Prayer in Senate? Sure! Hindu Prayer? Blasphemy!

On Thursday, a Hindu Chaplain from Nevada will deliver the opening prayer for the U.S. Senate.

Here are some things Rajan Zed has said about his upcoming speaking engagement:

“I believe that despite our philosophical differences, we should work together for the common objectives of human improvement, love, and respect for others.”

[The prayer will be] “universal in approach.”

“July 12 will be an illustrious day for all Americans and a memorable day for Indian Americans when prayers from ancient Hindu scriptures will be read in the great hall of democracy.”

Yes, we can argue about the prayer being read in the Senate in the first place, but while it’s there, it should be open to everyone. Including polytheists and atheists.

Now, let’s read the Christian Right‘s reaction…:

On Thursday, a Hindu chaplain from Reno, Nevada, by the name of Rajan Zed is scheduled to deliver the opening prayer in the U.S. Senate. Zed tells the Las Vegas Sun that in his prayer he will likely include references to ancient Hindu scriptures, including Rig Veda, Upanishards, and Bhagavard-Gita. Historians believe it will be the first Hindu prayer ever read at the Senate since it was formed in 1789.

WallBuilders president David Barton is questioning why the U.S. government is seeking the invocation of a non-monotheistic god. Barton points out that since Hindus worship multiple gods, the prayer will be completely outside the American paradigm, flying in the face of the American motto “One Nation Under God.”

“In Hindu, you have not one God, but many, many, many, many, many gods,” the Christian historian explains. “And certainly that was never in the minds of those who did the Constitution, did the Declaration [of Independence] when they talked about Creator — that’s not one that fits here because we don’t know which creator we’re talking about within the Hindu religion.”

Barton says given the fact that Hindus are a tiny constituency of the American public, he questions the motivation of Senate leaders. “This is not a religion that has produced great things in the world,” he observes. “You look at India, you look at Nepal — there’s persecution going in both of those countries that is gendered by the religious belief that is present there, and Hindu dominates in both of those countries.”

And while Barton acknowledges there is not constitutional problem with a Hindu prayer in the Senate, he wonders about the political side of it. “One definitely wonders about the pragmatic side of it,” he says. “What is the message, and why is the message needed? And will it actually communicate anything other than engender with folks like me a lot of questions?”

Barton says he knows of at least seven cases where Christians have lost their bid to express their own faith in a public prayer.

Zed is reportedly the first Hindu to deliver opening prayers in an American state legislature, having done so in both the Nevada State Assembly and Nevada State Senate earlier this year. He has stated that Thursday’s prayer will be “universal in approach,” despite being drawn from Hindu religious texts.

The American Family Association sent out a press release urging people to:

Send an email to your senator now, expressing your disappointment in the Senate decision to invite a Hindu to open the session with prayer.

There’s a war going on, an administration that covers up its own crimes, global warming, a healthcare crisis… but dammit, a Hindu saying a universal prayer?! That’s a travesty!

And that bold-faced emphasis is not mine. They wrote it that way in the action alert.

Right under the red writing that said:

Please help us get this information into the hands of as many people as possible by forwarding it to your entire email list of family and friends.

*sigh* This must be where spam comes from.

(Thanks to Maria for the story)


[tags]atheist, atheism, Hinduism, Hindu, Rajan Zed, Indian Americans, Senate, WallBuilders, David Barton, American Family Association[/tags]

  • Maria

    thanks for posting it. as I said in my email to you, I don’t think we should have any type of public prayer in the senate. However, while we do, all types should be allowed. I think the whole “universal” thing is a good idea. Basically what you said in your post. this is why people get mad at the “christian lobby”.

  • Logos

    WoW, what a bunch of A-holes!

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  • http://www.matsonwaggs.wordpress.com Kelly

    And will it actually communicate anything other than engender with folks like me a lot of questions?”

    Which is just EVIL! How dare you engender folks like him with QUESTIONS!?!? Oh, the horror!

