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. Mary, Beaver, PA

    "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

    Posted By Ben D., T.O. : July 12, 2007 4:27 pm

    Dan, I think that you are forgetting that this is a Republic, not a Democracy. (Remember in the Pledge of Alligiance, it's "the REPUBLIC for which it stands.") This nation was founded on INDIVIDUAL liberty, not on the mob rule of the majority. Try reading your Constitution and search for the word "majority." Our Founding Fathers knew the folly of the mob rule called Democracy. Under our Constitution, an individual has the right to pray as he chooses, and to think and speak the opinions of his heart without reprisal. And it doesn't matter if the entire world, let alone the majority, disagrees with him. Where is the freedom in mob rule? Thank God, our Founding Fathers empowered the smallest minority: the individual. Let's not ever forget that.

    July 13, 2007 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  2. jack,illusion,texas

    These Hindu people use money and political power to Persecute christians in North India .In India ,attacks against christian missionaries are on the rise because of Hindu fundamentalists.

    July 13, 2007 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  3. NS, New York

    Hey Jack, where did it say that this Hindu chaplain was a fundamentalist? A classic sign of a bigot is trying to hold a whole group responsible for the actions of some.

    July 13, 2007 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  4. J, Philadelphia, PA

    Although our country was founded by separatists and some simply happened to be Christians fleeing religious persecution from English monarchy, OUR COUNTRY WAS NOT FOUNDED ON JUDEO-CHRISTIAN BELIEFS OR IDEALS! We have the first amendment and LAWS regarding SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE for a good reason: so "our government" stays far, far away from issues that could lead to the next round of crusades.

    Each person that agreed upon no opening morning prayer on the Senate floor definitely has good foundation to feel that way. Our "forefathers" wanted as far away from prayer in our government as possible - they also did not count each woman or non-white person as a whole person and felt voting was best left to the palest, wig-wearing, slave&land-owning man. They probably roll in their graves knowing that women and previous slaves received the right to vote. They were men with agendas and political strife that would have never allowed such a thing as religion to get in the way of either. Plus, quotes from that era clearly stated by signers of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution make mention of our government not being based in religion.

    John Adams, the 2nd Constitutional President: "the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."
    John Adams, from the Treaty of Peace and Friendship (Article XI)

    Thomas Jefferson:
    "The legitimate powers of government extend only to such acts as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
    –from Notes on Virginia, 1784

    A baptist minister wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892, the words "under God" were not added until 1954 BY CONGRESS! It went from an oath to prayer.

    Now some more words of wisdom from another former president that you may find interesting:
    "No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."
    –George H.W. Bush


    July 13, 2007 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  5. Pol-analyst, Phila PA

    I usually don't agree with Sen. Harry Reid on much politically, but I strongly commend him for defending American Hindus such as myself.

    I think the presence of religeon in public life is a good thing as long as it is not imposed upon anybody. I've never had a problem with the Christian prayer or symbols that are so visible in our institutions. But that should be open to all religeons. Religeon is a source of strength for leader. Hinduism has been a source of strength for me as Christianity is for leaders of Christian faith.

    July 13, 2007 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  6. rhoda, Ca

    Interesting argument that America was not founded upon a belief in God. Last I checked, my money printed by the Government Mint said "In God We Trust". The Washington Monument has two words inscribed on the top of it "Laus Deo" or Praise be to God.
    Hinduism has many Gods. No one said that people should be intolerant of others freedom of religion, it just should not occur in our Government halls.

    July 13, 2007 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  7. Mike, HI

    "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."

    No, it was not. Or else adultery would be illegal, and we would all be required to keep the Sabbath holy. This country was based on Enlightenment thought. And if you're referring simply to the people, I'd say capitalism-the search to turn a profit in a new world-was a bigger influence than religious freedom. Remember, Jamestown was established long before the puritans got here.

    And for those going on about "One nation under God"-the pledge of allegiance is not a government document. It was written to sell flags in the 19th century, and the reference to 'God' was not added until 1954. In fact, the pledge has existed without "one nation under God" longer than it has with the phrase. I also believe that "In God We Trust" was not added to currency until the 1950s.

    July 13, 2007 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  8. Mike, HI

    Sorry for posting again, but I always forget to bring up this good old document, the Treaty of Tripoli. This was unanimously approved by the Senate in 1796:

    "Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

    (and yep, 'Mussulmen' = Muslim and 'Mahometan nation' = Islamic nation)

    July 13, 2007 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  9. Chris in Throfare, NJ

    So none of you would mind if some Sunni or Shiite radicals held prayers in the Senate? Why would this be any different?

    Get religion out of the government! Please follow the constitution that you all swore to uphold and constantly ignore!

    July 13, 2007 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  10. Eric - Manhattan

    Hillary Clinton had a good, racist joke about Ghandi owning a 7-11 a few years back

    July 13, 2007 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  11. Tom Dedham, Mass 02026

    She's just like Rosie and Bill Maher, they aren't haters or racists, they are comedians.

