Religious leaders call for Idaho senator's apology

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Hindu statesman Rajan Zed (center) poses Tuesday with Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (left) and Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little prior to the first Hindu invocation of the Idaho Senate.

Religious leaders of various faiths are seeking a public apology from Idaho Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll for a statement she made regarding the Hindu faith.

According to a press release issued by Rajan Zed, a Hindu leader who delivered the invocation at the start of the work day Tuesday in the Idaho Legislature's Senate chamber, Nuxoll reportedly said, in a media interview: "Hindu is a false faith with false gods."

Nuxoll, a Republican from Cottonwood, and two other state senators, including Steve Vick of Dalton Gardens, refused to attend the invocation.

"Being a public official, it was highly inappropriate and insensitive for Ms. Nuxoll to call a major religion 'false.' To show responsibility, respect and understanding that her words were hurtful to the Hindu community, Ms. Nuxoll should apologize," said a group of Idaho Buddhist leaders, including Boise Institute for Buddhist Studies Director Dan Black, in a joint statement.

Nevada Episcopal Bishop Dan Thomas Edwards, in a letter to Idaho Legislative Services Office, wrote:

"As a former Idahoan who dearly loves the Gem State, I was pleased that the Idaho State Senate invited Rajan Zed to say the invocation at a recent session...It was therefore disappointing to me that certain senators protested his prayer and spoke disparagingly of his faith. An apology certainly seems to be in order...we believe that truth is best discovered where all viewpoints can be expressed."

 Father Charles T. Durante, a senior Roman Catholic pastor, stated: "I find it sad that some legislators in Idaho could not respect the importance of religious diversity by their presence at a brief prayer."

 Rabbi ElizaBeth Beyer, a Jewish leader in California and Nevada, said Nuxoll “should be called upon to offer a public apology and perhaps even be sanctioned by the Senate for her inappropriate, insensitive and insulting remarks”.

 "I am a Christian. And I don't feel that my faith and my relationship with God would suffer in any way by being present at and grateful for an opening prayer offered by a Hindu," said Andy Hill, director of For Goodness Sake Spirituality Center in California.

Other religious leaders asking for Nuxoll’s apology include: Rita K. Sloan, Life-Peace-Justice Commission Coordinator of Roman Catholic Diocese of Reno; Matthew T. Fisher, Buddhist leader from Nevada; Dr. Uma V. Mysorekar, President of Hindu Temple Society of North America; Brian E. Melendez, American Indian spiritualist; Rev. Richard L. Smith, a United Church of Christ pastor in Nevada; Rev. Stephen L. Child of American Clergy Leadership Conference; Church of Inner Light Founder Laura A. Peppard; Rev. June H. Canak, Unification Church leader; wellknown Hindu monk Swami Poojananda Saraswati; and Paula J. McDonough, Christian activist.

 The Idaho Senate's start of its day Tuesday with ancient Hindu mantras is said to be a first since Idaho acquired statehood in 1890. It contained verses from Rig-Veda; the oldest existing scripture of the mankind still in common use; besides Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita, both ancient Hindu scriptures. Zed, who is president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, delivered this invocation in Sanskrit and English after sprinkling water drops from river Ganga, considered holy by Hindus.

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