Enter Virgil Goode (pronounced "gewd"). The chair of the Charlottesville chapter of the Sierra Club received a letter from Goode's office in which the Congressman made some pretty heady remarks about his newly-elected fellow rep Keith Ellison and his religion:
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 funny thing is, the Sierra Club chair had not written anything to Goode concerning Ellison, or Islam in general.
I think it's perfectly okay if Ellison uses a Koran to be sworn into office. I think it's fine that Goode uses a Bible. If you get elected and want to use a copy of the phone book, Dianetics or X-Men issue 107, that's your right. The Constitution doesn't require you to swear on any holy or revered publication for you to take office. My larger problem is with the attitude taken by Goode that we need to keep Middle Easterners from coming to America and messing with our traditions and values. When asked about the letter, Goode apparently took pride in the letter, remarking "I think it speaks for itself."
What it speaks to me is that racism and bigotry is not dead among our elected representatives. The letter, in my mind, speaks to the reprehensible notion that the United States is a White Christians-only club that "minorities" live in only at "our" leisure. What this letter speaks to me is that Virgil Goode is a racially and religiously intolerant man.
It may surprise Mr. Goode that most people from the Middle East share the values of faith and freedom that most Americans have. Of course, that probably doesn't mean a thing to him; Virgil Goode probably sees only a horde of future Muslim politicians coming over the ridge to storm the Capitol, take down the American flag and replace it with an Islamic crescent while forcing people like him to submit to Allah and follow the Five Pillars.
I'm really looking forward to the day when people can accept one another in our nation, regardless of religion or ethnicity. Sadly, I think George Allen and Virgil Goode have pushed that day back just a bit farther than I'd like.