The Genius of American Religious Diversity: A Hindu to Pray in Congress

I take great interest and delight that America has the religious tolerance wherein a Hindu chaplain can be asked to offer the prayer to open a session of the United States Senate. There are many countries in which something like this could not or would not happen.

America has its share of religious debate and controversy, but it is not debatable that America is a nation of religious freedom. Because of that freedom, America is becoming more religiously diverse. There's no question that America is based on Judeo and Christian values, but that doesn't mean that other religions aren't welcome--they are. As we study other religions in greater detail, we find that they aren't so different from ours as we thought.

As much as I find it healthy that the United States Congress begins its sessions with prayer, I find it equally a sign of American religious health that a Hindu chaplain has been asked to give the invocation to the July session of the United States Senate.

Rajan Zed, a Hindu chaplain from Nevada, on will become the first Hindu to deliver the morning prayer. In a statement announcing his scheduled appearance, Zed called the occasion "an illustrious day for all Americans and a memorable day for us."

Zed has previously offered prayers to open sessions of the Nevada State Assembly and Nevada State Senate in March and May of this year respectively. According to reports, he was the first Hindu to deliver opening prayers in any state legislature in the U.S.

"I believe that despite our philosophical differences, we should work together for the common objectives of human improvement, love, and respect for others," Zed said...

Religious wars have comprised a great portion of the violence that has plagued the earth over the last six millennia. But the religious wars that have plagued other areas of the globe have never been a problem in the United States. It is so because of the religious freedom vouchsafed by our Constitution. We have not, unfortunately though, been immune to the deleterious effects religious hatred and controversy. Encouraging the public display of religions other than our own will help to end such ironic behavior.

In the same way that I feel that children would benefit socially by having prayer in school, I think that a diversity of prayer in the political arena will tend toward positive social benefits as well. Regardless of our own personal religious views, including possibly that ours is the only true one, all religions are respected by God, and no one religion is better than any other, because all of us are His children.

In particularly a religious sense, it's time that we started treating each other that way.


  1. Some would argue that the 1857-1858 Utah War was a religious war.

    Part of the reason the U.S. has had far fewer problems with religious wars than other countries is that we are a nation of immigrants. Early on it was easy to separate geographically along religious lines, but that lasted only for a while. Long before the U.S. was formed, groups pushed up against each other and intermingled. A certain level of pluralism and tolerance was required because no single group was sufficiently strong to overpower all of the others.

    So diversity is part of the core of this nation. Few other nations across the globe have this kind of diversity and almost no other nation had it implemented from its inception and carried down to the present.

    In other words, we owe much of the thanks for our relative religious peace to the way our nation was settled.


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