Hindu Prayer in the Senate

12 07 2007

Filed under: Senate, Harry Reid, Rajan Zed, Hindu, Christianity, Church and State, First Amendment

Yesterday, at Senator Harry Reid’s invitation, Rajan Zed, a Hindu chaplain, delivered the first Hindu prayer in the chamber of the United States Senate since the formation of that body in 1789.

For the first known time in American history, a Hindu chaplain opened the Senate with a prayer this morning despite the protests of Christian onlookers.

Rajan Zed, an India-born chaplain from Nevada, was invited by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of D-NV to open the Senate meeting with prayer this morning. According to the Washington Post, Zed stood in front of the Senate and used specifically deist words, praying, “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.”

Ben Franklin, the eldest member at the Convention at the age of 81, said, “I’ve lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: That God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”

Tony Perkins correctly remarks:

No one can legitimately challenge the fact that the God America refers to in the pledge, our national motto, and other places is the monotheistic God of the Jewish and Christian faith. There is no historic connection between America and the polytheistic creed of Hinduism. I seriously doubt that Americans want to change the motto, “In God We Trust,” which Congress officially adopted in 1955, to “In gods we Trust.” That is essentially what the United States Senate did today.

While God did not write our laws, He was certainly a consultant in the process. Now, Zed absolutely enjoys freedom of religion (unlike Christians in his home country, mind you) in this country but that freedom does not provide access to pray over this nation’s highest elected, governing body. Reid may think this opening prayer is nothing more than a check mark on his daily to-do list, but anyone that holds any reverence for this country and the duties expected of our elected officials understands that the prayer is, or should be, a plea to God to guide our steps and give us wisdom as we make decisions that will effect our citizens, future generations, and even the rest of the world.

America’s unparalleled success and blessings are a witness that these prayers to God have paid off.

Barry Lynn calls our reaction intolerance:

“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.

Mr. Lynn, we’re all Christians here, including yourself, supposedly. So, when you say things like, “their religion,” you are secluding yourself from Christians.

“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.”

I absolutely accept the fact that our nation is one of great religious diversity. But freedom to worship in the way you please doesn’t necessarily signify that all religions carry equal weight with the majority of our citizens or the government.

The Senate has been opening with prayer to God since its beginning. The invocations have always reflected the same God and should do so in the future. Senate prayers that exclude all faiths but God, does not mean that we aren’t diverse or that we are forcing other faiths to convert to Christianity. It simply means this nation believes in God, but as a citizen, you are free to worship as you please.

“The Religious Right promotes a deeply skewed version of American history. Our founders wanted separation of church and state and full religious liberty for all faith traditions. The episode today shows we still have a ways to go to achieve that goal.”

Where did our founders make this desire for a separation of church and state? One man used the phrase in a certain context, which liberals have obliterated. What about the fact that the Founders talked, wrote, and spoke about God and His influence on their lives, and they prayed to Him for guidance? But somehow one phrase plucked out of a letter written by an ambassedor not even in the country translates to a “desire by all Founders to have a separation of church and state.” If that was the case, Mr. Lynn, it would be in the Constitution.

Ed Brayton makes the same blunder:

Mind you, when we criticize the fact that the Senate begins every other day with a Christian prayer, we are accused of trying to destroy religious freedom. When any other type of prayer is offered, this magically has nothing at all to do with religious freedom. Silly Hindus, don’t you realize that only Christians get to have the official government imprimatur upon their religion?

The Senate has always begun with a prayer to God. Despite your failed interpretation of the alleged unfairness in Senate prayers, there is a reason that no one has ever prayed to any other deity than God. Because the Founders began it that way and we’ve simply kept it up. If they intended other deities to have equal prayer time, they could have located a Hindu and allowed him to pray in the 1700’s.

Religious freedom and the freedom to worship can stay intact while keeping the intentions and history of the Founders by praying to God. Limiting prayer to God in the Senate does not minimize our religious freedoms. Hindu believers and others are still free to worship as they please and the Senate retains its purpose. If we start allowing any faith to lead the elected body in prayer, that will minimize our religious freedom because it ignores the ultimate source of those freedoms: God.

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