Christian protesters try to disrupt first Hindu prayer in US Senate

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Friday, July 13, 2007

A Hindu prayer was used as the opening prayer in the United States Senate for the first time Thursday. The prayer was given by Chaplain Rajan Zed. Proceedings were disrupted by three Christian protesters in the visitors gallery who shouted that there is "No Lord but Jesus Christ", adding insults and calling the Hindu prayer an "abomination." The three people involved in the incident were arrested thereafter. Under the direction of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the prayer for the Senate has been given by a variety of religions of late, although the prayer is still often given by a chaplain of a Christian denomination.

Barry Lynn, speaking for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a First Amendment advocacy group, said that the incident demonstrated the intolerance of the Christian right and that "I don't think the Senate should open with prayers, but if it's going to happen, the invocations ought to reflect the diversity of the American people."

Zed had wanted to read the prayers in Sanskrit but did so in English instead at the direction of the Senate Chaplain Office.

Later reports stated that the three protesters, Ante Pavkovic, Katherine Pavkovic and their daughter Christan Sugar Pavkovic, were affiliated with the American Family Association, a conservative Christian organization which had previously attempted to block the prayer from occurring although other reports connected them with the smaller Operation Save America, a Christian organization based in Dallas.

The protesters were released after being charged.