  • http://globalizati.wordpress.com globalizati

    David Barton and his WallBuilders (appropriate name, eh?) are real nutjobs. You should look them up if you haven’t already. And people around here love him. Alas..

  • Polly

    So, it would be acceptable for a Muslim to pray?
    That’s exactly where their reasoning leads with all the monotheism talk. In fact, Islam could be considered even more monotheistic than xianity, since you know, the whole “3-person, 1 god” confusion isn’t a part of it.
    I’d be really curious to see their reaction in that eventuality given their arguments against the Hindu prayer.

    “What is the message, and why is the message needed? And will it actually communicate anything other than engender with folks like me a lot of questions?”

    Notice the sheer arrogance. Is he saying that a Hindu couldn’t possibly have anything worthwhile to say? Or, is he saying that we should disregard a minority religion/community altogether even in something as innocuous as an invocation?

  • Miko

    So, it would be acceptable for a Muslim to pray?

    They tried that a few years back in the Washington State House. Two Republican walked out and one essentially commented that it was unpatriotic to invite a terrorist to pray.

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/110881_prayer04.shtml

  • HappyNat

    WoW, what a bunch of A-holes!

    Hey easy on them, sure most of them are liars and crooks, but the U.S. Senate deserves some respect.

  • Polly

    @Miko:
    Thanks for the link. That was interesting. I’m glad that one of them apologized later.

  • Mriana

    “This is not a religion that has produced great things in the world,” he observes.

    Um… What about Ghandi? He was a great man IMHO.

    There’s a war going on, an administration that covers up its own crimes, global warming, a healthcare crisis… but dammit, a Hindu saying a universal prayer?! That’s a travesty!

    How so? I don’t remember anything about Hindus killing others in an effort to convert them or killing heretics, having inquisitions, etc. Now THAT is a travesty. I don’t think there is anything more universal than a Hindu prayer, given that Christianity also took from some of the Hindu teachings too.

    So, here we go again with yet another Crusade in this century- first the middle east and not an Eastern religion. :roll: Sometimes I wonder if humans will ever give up their mythical beliefs in favour of more peaceful and more humanistic beliefs.

  • http://beautifulbiology.blogspot.com Ms Superscience

    Darn, Mriana beat me to the Gandhi comment!!

    Wasn’t there something going around this terrific series of tubes a while ago about a Buddhist prayer at a HS football game in Hawaii? I wish it were required reading for the fundie lobby.

  • chatterbox

    “ — there’s persecution going in both of those countries that is gendered by the religious belief that is present there,”

    Snipped out the specific countries and religion referred to… and guess what? They’re talking about the United States! That, or these Christians are pretending they don’t persecute anyone because of their own Christian beliefs… but oh wait, they’re trying to stop a Hindu prayer because xians don’t believe the same thing. Typical hypocritical religious dogma!

  • Tammy

    Maybe the assholes Logos was referring to weren’t the U.S. Senate, but the true believers commenting over at that American Family website. Scary stuff! I posted a fairly heretic comment myself, by their standards,anyways, just to see if it gets posted. I’m pretty new to internet posting and just couldn’t resist giving it a go.
    (Okay, I gotta give them credit. While I was still able to come back and edit this comment here, I went over there and my other one has been posted already)

  • Maria

    David Barton and his WallBuilders (appropriate name, eh?) are real nutjobs. You should look them up if you haven’t already. And people around here love him. Alas..

    LOL, I did. all I have to say is wow………I’m pretty speechless and that’s unusual for me:)

  • Logos

    Maybe the assholes Logos was referring to weren’t the U.S. Senate, but the true believers commenting over at that American Family website. Scary stuff! Of course it was, I am sorry I did not make it more clear.

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  • Tammy

    Okay, Logos. It was clear to me, but HappyNat said “Hey, easy on them..the U.S. Senate deserves some respect.” I guess we could have a whole other argument about that:)

  • Darryl

    Why can’t the wackies understand that they are always giving material to the likes of Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert?

  • Jen

    How dumb. No wonder other countries hate us.

