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. Dennis Shea, Mansfield TX

    ONe nation under God is becoming two nations under various demons.

    Truly it IS an abomination to pray to (worship) any being or thing which is not truly God.

    While this may seem like an exercise in semantics to the ignorant, the real God thinks this is an important issue. The people who worship false "gods" (sic) will become like the thing they worship and will eventually be destroyed by those false "gods".

    Righteousness exalts a nation.

    July 12, 2007 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  2. GK, Bloomsburg, PA

    I find this type of protest to be representation of the fact that there are so called religious people in the world who have no idea about what "religion" is. Ignorance and insecurity breeds intolerance! I hope most Americans are above this type of intolerance.

    July 12, 2007 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  3. Zhane, Greenville NC

    It seems many of the posters were waiting in the shadows to jump on anything religion related. I think it is you all who we should be scarred of. To have such a hate and loneliness in life to lay in wait to bash a religion is absurd. Perhaps God didn't get you that Benz or that model wife. Get over it. Go outside and plant a tree. Leave the religion wars to those who are religious or you'll all be caught up in the cross fire.

    July 12, 2007 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  4. Tom, Philalphia, PA

    Since when did we have a single national religion? One of the great things about this nation is that are no restrictions on the right to worship. I am actually more surprised that this is the first time that a member of the Hindu faith has led the prayer.

    The actions of the people in the galler this morning demonstrate only their own ignorance.

    July 12, 2007 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  5. Betsy, Chicago, IL

    This is the kind of idiocy that makes us hated and laughingstocks around the world. I love how our leadership hides behind the excuse, "The rest of our world is jealous of our freedoms" to explain other countries' animosity toward us – then we turn around and limit and restrict those very freedoms in our own country. Freedom of religion is one of the basic cornerstone on which our country was founded, so comments like "Our forefathers are turning in their graves" only demonstrate posters' ignorance. Our forefathers would be proud that the freedoms they fought and died for were enjoyed by the citizens today – such as freedom of religion and the expression of such on the Senate floor.

    July 12, 2007 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  6. Ben D., T.O.

    The new secular state indeed!

    In god we trust!...... but which god?

    I think people are forgetting that Democracy means that if the majority supports something you are entitled to two choices:

    1) Peacefully and respectfully debate this issue in hopes you persuade the opposition.

    2) Leave

    The US may have been founded by Christians, however, they were very specific regarding their views about the freedom of religion........

    July 12, 2007 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  7. B. Antony, Houston, TX

    "Ignorance is one of America’s greatest problems to date…" I totally agree with you Nahor. I wonder how many of these AFA members know anything about Hindu religion or any other religion for that matter.

    July 12, 2007 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  8. Gary, Denver, Colorado

    Hey Zhane, do you know what you get when you leave the religious wars to the religious? WARS!!!! How many people have died in the name of their God. It takes the rest of us who truely live our convictions, to shake these people and hopefully wake them up so they can take a look around and see the damage they're doing. And maybe, just maybe they'll see that planting a tree is much more productive than starting wars.

    July 12, 2007 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  9. Clinton J. Erie, PA

    From the AFA website: "This is not a religion that has produced great things in the world," he observes. "You look at India, you look at Nepal - there's persecution going in both of those countries that is gendered by the religious belief that is present there, and Hindu dominates in both of those countries."
    Looks like there is some persecution going on here in the States too.

    I don't think there should be prayer in the senate either-there should be seperation of church and state- but if they are going to pray- the different faiths should take turns and be represented.

    I liked Senator Reids comments: "I think it speaks well of our country that someone representing the faith of about a billion people comes here and can speak in communication with our heavenly father regarding peace,"
    -Too bad that was spoiled by people who cannot "turn the other cheek" if they were offended.

    July 12, 2007 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  10. Richard Orlando, FL

    Sarav Chithambaram, this Christian here is with you. You have every right to practice your religion in this country. May the peace & love of God be with you.

    Gene Mullis, there is a thing called FREEDOM OF RELIGION in this country, and the sooner right wingers understand that philosophy, the better off our country will be. May God forgive your condemnation.

    This type of behavior is just another reason why I refuse to vote for any Republicans next year! Everyone can see how screwed up things can get when our leaders govern with senseless ideology.

    July 12, 2007 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  11. Mike, HI

    ...Are you suggesting that people bumrushed this blog to talk about religion, Zhane? Perhaps people who commonly visit this ticker, or are just looking at it today, saw this story and commented how they feel.

    You're going to need a bit more evidence in order to presume to know every posters' intentions, much less they're religious beliefs. Just because one doesn't think the Senate should be conducting prayer, or that these protestors are radicals, doesn't mean one is not religious.

    July 12, 2007 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  12. O. Amaro

    I've not seen or heard from the remaining (and supposed) 29% who still support Bush. I guess these so-called "patriots" that disrupted this prayer were some of them.

    July 12, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  13. Fernando, San Bernardino, CA

    There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
    Ephesians 4:4-6

    July 12, 2007 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  14. pastorofdisaster

    It seems that religion gets in the news when there is a controversy. I would challenge CNN to cover the positive Interfaith gathering for the 9/11 Unity Walk in Washington D.C. on September 9. Last year over a thousand people of multiple faith traditions came together in the Spirit of Unity and walked to the Gandhi statue. Stops included the Washington Hebrew Congregation, the Washington National Cathedral and the Islamic Center. CNN then could also show the uniting force of religion.

