Beautiful Hindu prayer, spoken as the invocation in the Senate yesterday. The Hindu priest was Rajan Zed of Reno, Nevada. Unfortunately, the reason I'm reading about this -- in the Times of India (via Memeorandum) -- is because some idiots -- from the anti-abortion group Operation Save America -- interrupted him:
"Lord Jesus, forgive us father for allowing a prayer of the wicked, which is an abomination in your sight," the first protester shouted. "This is an abomination. We shall have no other gods before You."What a shame to insult the priest that way!
Democratic Senator Bob Casey, who was serving as the presiding officer for the morning, immediately asked the sergeant-at-arms to restore order. But they continued to protest as they were headed out the door by the marshals, shouting, "No Lord but Jesus Christ!" and "There's only one true God!"
There are invocations in the Senate, and the way to handle that properly is to give representatives of different groups the chance to offer a prayer. Look how well the priest did at choosing a prayer that would enhance mutual respect among religious groups and between the religious and the irreligious.
Zed showed the best side of religion -- a prayer of manifest literary value that invokes the presence of the diety and pulls the human beings who hear it to a higher plane.
Why doesn't the invocation violate the Establishment Clause? Here is the Supreme Court case on the subject, Marsh v. Chambers:
The opening of sessions of legislative and other deliberative public bodies with prayer is deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country. From colonial times through the founding of the Republic and ever since, the practice of legislative prayer has coexisted with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom....The Operation Save America protesters were thus not only rude and intolerant, they were demonstrating an attitude toward the invocations that, if it were accepted, would render the practice unconstititional. Government cannot elevate one religion over another. One of the primary values of the Establishment Clause is preventing divisiveness. These benighted characters would like to foment religious strife.
Although prayers were not offered during the Constitutional Convention, [n6] the First Congress, as one of its early items of business, adopted the policy of selecting a chaplain to open each session with prayer....
On September 25, 1789, three days after Congress authorized the appointment of paid chaplains, final agreement was reached on the language of the Bill of Rights, S.Jour., supra, at 88; H.R.Jour., supra, at 121. Clearly the men who wrote the First Amendment Religion Clauses did not view paid legislative chaplains and opening prayers as a violation of that Amendment, for the practice of opening sessions with prayer has continued without interruption ever since that early session of Congress. ...
...John Jay and John Rutledge opposed the motion to begin the first session of the Continental Congress with prayer.... [But that only demonstrates] that the subject was considered carefully and the action not taken thoughtlessly, by force of long tradition and without regard to the problems posed by a pluralistic society. Jay and Rutledge specifically grounded their objection on the fact that the delegates to the Congress "were so divided in religious sentiments . . . that [they] could not join in the same act of worship." Their objection was met by Samuel Adams, who stated that
he was no bigot, and could hear a prayer from a gentleman of piety and virtue, who was at the same time a friend to his country.C. Adams, Familiar Letters of John Adams and his Wife, Abigail Adams, during the Revolution 37-38, reprinted in Stokes, at 449.
This interchange emphasizes that the delegates did not consider opening prayers as a proselytizing activity or as symbolically placing the government's "official seal of approval on one religious view." Rather, the Founding Fathers looked at invocations as "conduct whose . . . effect . . . harmonize[d] with the tenets of some or all religions." McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 442 (1961). The Establishment Clause does not always bar a state from regulating conduct simply because it "harmonizes with religious canons." Id. at 462 (Frankfurter, J., concurring)....
In light of the unambiguous and unbroken history of more than 200 years, there can be no doubt that the practice of opening legislative sessions with prayer has become part of the fabric of our society. To invoke Divine guidance on a public body entrusted with making the laws is not, in these circumstances, an "establishment" of religion or a step toward establishment; it is simply a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country. As Justice Douglas observed, "[w]e are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being." Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 313 (1952).
Operation Save America issued a statement saying the Senate chamber "was violated by a false Hindu god":
"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," the statement said, adding, "This would never have been allowed by our Founding Fathers."That is precisely at odds with constitutional law (and good moral sense).
The Hindu prayer was also questioned by a Christian historian who maintained 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 God."...More exactly-backwards constitutional law. The motto isn't in the Constitution, and if you want to interpret it to authorize discriminating against groups that are not monotheistic, you are asking for the motto to be declared unconstitutional, not providing the basis for discrimination you (foolishly) want.
"In Hindu (sic), you have not one God, but many, many, many, many, many gods," the Christian historian David Barton maintained. "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."
I hope when people read this news story, in this country and around the world, especially in India, that they focus not on the three protesters, but on our traditional benign approach to religion. Sometimes we exclude religion from government activities -- and we argue about how far we must go with that exclusion -- but when we include it, we don't favor one sect over another and we certainly don't identify one religion as true and another as false.
We do declare true and false constitutional doctrine, however, and these fundamentalist Christians have a false interpretation of the Constitution... and a very bad idea of how to make the world a better place.
I don't think much of their idea of Christianity either. Since when do Christians go around yelling "No Lord but Jesus Christ!"?
More commentary on this news story:
Captain Ed: "Idiots."
The Moderate Voice: "There’s a Term for These Folks - They Are Stupid Jerks"
If I Ran the Zoo: "... assholes... jerks..."
Daily Kos: "Somehow I just don't think this is what Jesus would have had in mind."
National Review Online: "very unfortunate... not the Senate's best moment."
Looks like everyone's on the same page here.
ADDED: Here's the video:
And here's an interesting post from Reader_Iam (who frequently comments on this blog):
Perhaps these protestors fancied themselves as Jesus in the temple, scattering the money-changers desecrating a holy space. But the Senate chamber is not a temple....Read the whole thing.