  • http://bagendhobbits.blogspot.com Aussie

    We don’t HATE Americans. In honesty, we tend to consider them kind of stupid. No offence intended to those posting on this blog. The impression we get of the USA is a big, greedy, wealthy country of people happily oblivious to the rest of the world – which is why it is so GOOD that this Hindu is praying and honouring his tradition in the US senate.

    I’ve just read ‘the life of pi’ and love the Hinduism there presented – so rich and diverse. There’s a bit where Pi meets a Catholic priest, and listens to the Jesus story. He asks for more stories, and is quite alarmed when the priest tells him that’s essentially the only story in Christianity. Pi is so used to the myriad enlightening stories in Hindu culture.

    Though thinking about it, I think any religion – Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, religions belonging to people groups we don’t even know exist, etc., – is primarily about the stories of individual people professing to practise that religion.

  • Tammy

    Hi Jen, it can’t be so bad, and I’m glad to hear it firsthand(thanks, Aussie).
    We aren’t all that dumb. Sure, if you read that American Family site, there’s definately a sky’s-falling tone coming from the terrified who’ve read just the one book. But maybe you remember that in 2000, more than half of us didn’t vote for W. Then, in 2004, just after that presidential election, I heard the saddest words I’ve ever heard on TV, and they were said by Jon Stewart-”I miss voter fraud.” Well, we aren’t hated, just grossly misrepresented:)

  • Darryl

    Tammy, you reminded me of our present pitiful state here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Now, I’ll have to go to and spend a double period in my happy place. Woe is us. It seems we’re just going to have to finish this national nightmare before we can awaken.

  • HappyNat

    Maybe the assholes Logos was referring to weren’t the U.S. Senate, but the true believers commenting over at that American Family website.

    I knew who Logos was talking about, I was making a joke (a rather weak one I see) that the Senate are also a bunch of assholes. I forget people don’t know I’m sarcastic 95% of the time, it is really the only way I can read stories like this. Note to self, remember :) Thanks for taking me seriously though!

  • Tammy

    Oh, HappyNat, I’m sorry to have taken you the wrong way. I’m sarcastic myself and also get taken the wrong way a lot. I really thought you were sticking up for the Senators-that is funny! I’m pretty new here, but now that I “know” you a little better, I won’t make that mistake again:)

    Oh, and Darryl, not including those of us voters who did the right thing (in ’00 & ’04), if we include the vast number of disinfranchised who never even vote, it would seem the numbers are on our side. Take heart-we can work it out:)

  • Mriana

    Darn, Mriana beat me to the Gandhi comment!!

    Sorry Ms Superscience, but he is one of my heros from the past. :D I just could not forget him, esp in a situation like this.

  • AsM

    Mriana,


    How so? I don’t remember anything about Hindus killing others in an effort to convert them or killing heretics, having inquisitions, etc.

    You should probably read up a little more about killing of christians in India by the hindus. Once you read it you will probably remember it.

    Oh btw, I am indian and I love Gandhiji!

  • Karen

    Update from an AU press release:

    Americans United for Separation of Church and State today deplored the disruption by Religious Right activists of a Hindu chaplain’s prayer to open the U.S. Senate.

    “This shows the intolerance of many Religious Right activists,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “They say they want more religion in the public square, but it’s clear they mean only their religion.

    “America is a land of extraordinary religious diversity, and the Religious Right just can’t seem to accept that fact,” Lynn continued. “I don’t think the Senate should open with prayers, but if it’s going to happen, the invocations ought to reflect the diversity of the American people.”

    Hindu Chaplain Rajan Zed, a Nevada resident, gave the opening prayer in the Senate at the invitation of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). As he began his remarks, two protestors interrupted the proceedings, asking for forgiveness from Jesus Christ for the “abomination” of failing to pray to the “one true God.” (The sergeant-at-arms had to restore order.)

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Video of the prayer and the disruptions here.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    And here’s another question….

    Why is it, if we’re such a diverse and tolerant country, that this is the FIRST HINDU invocation in the senate’s history?

