BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Three lawmakers refused to attend the Idaho Senate's daily invocation after objecting to the offering of a Hindu prayer.
Rajan Zed, guest chaplain, gave a lengthy prayer in both English and Sanskrit on Tuesday that focused on selflessness and peace. Senators from both sides of the aisle shook his hand and thanked him for coming.
"Fulfill all your duties, action is better than inaction," Zed said. "Even to maintain your body, you are obligated to act. Selfish action imprisons the world. Act selflessly, without any thought of personal profit."
However three lawmakers, all Republican, only came back onto the floor once the prayer was over: Sens. Steve Vick of Dalton Garden, Sheryl Nuxoll of Cottonwood and Lori Den Hartog of Meridian.
Prayer is a common event in Idaho's Republican-controlled Statehouse. The Idaho Senate and House convene each day with a prayer by the chamber's chaplains from Christian denominations followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. And most lawmakers cite their religion in the heir bios for the state's legislative directory.
Nuxoll says she declined to attend because she believes the United States is a Christian nation.
"Hindu is a false faith with false gods," she said. "I think it's great that Hindu people can practice their religion but since we're the Senate, we're setting an example of what we, Idaho, believe."
Nuxoll added that she wished the Senate had conducted a Christian prayer along with the Hindu invocation.
Vick had announced his objections the day before, saying that he would ask his colleagues to join him.
Den Hartog said it would've been disingenuous to her Christian faith to attend.
"It was a personal decision, I didn't want to announce it prior to the event," Den Hartog said.
While nine lawmakers were absent in total for the prayer, five were caught up in meetings — not protesting the event — and one was excused.
Zed said he reached out to Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill to offer the invocation. Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, has delivered traditional Hindu prayers to both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate and in nearly a dozen state legislatures.
Guest chaplains often visit the Statehouse, Hill said, often when the sitting chaplain is taking time off. Last year, the Idaho Senate received an invocation from a Jewish rabbi, he said.