    July 12, 2007 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  15. Carl, Richardson, Texas

    Wait just a moment.... this country was founded by white slave owners who didn't want to pay heavy taxes without representation. Sure, "all men were created equal." and by that you mean white land owners only in their eyes. Of course some of them are spinning in their graves!

    They left it up to future generations to adapt and see fit.

    Granted I was not raised in a traditional sense when it comes to church (started going in HS and college, instead of all my life), but variety is the spice of life. If we were all the same, the world would be a boring place. I believe that a God does exist, but I believe this God shows itself in many forms. The important thing is to have faith, not what specific faith it is...

    Besides, if they are that upset that the hindu said a prayer, DO NOTHING. If you honestly feel he is destined for purgatory, then shut up! I don't need your 2 cents on the issue!

    July 12, 2007 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  16. Patrick, Las Vegas NV

    There is nothing Christian or patriotic about what these three people did or what the American Fascist Association endorsed.

    July 12, 2007 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  17. mannabozo

    I need to make this clear.
    While some people may feel understandably upset at the spelling of the Hindu clergyman Rajan Zed's last name, all of us need to understand that there isn't just one "brand", or, "flavor" of God out there to invoke at the commencement of legislative exercises. As we were ALL taught when we were just little children, America is supposed to be a melting pot of various faiths and backgrounds.

    Apparently some people want this to be a pressure cooker instead.

    July 12, 2007 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  18. Ann Brunswick ME

    What did you expect, for God's sake. Why is it that Democrats embrace any and all things that cause Americans pain?

    July 12, 2007 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  19. Tom Dedham, Mass

    To the secular progressives that hate anything christian (see Christmas tree (Holiday tree), Christmas party (holiday party) this countries humble beginnings and ideals were based on the Judeo- Christian philosophy.

    I am not a bible thumper that you so despise though I am Christian, my statement is not based on opinion but actual fact.

    I don't see this as that big a deal, but quit hammering and lumping all christians in one group.

    July 12, 2007 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  20. Ashish Overland Park,KS

    Full TEXT of the prayer by the priest.
    Tell me how is it different from any religions teachings ? Hindus believe in "Truth is one,sages call it by different names"

    "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 vigor. May our study be enlightening. May no obstacle arise between us."

    Seeking the blessings of god on behalf of and for the Senators, Zed declared, "May the Senators strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world, performing their duties with the welfare of others always in mind. Because by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. May they work carefully and wisely, guided by compassion, and without though for themselves."

    "United your resolve, united your hearts, may your spirits be at one, that you may long dwell in unity and concord!" he added, and ended with, "Peace, peace, peace be unto all."

    Before stepping away from the podium, Zed also said, "And, Lord, we ask you to comfort the family of former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson," wife of the former and late President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who died at age 94.

    July 12, 2007 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  21. Colleen Apple Valley, Ca.

    Yes, this country was built upon the priniciple of freedom of religion. Please keep in mind the historical period under which this occurred. George Washington was the Pastor for his troops. Did the Founding Fathers even know what Hindus believe in? Hindus do not believe in one God, but many Gods. They also believe in the caste system, reincarnation and are a patriachial society. That is, women are not valued, however men are. I applaud those that stood up for the right thing. When we all pray we should know WHO we are praying to. Gandhi said that he didn't like Christians but that he liked Jesus. Hey, we are all sinners, thanks Ghandi. No Hindu prayer in the government halls of America.

    July 12, 2007 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  22. Brooke Cox Pocatello, Idaho

    If God turns his back on this country, it won't be because the senate was tolerant of differences in religious belief; it will clearly be due to intolerant hippocrytes like Gene Mullis, Concord, NC. After all, we are ALL God's children, and He wants us ALL to be saved. Unfortunately, those who don't listen (Gene Mullis, Concord, NC) are very unlikely to find their salvation.

    July 12, 2007 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  23. Darren Toth, Los Angeles

    All I can say is, to the rest of the world, I as an American am deeply, deeply sorry. We have just as many close minded people in this country as any other, and I am horrified that the AFA calls itself "patriotic". I can think of NOTHING more un-American than what those people said, and shake my head as these hate mongers continue to speak their message of hate against others.

    July 12, 2007 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  24. PG, Minneapolis Minnesota

    I watched the video on CNN and the behaviour on the part of the members of AFA is absolutely disgusting. Lets foret about faith and religion, at least learn to respect 'human beings'. A person offering prayer is being treated so badly, it hurts and my heart bleeds when i see the video. At least, i did not expect this to happen in a public, political forum that too in America!
    I dont see any act of 'patriotisum' by doing what they did during the prayer session. So, the media should not say or label these people as 'patriot'. No difference b/t extreme islam jihadis and the people who disturbed todays prayer session. All are terrorist in their own ways. Please, please dont give 'America' a bad name.

    July 12, 2007 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  25. John, Lake Forest, IL

    I am disgusted by American citizens who fail to recognize the value of our Constitutional Rights. Almost all major conflicts throughout history have been rooted in religious disputes and restrictions. Our country's success can be solely attributed to the freedoms it has guarenteed. I often find history as a source for guidance, even in modern issues: the Indian Mughal Empire, led by a long line of both HINDU and Muslim rulers, was one of the most powerful in the world. For hundreds of years each ruler strongly believed in religious tolerance; one ruler, Akbar, believed so strongly in it that he tried to combine all religions into one called Faith-of-God. The following ruler, a strong believer of Islam, would not allow any religion but his own.

    July 13, 2007 02:18 am at 2:18 am |
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