    Don’t they do an invocation every single day they’re in session?

    You’re telling me that since we “discovered” multiculturalism, diversity, ecumenicalism, etc… (Probably around 1980 or so)… hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of invocations have occurred in the senate… and we’re just now getting to “HINDU”?!?!?!

    Doesn’t that put the lie to this idea of “It’s a free country for all worshippers” better than any 3 protestors can do?

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  • Maria

    You should probably read up a little more about killing of christians in India by the hindus. Once you read it you will probably remember it.

    Oh btw, I am indian and I love Gandhiji!

    True enough. people are killing each other over religion and all kinds of other stupid stuff to kill each other over all over the world. the middle east being another prime example. I’ve often wondered how many non-believers there actually are in the middle east-of course we have no idea b/c if they say anything they’ll be killed. let’s be grateful that while the crazy right does make noise in this country, usually people don’t get killed (let’s hope it STAYS that way).

  • Mriana

    AsM said,

    July 12, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    Mriana,

    How so? I don’t remember anything about Hindus killing others in an effort to convert them or killing heretics, having inquisitions, etc.

    You should probably read up a little more about killing of christians in India by the hindus. Once you read it you will probably remember it.

    Oh btw, I am indian and I love Gandhiji!

    You completely misunderstood. Go back and read it. They nutballs said nothing good came from India or something like that and I stated “They forgot about Gandhi” or something like that. I was not infering anything else.

  • Chris Brown

    I am personally a Christian, and understand where these people were coming from. From a Christians perspective any other utterance in prayer or praise of another god other than God and his son Jesus Christ is in fact blasphemy. BUT, none the less, these Christians in this case are wrong as far as America goes. They need to understand that America lawfully has to allow anyone to pray and praise any god, or not to at all, weather they like it or not. I do not believe the hindu religion is correct from my perspective, but none the less I respect the fact that a hindu is allowed to pray befor a multi-religional senate. Personally, the Christians in this situation are a disgrace to our faith. They are not respecting and loving others, nor are respecting the laws and government which governs them. Christianity is not the official religion of America. Nor should it be, that would defeat the purpose of the faith. Christians should stay strong in their faith but take your frustrations out of the government where you can not win.

  • Maria

    I am personally a Christian, and understand where these people were coming from. From a Christians perspective any other utterance in prayer or praise of another god other than God and his son Jesus Christ is in fact blasphemy. BUT, none the less, these Christians in this case are wrong as far as America goes. They need to understand that America lawfully has to allow anyone to pray and praise any god, or not to at all, weather they like it or not. I do not believe the hindu religion is correct from my perspective, but none the less I respect the fact that a hindu is allowed to pray befor a multi-religional senate. Personally, the Christians in this situation are a disgrace to our faith. They are not respecting and loving others, nor are respecting the laws and government which governs them. Christianity is not the official religion of America. Nor should it be, that would defeat the purpose of the faith. Christians should stay strong in their faith but take your frustrations out of the government where you can not win.

    Thank you! It’s nice to see level headed Christians out there. How about more of you speak out and stop these nutjobs who did this type of stuff?

  • http://www.amiahindu.com/ AM I A HINDU? Best Seller

    I want to thank to those protestors. They gave greater visibility to Hinduism. Hindu prayer in the senate is all over the news and all over the blogs.

    Most people in the west are still ignorant of Hinduism. Media never ever talk about Hinduism. So incidents like this will open up serious discussions about Hinduism all over the media and in academic circles………

    To the Protestors, I want to offer my gratitude for making a very big issue about this prayer……Knowingly or unknowingly they are making more people interested in Hinduism …

  • http://www.gandhism.net/ Pieter

    “Um… What about Ghandi? He was a great man IMHO.”

    You’ve got that right. A great man. A great racist. A great hypocrite.

    http://www.gandhism.net/

    Plenty of good has come from India, but none of it has to do with Gandhi, unless you think hating black people, sleeping naked with your underage female relatives, and preaching pacifism except when it’s your own life in danger are good things.


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