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Uproar over Hindu Prayer in U.S. Senate

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On August 2, religious and community leaders gathered to honor Rajan Zed, a Reno resident who delivered the first Hindu prayer in the U.S. Senate. The gathering included representatives from seven faiths, as well as President of the Nevada Clergy Association Gene Savoy Jr., and Reno Police Chief Michael Poehlman.

'We are proud of Rajan for the message of peace, brotherhood, selflessness, and unity which he delivered,' Savoy said, 'He created a national milestone by reciting the first Hindu prayer in the U.S. Senate.'

Not everyone was as pleased as Savoy. When Zed opened his mouth to offer the Senate’s morning prayer on July 12, three protesters in the visitors’ gallery began shouting that it was 'wicked' and an 'abomination.' Zed completed the prayer after police removed the trio.

The prayer and accompanying protests have stimulated widespread commentary in the media and on the internet. Reportedly, people in India were thrilled to get the news where it received front-page display in many papers. At press time, a YouTube video of the event had been viewed 236,813 times, and a Google search of the words 'hindu,' 'zed,' and 'senate' yielded 48,000 results. In an article Zed wrote for the Reno Gazette Journal, Zed described his experience in the Senate as 'overwhelming.'

'That a roughly 90-second opening prayer, which usually goes unnoticed, would spark so much debate is unprecedented,' Zed wrote, 'Although many of us won't accept it, religion … encompasses much more than our own particular tradition or personal experience.'

Zed is director of Interfaith Relations at the Hindu Temple of Northern Nevada, and also works for the India Association of Northern Nevada. He was invited to perform the prayer by Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who had previously invited Zed to pray in the Nevada Senate.

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March 14, 2019