Protesters disrupt historic reading
of Senate prayer by Hindu
Friday July 13, 2007, Guardian Unlimited
The sight of a Hindu clergyman saying the
senate's traditional morning prayer was too much for members of a Christian group, who yesterday tried to shout him down before being arrested. US
As Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple, offered the prayer, two women and a man began shouting "this is an abomination" from the gallery.
The trio continued to yell at the Hindu cleric as they were taken away in handcuffs by police, yelling, "no Lord but Jesus Christ!" and "there's only one true God!". The male protester told the Associated Press, "we are Christians and patriots".
For several days, some Christian religious groups had urged their members to object to the prayer because Mr Zed would be "seeking the invocation of a non-monotheistic god".
Mr Zed, the first Hindu to offer the Senate prayer, began: "We meditate on the transcendental glory of the deity supreme, who is inside the heart of the Earth, inside the life of the sky and inside the soul of the heaven. May He stimulate and illuminate our minds."
Mr Zed, who was born in
India, was invited by the Democratic Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, a staunch opponent of the war. Speaking in the chamber shortly after the prayer, Mr Reid defended the choice and linked it to the war debate. Iraq
"I think it speaks well of our country that someone representing the faith of about a billion people comes here and can speak in communication with our heavenly father regarding peace," said Mr Reid, who is a Mormon.
Police identified the protesters as Ante and Katherine Pavkovic and their daughter Kristen, members of a Christian organisation called Operation Save America/Operation Rescue.
The group said in a statement: "The Senate was opened with a Hindu prayer placing the false god of Hinduism on a level playing field with the one true god, Jesus Christ. This would never have been allowed by our Founding Fathers."
Reverend Flip Benham, the leader of the group, said: "Not one senator had the backbone to stand as our Founding Fathers stood. They stood on the gospel of Jesus Christ! There were three in the audience with the courage to stand and proclaim, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me'."
Jai Sri Krishna.