In the News:
ISKCON Applauds First Hindu Prayer in U.S. Senate, Disruption By Extremists Evinces Need for More Education

by Worldwide Faith News

Posted August 4, 2007


Contact: Vineet Chander (201) 925-4973;

Washington, D.C.: Spokespersons for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) said that the Hindu prayer opening the U.S. Senate on July 12 purportedly the first in the 200 year history of that body was an encouraging sign of religious pluralism and inclusiveness in the United States. ISKCON officials congratulated invited guest chaplain Rajan Zed for leading the prayer, and especially praised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his continued support of the prayer, even in the face of some opposition from Christian fundamentalists.

ISKCON, popularly known as the Hare Krishna movement, expressed sadness that the event was marred by protestors who attempted to disrupt the prayer by shouting out Biblical verses and condemning the Hindu prayer as "an abomination." The protestors were removed and arrested, and the prayer allowed to continue, but the disruption soiled the momentous occasion. "What should have been a moment of pride and a cause for celebration, not just for Hindus but for all Americans, was stolen by a few extremists using bullying tactics to further their own discriminatory agenda," said ISKCON spokesperson Vineet Chander. "It is a sad testament to how much more work needs to be done to combat prejudice and religious intolerance in this country."

The protests appeared to be related to an earlier attempt by Christian Evangelical groups to have the prayer prohibited. An email petition circulated by the American Family Association argued that Hinduism "is not a religion that has created great things in the world," and that a Hindu prayer must be polytheistic and thus "completely outside the American Paradigm." Spokesperson Daniel Barton is quoted in the petition as saying that "In Hindu[ism] you have not one God, but many, many, many, many, many gods. And certainly that was never in the minds of those who did the Constitution."

Many Krishna devotees found this erroneous reasoning that Hindu prayer was incompatible with the faith of most Americans particularly troubling. ISKCON represents Vaishnavism, the worship of Lord Krishna, one of the principle branches within the broad Hindu, or Vedic, tradition. Vaishnavas are monotheists, and believe Lord Krishna to be the same one God worshipped by Christians, Jews and Muslims. Scholars believe that Vaishnavas make up approximately 70% of all Hindus.

"It is wrong to assume that Hindus are all polytheists. We have a strong tradition of monotheism that pre-dates Christianity and is upheld by the majority of Hindus." said Chander, who also serves as the Hindu Chaplain at Rutgers University in New Jersey. "People like Mr. Baron rely on stereotype and a skewed misreading of history to push the myth that America was founded to be a small-minded Christian nation. It was not."

As one of the first Hindu organizations established in America, ISKCON has been at the forefront of the struggle to have more diverse expressions of faith in the public square.

"This incident clearly indicates the need to increase education about religion in the United States, to enhance awareness of and respect for the diversity of religious expressions that exist today in our country," said Chander.

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