    Yep, Hillary was just being a comedian.

    Apologize for even bringing that up.

    July 13, 2007 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  12. Mary, Beaver, PA

    Sorry about trying to rechristen you, Ben.

    July 14, 2007 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  13. Dr Seema Gupta, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

    Hinduism leaves every woman/man free to pray to God in any form s/he chooses to (Or not, atheism is big in Vedic writings) Nobody has (credibly) seen God, so any manifestation has an equal chance of being correct or wrong! Pantheism / atheism is at its core; especially since all religions lack rational clinching evidence favor of their local God and their internal contradictions do not lessen the fervor of their followers.
    Humanity is considered close to divinity and therefore every human is expected make a considered evaluation of right, wrong, real or unreal. Dharma is the correct path a human chooses to follow in context to his/her free will, ability, humanity and existing societal norms. Karma is accountability for every action a human takes. No action is inherently sinful although actions that hurt the world family will come back and bite you. So I suppose I can understand how it disturbs "single god/single book" advocates. Its okay…we Hindus understand your confusion, it take a while to get it and its better than the taliban's with us or against us thoughts. Meanwhile God (if he exists) would find himself out of place in any gathering of politicians!

    July 14, 2007 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  14. Dave, Fowlerville, Michigan

    For those of you out there that believe all religions are equal, you could not be farther from the truth. God does favor some countries over others which is quite clear. Look at Israel, America, Canada, Britain, Australia for starters. All these nations are fundamentaly Christian in origin and as a result they have been preserved by the God of the Bible. Yes there are other false religions that enjoy peace within our borders, however, we are fundamentally Christian nation whether you athiests believe it or not. I view the AFA and the protestors as Christian patriots indeed. Whatever your view on this you must understand that God will someday turn his back on us for our blasphemies and it will be you liberal progressive atheist that help it happen. One thing I can promise you is Jesus loves the world and 2000 years ago he prophesized the world would hate him. Whether you approve of God or not doesn't make him any less real and I promise you, two seconds after you die you will be the biggest believers in hell. God help us.

    July 14, 2007 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  15. Karen

    This is not a Christian country. This is a country with many Christians. For those who do not realize the difference-I feel sorry for you.

    July 14, 2007 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  16. Dave from queens, NY

    Amazing how the Christofascists (RW christians not normal christians)support govt imposed prayer but only if it's a prayer they like

    July 14, 2007 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  17. Sanford, Dyersburg, Tn

    I believe that all religious ceremonies shoulod be removed from government offices. POlitics and religion just do not mix at any level.

    July 14, 2007 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  18. T. Riverside, CA

    No religion belongs in the business of The Congress.

    July 15, 2007 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  19. Bill W, Coatesville, PA

    Once again, religion is responsiblle for about 90% of the worlds problems right now.

    Why is congress praying openly during its public activities anyway? Whatever happened to separation of church and state?

    Lastly, I guess its not enough that we've outsourced all our work to India and imported millions of H1B immigrants from India to take our jobs – particukarly good paying tech jobs in computers and communications – now we have to import their religion, too?

    July 15, 2007 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  20. Curtis E. Douglas Blacksburg, Virginia

    How about no "official" prayers in the Senate (and House et al) at all. It is long overdue for religion of any sort to be removed from the process of governing our country. Keep your faith out of my house and I will keep mine out of yours.

    July 15, 2007 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  21. mannabozo

    Yes, it IS very difficult to get mentally past Rajan Zed's last name and how it is spelled, I understand that. A lot of people have been just as upset about his last name as the fact that some people decided they would "interrupt" his prayer. Where have we come to, as a people?

    July 15, 2007 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  22. Mike, HI

    "Yes there are other false religions that enjoy peace within our borders, however, we are fundamentally Christian nation whether you athiests believe it or not."

    Sorry, the people who created this nation disagree with you.

    July 16, 2007 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  23. Christina, Chesapeake, VA

    Our nation was founded on the principles of Christianity. If America keeps on its going, I truly believe that we will lose His favor. America isn't bigger than the Creator of the Universe. I don't want USA to end up like so many other civilizations that have fallen. I truly believe that we are ONE NATION UNDER GOD, not gods. I'm a Christian and don't know if I would have done as those speakers did, but at least they were speaking truth and standing up for their faith.

    July 16, 2007 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  24. Rick, Chicago Illinois

    Christina, Chesapeake, VA .. our nation was founded on freedom of religion and freedom FROM religion. Specifically ANY one religion – whether it is practiced by the majority or not.

    Either we say NO prayers during govt functions or we say a prayer for every religion.

    Christians cultists like you need to stop forcing YOUR beliefs down everyone ELSE'S throats. I don't need to pray to YOUR God to be saved by MINE! And neither does anybody else.

    If you don't like it, move to the Vatican.

    July 17, 2007 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
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