BOISE – Seven Idaho senators remained outside the state Senate chamber Tuesday morning as guest chaplain Rajan Zed delivered the chamber’s first Hindu invocation, then took their seats immediately after it was done.
Three said their absences were unrelated to the prayer – they were just running late from other meetings. But three said they stayed away on purpose, and a fourth questioned why a Christian prayer wasn’t offered as well.
Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, had announced a day earlier that he planned to walk out to object to a Hindu prayer opening the session. He said he worried it would “send a message we’re not happy with the way America is.”
Joining him outside the chamber on Tuesday were Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, who said she believes the United States is a Christian nation and that “Hindu is a false faith with false gods.” Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, said she didn’t feel comfortable personally taking part in a prayer of a religion different from her own.
Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, who also missed the prayer, said he was running late and “didn’t want to walk in in the middle of it.” But, he added, “I was disappointed that we didn’t also have a Christian prayer.”
Clad in a flowing orange robe, Zed said afterward that most of Idaho’s state senators welcomed him. “They came out and shook my hand – some of them hugged me. It was good,” he said. “There are multiple viewpoints. … That is what makes the country great, you know?”
In his prayer, Zed told the Senate, first in Sanskrit and then in English, “Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.”
He said afterward, “It’s all from Hindu scriptures, very ancient. I didn’t write it.”
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