BOISE, Idaho — Three lawmakers in Idaho chose to sit out a Hindu prayer at the state capitol on Tuesday, and one is being called upon to apologize for calling Hinduism a “false religion” to the media.
Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, presented the prayer this week at the Idaho State House—the first invocation by a Hindu since the state’s inception. He spoke in both English and Sanskrit, calling for peace in the world and selflessness among humanity.
“Fulfill all your duties, action is better than inaction,” Zed told those gathered. “Even to maintain your body, you are obligated to act. Selfish action imprisons the world. Act selflessly, without any throughout of personal profit.”
But three Senators decided not to be a part of the invocation as they are Christians and do not wish to see the state of Idaho endorsing Hinduism instead of Christianity.
“I chose to do a more vocal form of protest because I don’t want to be seen as Idaho endorsing that,” Sen. Steve Vick told reporters. “I don’t want to be seen as our country moving away from our Judeo-Christian traditions toward Hindu traditions by elevating him and this religion in that way.”
Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll said that Hinduism is not representative of the people of Idaho, and denounced it as a false religion.
“Hindu is a false faith with false gods,” she told IBN Live. “I think it’s great that Hindu people can practice their religion, but since we’re the Senate, we’re setting an example of what we, Idaho, believe.”
Sen. Lori Den Hartog stated that as a Christian, she didn’t feel right about about being present during the invocation.
“It was a personal decision,” she said. “I didn’t want to announce it prior to the event.”
But now, a number of religious leaders are calling for an apology, especially from Nuxoll as she had stated that Hinduism is a false religion.
“It was therefore disappointing to me that certain senators protested his prayer and spoke disparagingly of his faith,” Nevada Episcopal Bishop Dan Edwards wrote in a letter to the Idaho Legislative Services office. “An apology certainly seems to be in order. … We believe that truth is best discovered where all viewpoints can be expressed.”
ElizaBeth Beyer, a rabbi who serves in both Nevada and California, specifically called out Nuxull, opining that she “should be called upon to offer a public apology and perhaps even be sanctioned by the Senate for her inappropriate, insensitive and insulting remarks.”
“I find it sad that some legislators in Idaho could not respect the importance of religious diversity by their presence at a brief prayer,” added Charles T. Durante, vicar general of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Reno.
Others calling for an apology include Stephen Child of the American Clergy Leadership Conference; Andy Hill, Director of For Goodness Sake Spirituality Center in California; Church of Inner Light Founder Laura Peppard and Brian Melendez, an American Indian spiritualist.
There is no word yet from Nuxull in response to the religious leaders’ comments. Prayers at the Idaho State House are reportedly largely Christian—although from a variety of denominations, and Jewish prayers have been offered on at least one occasion.