July 12th, 2007
12:58 PM ET
12 years ago

Protesters arrested for disrupting first Hindu Senate prayer

Watch protesters disrupt this morning's Senate prayer.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Three people were arrested in the Senate visitor’s gallery Thursday for disrupting the chamber’s morning prayer, led for the first time by a Hindu clergyman.

As Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple in Nevada, began to lead the brief prayer, two women and one man shouted, “This is an abomination,” according to the Associated Press.

Capitol Police Sergeant Kimberly Schneider tells CNN that the three were arrested in the Senate visitors’ gallery for “disruption of Congress.”

While their religion is not clear, one of the protesters told the Associated Press they were “Christians and patriots.”

On their Web site this week, the American Family Association criticized allowing a Hindu clergyman to deliver the prayer and urged supporters to call senators to ask the event be canceled.

But Tim Wildmon, the president of the American Family Association, told CNN he did not know the names of the people arrested, and said, “We didn’t organize or encourage anything like that."

"We would not ever encourage shouting in the gallery like that, we asked people to contact their senators to show their disapproval," he added.

Shortly after the incident, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the floor, “If people have any misunderstanding about Indians and Hindus, all they have to do is think of Gandhi… who gave his life for peace."


- CNN's Evan Glass and Abbi Tatton contributed to this report

Filed under: Senate
soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. Lindsay, Baltimore, MD

    If they were truly "patriots," wouldn't they have figured out, oh I don't know, that FREEDOM OF RELIGION is in the Bill of Rights?

    July 12, 2007 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  2. Paco the mexican

    I actually found it pretty funny. I bet the protesters were the type that voted for David Vitter.

    July 12, 2007 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  3. Pete, T.S. FL

    On their Web site this week, the American Family Association criticized allowing a Hindu clergyman to deliver the prayer and urged supporters to call senators to ask the event be canceled.
    We as a “Nation under God” have absolutely no right to infringe upon the rights of another religion. Organizations that use titles such as the AFA are misleading and about as anti American as any one can be.


    July 12, 2007 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  4. Jason, Utica, KY

    Absolutely disgusting behavior on the part of the protesters. "Christians and patriots," indeed.

    July 12, 2007 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  5. TC Plainfield IL

    They must also believe that the earth is flat and that Darwin didnt prove anything.

    July 12, 2007 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Our Government is a clear example of the apostasy that is spoken of in the Bible. While our men are fighting and dying on the battle fields, our government is allowing false religion to enter the chambers of our government. God views this as worshipping other gods and might turn HIS back on this country because of it. Senate, the blood is on your hands. Gene Mullis, Concord, NC

    July 12, 2007 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  7. John, Erie PA

    I guess the American "Family" Association will have to figure out what is more horrifying: gays, abortion, or Hindus.

    July 12, 2007 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  8. elizabeth, austin, Tx

    I am appalled by the behavior of so-called 'Christians and patriots'. I hope they go see Jesus soon. What has happened to our wonderful country when a few crack-pots can highjack a word like 'patriot' and turn it into a dirty word?

    July 12, 2007 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  9. Julie-Columbia, South Carolina

    I think that since morning prayer is part of the Senate's day-that it should be led by members of different faiths daily. As far as I know – we don't have an Official National Religion.

    With regard the the American Family Association: I suppose they do have a representative religion. I have no idea who they are- or what religion purport to represent-butfor the Hindu prayer to have drawn criticism -they must not be for all families, that is families of different faiths. They also seem to be ignorant of the beliefs of other faiths- They must have no idea what followers of the Hindu religion believe. If they didn't encourage a protest- their website's message must not have been clear or they don't have appropriate control over the content of their website.

    July 12, 2007 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  10. Anonymous, sterling heights, mi

    As we speak our forefathers are rolling over in their graves.

    July 12, 2007 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  11. San Jose,CA

    These people who protest other religions are so insecure about their own faith. Perhaps soon we will see a war between Catholics and Protestants similar to the Shia-Sunni conflict? Which sect is the one true form of Christianity?

    This is from the article on MSNBC :

    Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the protest "shows the intolerance of many religious right activists. They say they want more religion in the public square, but it's clear they mean only their religion."

    July 12, 2007 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  12. Nahor, Watertown, MA

    Ignorance is one of America's greatest problems to date... Why can't a Hindu man do what a Christian man can? Wasn't this country "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal"?

    July 12, 2007 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  13. Pat, Clayton, NC

    We serously need to take a moment and pray for our country! We have completely veered away from the foundation the the forefathers intended for this country to be built upon!

