An Idaho Republican says he will walk out when a Hindu cleric delivers the opening invocation Tuesday for the state Senate.
State Sen. Steve Vick (R-Dalton Gardens) admitted that the First Amendment permits prayers by non-Christians, but he did not think Hindus, in particular, should be allowed to pray in the statehouse, reported The Spokesman-Review.
“They have a caste system,” Vick said. “They worship cows.”
Hindus do revere cows as a symbol of life, but they do not worship them.
“To invite other religions in that aren’t represented in the legislature I don’t believe does anything to strengthen our state or our country,” Vick said.
He said the United States was “built on the Judeo-Christian not only religion but work ethic,” and Hindu prayers might “undermine” that.
“I’m very supportive of the way this country was built, and I don’t want us to move away from it,” Vick said.
Rajan Zed, a Hindu cleric from Nevada, asked lawmakers if he could serve as guest chaplain in the Idaho Senate, as he had done for state and local governments throughout the western U.S.
“I reviewed the prayer,” said Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill (R-Rexburg). “It did not seem offensive in any way. It refers to ‘deity supreme.’”
Zed said he would read from Bhagavad-Gita and asks senators always to consider the welfare of others.
Hill, a Mormon, said members of his own faith were prohibited at one time in Idaho history from holding elected office or voting.
“In my mind, you either believe in religious freedom or you don’t,” he said. “We have had Jewish prayers, many denominations of Christian prayers.”
Vick spent the weekend complaining about the prayer on Facebook, and he said his constituents want him to stop it.
He said allowing a Hindu to pray in the statehouse might “send a message we’re not happy with the way America is.”
Update: Two other Republican lawmakers — Sens. Sheryl Nuxoll (R-Cottonwood and Lori Den Hartog (R-Meridian) — left the Senate floor during the prayer but returned with Vick afterward.
Watch this video report posted online by KIVI-TV: