Three Christians disrupt
Hindu prayer in Senate
Previous Hindu prayer in the House;
Opposition prior to the Senate prayer
2000-SEP: An earlier Hindu prayer, at the House of Representatives:
Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) described a
controversy over a prayer given before the house on 2000-SEP-14:
"When a Hindu priest opened the session of the House of Representatives
on Sept. 14, 2000, the Family Research Council sprung into action and
showed its true bigoted colors."
" '[W]hile it is true that the United States of America was founded on
the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never
intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in
our country’s heritage,' read an article in an FRC newsletter."
"Asserted the FRC, 'As for our Hindu priest friend, the United States is
a nation that has historically honored the One True
God. Woe be to us on that day when we relegate Him to being merely one
among countless other deities in the pantheon of theologies'."
"The FRC went on to equate Hinduism with
pluralism, the FRC asserted, leads to 'moral
relativism and ethical chaos'."
"Somehow, the country survived Venkatachalapathi Samuldrala’s prayer that
day. And when Americans United exposed the group’s bigotry, the FRC
found itself being hounded by reporters and quickly began to back-pedal. The
material was removed from the group’s Web site, and an FRC spokeswoman went
so far as to assert that the passage had been published accidentally." 1
Americans United published the above comments on their blog on
2007-JUN-26, just over two weeks before Chaplain Rajan Zed was scheduled to deliver
prayer before the Senate. AU issued a challenge to the Family Research
"Now the FRC gets a chance to really make amends. We challenge the group
to issue a public statement affirming religious diversity in America and
welcoming Hindus to our rich tapestry of faiths. If we must have such
prayers before Congress, they should respect religious diversity. Surely the
FRC has no problem with that?" 1
It turns out that the FRC and some other fundamentalist Christian groups do
have a problem with giving all religions access to the public square, as will be
Opposition prior to the Senate prayer in 2007:
For several days before the prayer was given, the American Family Association
urged its members to object to the prayer because Chaplain Rajan Zed would be "seeking the
invocation of a non-monotheistic god." They issued an Action Alert
titled "Hindu to open Senate with prayer." It asked that their supporters
phone the Senate switchboard and 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."
In their Action Alert, the AFA described the opinion of David Barton,
president of Wallbuilders -- a fundamentalist Christian group who
promotes links between American history and Christianity. Barton questioned:
"... 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
" 'In Hindu [sic], 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." 3
Barton seems to imply that Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. Actually, it
is a henotheistic religion, like very early forms worship described in the
Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). Hindus recognize a
single deity. They view other gods and goddesses as facets, forms,
manifestations, or aspects of that one supreme God.
In addition, when Thomas Jefferson used the term "Nature's God" in the
Declaration of Independence it referred to the God of the Deists.
Jefferson's viewed God as the creator of the universe who set in motion "the
Laws of Nature," withdrew, and hasn't been seen since.
Deism was a common and perhaps the most popular religion among the founding
The AFA quote of Barton's beliefs concludes with:
“This [Hinduism] is not a religion that has produced great things in the
Barton might not have been aware of the example of religious tolerance that
Hinduism has historically displayed to the world. Then there is the contribution
of Mahatma Ghandi, whose Path of Nonviolence inspired Martin Luther King,
Jr. to fight racism and segregation, and formed the basis of Nelson Mandella's
fight against Apartheit (pronounced apart hate) in South Africa. It is now
helping SoulForce fight homophobia and transgender hatred in America. Indian academics
also invented the number zero, established the first university, the
first school of medicine, and the game of chess.
Aware of the opposition by Evangelical Christians over his choice of a Hindu
to deliver the morning prayer. Senate Majority Leader Reid said:
"If people have any misunderstanding about Indians and Hindus, all they
have to do is think of Gandhi who gave his life for peace. ... 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."
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Rob Boston, "Diversity On Capitol Hill: Hindu Leader To Offer Opening Prayer
In Senate," Americans United, 2007-JUN-26, at:
- "Hindu to open Senate with prayer," Action Alert, American Family
- "Buck" "American Family Association Spreading Hindu Hate," Posting to
Pensito Review, 2007-JUL-11, at: