organizations and conservative radio host Dennis Prager, who say that even if the law allows him to take an oath on the Koran, he should adhere to what they call the historical tradition of taking the oath of office on the Bible.

Mr. Goode’s remarks come on the heels of Sen. George Allen’s infamous “macaca” remark, which showed the impact a verbal gaffe can have on someone’s political future. Mr. Allen, Virginia Republican, lost his re-election bid to Democrat James H. Webb Jr.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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