WASHINGTON: Christian activists briefly disrupted a Hindu invocation in the US Senate on Thursday, marring a historic first for the chamber and showing that fundamentalism is present and shouting in the US too.
Invited by the Senate to offer Hindu prayers in place of the usual Christian invocation, Rajan Zed, a Hindu priest from Reno, Nevada, had just stepped up to the podium for the landmark occasion when three protesters, said to belong to the Christian Right anti-abortion group Operation Save America, interrupted by loudly asking for God's forgiveness for allowing the ''false prayer'' of a Hindu in the Senate chamber.
"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."
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!"
Zed, clad in saffron with a prominent tilak on his forehead, then nervously went through the invocation.
"Let us pray," he began, "We meditate on the transcendental glory of the deity supreme, who is inside the heart of the earth, inside the life of the sky and inside the soul of heaven. May he stimulate and illuminate our minds.
"Lead us from the unreal to real, from darkness to light, and from death to immortality. May we be protected together. May we be nourished together. May we work together with great vigour. May our study be enlightening."
The sentiments were evidently lost on the fundamentalists.
The organisation Operation Save America later issued a press release confirming that Ante Pavkovic, Kathy Pavkovic, and Kristen Sugar were all arrested in the chambers of the United States Senate "as that 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."
Typically, the Senate Chaplain delivers the opening invocation, but sometimes guest chaplains are invited from all over the country to read the prayer.
According to a Senate Chaplain Office communiqué, the purpose of the opening prayer is to seek God on behalf of, and for the Senators and the prayer should affirm our rich heritage as a Nation "under God."
According to US Senate website, "...Throughout the years, the United States Senate has honoured the historic separation of Church and State, but not the separation of God and State...During the past two hundred and seven years, all sessions of the Senate have been opened with prayer, strongly affirming the Senate's faith in God as Sovereign Lord of our Nation..."
13 Jul 2007,CHIDANAND RAJGHATTA,TNN