    July 12, 2007 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  14. Vinny, Boston, MA

    Gene Mullis- who are you to decide the Hinduism is a false religion?

    "Senate, the blood is on your hands." Oh please, your willingness to relate the war in Iraq with a Congressional prayer shows a complete lack on intelligence.

    July 12, 2007 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  15. Pen, Austin, Tx

    Or, we could have no prayers. Then, problems such as these would be mitigated. Plus, it would take care of the BS sense of entitlement maintained by so many fundamentalists in this country...just a thought.

    July 12, 2007 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  16. Sarav Chithambaram, Cambridge, MA

    I am appalled by this unfortunate incident and equally disturbed by American Family Association. As a HINDU, I am deeply hurt to hear and read such hatred. All I can do is pray to my god to forgive those who are ignorant and forgive their senseless act. This incident sends a very wrong singal across the country and its thousands of US Citizens who happen to he Hindu. At this time when there is a need for peace and tranquility, these absurd acts dont have a place. Shame on the AFA for advocating hatred.

    July 12, 2007 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  17. Pete, T.S. FL

    Gene Mullis, Concord, NC

    God views this as worshipping other gods and might turn HIS back on this country because of it. Senate, the blood is on your hands.

    Gene, I appreciate your religious view and as an AMERICAN it is your right! However, the notion that “God” and I use the term transcending all religions would care more about one country then another is absurd.

    It is this type of mindset that causes acts of violence as recorded throughout this planets history.


    July 12, 2007 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  18. Lesley Spencer, Tampa, Florida

    To Sarav Chithambaram, I'd like to reassure you that most Christians are also appalled by this behavior. I find the actions of the 'protestors' repellant and have found the so-called American Family Association frightening for a long time. This is is pure and simple right-wing reactionism of a sort that is found throughout world cultures and how much happier we would be if humanity could get past it. "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel," indeed.

    July 12, 2007 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  19. Nelson, Seattle, WA

    This behavior by this so-called family group is appalling. It just shows that in this country, especially for high ranking figures, the First Amendment is not always Freedom of Religion: just practice Judaism and Christianity. Just think: how difficult it is for a faith group that is not Judeo-Christian to procure a site to build a house of worship. There will be so many protests from neighbors saying things like: "this disrupts traffic" or "I worry for the safety of my children".

    July 12, 2007 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  20. Mike, HI

    The United States is not, has never been, and hopefully never will be a 'Christian nation.' Americans are generally quite religious, but this country does not belong to any religion. Though I don't understand why the Senate opens with a prayer, I also don't really care.

    I feel sorry for the ignorance of these protestors. Their zeal is admirable, and I hope they can channel that kind of energy to focus on more pressing matters, but their cries can only hurt the country. The quote from Barry Lynn seems very accurate.

    And for any American Hindus that may be offended: Take comfort in knowing that you are an American, of equal stature, just as much as them. Though chances are you represent American values better than them.

    July 12, 2007 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  21. Matthew Combest - Atlanta, GA

    Unreal – This type of ignorance is very dangerious – next thing you know we will be trying to convert other countries to Christianity – Oops wait! we already have tried doing that.

    What is the matter with people?

    July 12, 2007 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  22. Jennifer, Shepherdstown WV

    for god's sake. please, everyone, please behave to each other as if we are in a civilized society. and what ever happened to the separation of church and state? i actually do not believe that the senate should display their religion at all, but if they really feel that they must, as a representative body of the united states, which happens to be home to people of many faiths, they should, by all means, encourage persons of varied beliefs to participate. I am deeply saddened by the barbaric display of hatred and intolerance by people who claim to be christians. christianity is, in it's ideal and truest form, a religion of love and tolerance.

    July 12, 2007 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  23. Robert, Edwards AFB, CA

    Why is there ANY prayer being conducted in a government building?

    July 12, 2007 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  24. Vish, Milwaukee

    why does the senate do a prayer every day? doesn't that go against separation of church and state? I agree with the guy who said they should represent different faiths every day if their doing prayers.

    This is a democracy of hypocrisy

    July 12, 2007 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  25. Gary, Denver, Colorado

    The only abomination are the Christian Zealots that incite violence and discord with their radical beliefs. Right wing Christians are the single biggest threat to freedom, equality and peace in the world today. Everyone should be aware and guard their loved ones against this poison and infection called evangelism.

    July 12, 2007 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
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