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Support For First Hindu Prayer In US Senate

Overwhelming support for first Hindu prayer in US Senate

The first Hindu prayer in the United States (US) Senate by chaplain Rajan Zed on July 12, which was protested from the gallery, is receiving overwhelming support from religious, political, and scholarly quarters.

Rajan Zed, being honored at Sri Siva Vishnu Temple, Lanham, Maryland, USA,
after the US Senate prayer in Washington DC.

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey, in a release, said, "The Hindu prayer opening the Senate this month was a historic milestone for religious tolerance and diversity in America…The American spirit is ultimately welcoming and the vast majority of people saw this occasion as I did C as a source of pride and celebration."

Presidential candidate and Senator Christopher J. Dodd from Connecticut, in a release, said, "Our nation was founded on the importance of religious freedom… I was honored to have Rajan Zed deliver his blessing last week and introduce his faith on the Senate floor."

Reverend Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, President of Chicago Theological Seminary, said, "It is crucial for this country, that has such a vibrant and increasingly diverse faith community and that has peaceful relations among the religions, to have a Hindu lead prayer before the Senate."

Episcopal Bishop of Washington, a diocese that encompasses 93 congregations, Reverend John Bryson Chane, was of the view, "What some may believe, that a Hindu chaplain opening a session of the United States Senate with prayer has somehow violated the notion of "One Nation under God," is absurd."

Chester L. Gillis, Chair of Catholic Studies at Georgetown University, says, "Having a Hindu chaplain recite the opening prayer in the U.S . Senate does not violate the principle of the Pledge, since Hindus share belief in God, expressed through the multiple gods and goddesses they believe to represent Brahman, the ultimate transcendent…Those Americans who say "give me that old time religion" simply need to recall that Hinduism―truly an old time religion―predates Judaism and Christianity."

The American Jewish Committee, in a release, said that it was deeply troubled by the verbal assault on Rajan Zed. "Senate majority leader Harry Reid's invitation to Rajan Zed to become the first Hindu to deliver an opening prayer is a testament to our national commitment to promoting ideals of diversity in every facet of American society," said Richard T. Foltin, its Legislative Director.

Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo, Director of Research Center for Religion in Society and Culture, said, "…a Hindu prayer to more than one deity does not violate any legal norm. Still less, can the so called monotheistic religions of Abrahamic traditions claim any historical superiority over Hinduism."

Samuel Rodriguez, President of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and well know evangelist, said, "A Hindu religious figure leading prayer in the Senate demonstrates that this nation embraces religious tolerance and pluralism and rejects exceptionalism and totalitarianism. This makes our nation great."

Reverend Thomas J. Reese, Senior Fellow of Woodstock Theological Center, Jesuit priest, and expert on Catholic issues, said, "One does not have to agree with everyone's religion, but as Christians and Americans we have an obligation to respect the beliefs and religious practices of others. Disrupting prayer is bad manners and unchristian. There are other forums in which to protest and debate theology."

Mormon Transhumanist Association expressed happiness over invitation to a Hindu to offer Senate opening prayer. On its website, it quoted prophet Joseph Smith (Eleventh Article of Faith), "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

R. Gustav Niebuhr, Director of Religion &Society Program of Syracuse University, stated, "The single most surprising aspect of having a Hindu priest offer an opening prayer in the United States Senate is that it happened on July 12, 2007. I can't be the only person to whom that must seem a bit late. After all, Hindu scriptures have been read and admired in this country for more than 150 years…The invitation to Mr. Zed to pray in the Senate in itself testifies to one of our most basic freedoms, a thing for which many in the world still do really admire us."

Ordained United Church of Christ and American Baptist Minister, Dr. Willis E. Elliot, said, "America is religiously pluralist, and Senate-session opening-prayers should reflect this plain fact."

C. Welton Gaddy, Leader of the Interfaith Alliance and host of the weekly radio show, State of Belief, said, "First, Sen. Harry Reid and the United States Senate should be congratulated and supported for inviting Chaplain Rajan Zed, a Hindu American from Nevada, to deliver the opening prayer at the opening of a Senate session. America is one nation with many faiths and many beliefs. All of our great religions and belief systems share the highest values, ethics, and morals. And Chaplain Zed's prayer fit perfectly in that tradition."

Muslims for Progressive Views Co-founder, Pamela K. Taylor, said, "I believe it is important to recognize that the outcry over prayers led by a Hindu reveal the thinly veiled religious bigotry."

Foundation for Pluralism President, Mike Ghouse, in a release, said, "…we congratulate the Hindu American community of America for this blessed step. It is indeed a giant leap for the American society in building inclusive societies…Now, America has demonstrated its leadership in the spiritual domain by including the Hindu prayers for opening…We are proud of this milestone in our history."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State deplored the disruption of the prayer in a release. Rev. Barry W. Lynn, its Executive Director, said, "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."

InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington thanked Senator Harry Reid and Senate Chaplain Dr. Barry C. Black for inviting Mr. Rajan Zed to be the first Hindu to give the opening prayer in the U.S. Senate. "We applaud your courage and your commitment to peace and unity," it added.

United States India Political Action Committee chairman Sanjay Puri said in a release, "The fact that Rajan Zed was allowed to give prayer before the US Senate should make us all proud as Americans. Religious diversity and tolerance are the foundation on which the United States was built."

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in a media release, said "The incident clearly indicates the need to increase education about religion in the United States, to enhance awareness of and respect for the diversity of religious expressions that exist today in our country."

Hindu American Foundation, in a release by its Executive Director Ishani Chowdhury, said, "Shri Rajan Zed's prayer recitation shared with our fellow Americans the Hindu belief in a transcendental, immanent God and the eternal Hindu search for enlightenment and universal peace. Our foundation joins all Hindu Americans in congratulating the U.S. Senate for demonstrating its commitment to the American ideal of pluralism, and for respecting the religious diversity of our great country." In a letter to Senator Harry Reid, Chowdhury said, "On behalf of two million Hindu Americans who call this nation their home, the Hindu American Foundation, would like to thank you for inviting Shri Rajan Zed…It was a momentous occasion―being the first time a member of our community has had the opportunity to lead our nation's leaders in prayer."


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