Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib swore her oath of office on her Quran yesterday. Minnesota Congresswoman Ihlan Omar swore her oath on her grandfather’s Quran. No big whoop—it’s keeping the oath that matters, not the pages on which your hand rests when you speak it. Choose your preferred text and supernatural construct, and leave everyone else free to choose their own.
Alas, Kristi Noem chooses to launch her new office with a full-blown religious event that co-opts the most sacred of our public spaces, the Rotunda of the South Dakota Capitol, for a religious service that privileges her religion and excludes those of different faiths or no faith:
“On my first full day as governor, I will be hosting a Sunday morning prayer and worship service in the Capitol rotunda,” Noem wrote in an email to supporters. “Please join me and my family as we dedicate the next four years to the Lord and spend some time worshiping Him.”
The service will take place at 10 a.m. Sunday [Todd Epp, “Gov. Noem to Hold Prayer Service in Capitol Rotunda Sunday,” KELO Radio, 2019.01.03].
Noem’s message makes clear that the event is to worship one specific deity, meaning those of us who do not worship that deity will be made to feel uncomfortable and not be able to fully participate in this, one of the first public functions held by our new Governor. Her comment also sends the bothersome message that her public priority is her God, not the people who elected her. I expect all public officials to dedicate their years in office to serving the public. Any other personal dedication is to be done on personal time, in your personal worship space, not staged in our common Capitol as a rally for Christian dominionist supporters.
If anyone hears that Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are inviting their supporters to hold a Muslim religious service in the U.S. Capitol and dedicate their time in Congress to Allah and calling on attendees to worship Allah, let me know.
But it looks like Noem is setting the tone for her theocracy right from the start: Christians first!