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Hindu prayer should not be allowed in Senate, Idaho lawmaker says

BOISE – A North Idaho senator is objecting to allowing a Hindu prayer as the opening invocation for the Idaho Senate this morning and says he’ll walk out.

“They have a caste system,” explained state Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens. “They worship cows.”

He acknowledged the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows any kind of prayer, but he said he thinks the Hindu one shouldn’t be allowed to open the Senate, as the United States was “built on the Judeo-Christian not only religion but work ethic, and I don’t want to see that undermined.”

“I’m very supportive of the way this country was built, and I don’t want us to move away from it,” Vick said.

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said Hindu cleric Rajan Zed, of Reno, Nevada, approached the Senate about possibly giving an invocation as a guest chaplain, as he’s done previously in various Western state legislatures, city council meetings, and in the U.S. Senate.

“I reviewed the prayer. It did not seem offensive in any way,” Hill said. “It refers to ‘deity supreme.’ ”

Hill, a member of the Mormon church, said, “In my mind, you either believe in religious freedom or you don’t. … We have had Jewish prayers, many denominations of Christian prayers.”

He added, “There was a time in Idaho history when Mormons were not allowed to pray in the Legislature – nor were they allowed to hold office or vote because Mormons were not considered Christians. I think we’ve come a long way since then.”

Vick took to social media over the weekend to vent his displeasure about the plan for a Hindu prayer in the Senate, telling his Facebook followers, “I am working to get it stopped.”

He told The Spokesman-Review on Monday he’s had strong support from his North Idaho constituents for his stand. “They’ve all been supportive of the effort to not allow the Hindu prayer in the Senate chambers,” he said.

“It goes back to my concern about the way this country was built, if you compare it to a country that was built on the Hindu faith,” Vick said. He said allowing the prayer could “send a message we’re not happy with the way America is.”

Hinduism is the world’s third-largest religion, after Christianity and Islam. It is the religion of roughly 80 percent of India’s population and has nearly a billion adherents worldwide. It encompasses an array of traditions and practices. Zed said in a news release that the religion’s ultimate goal is moksh, or liberation. There are roughly 3 million Hindus in the United States.

Although cows are revered in Hinduism as a symbol of life and aren’t killed, Hindus don’t worship cows, according to the website “This is just one example of the misunderstandings people have about the Hindu faith,” the website says.

In his Senate prayer, Zed said he’ll read from the Bhagavad-Gita and urge senators to keep the welfare of others always in mind.

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