UPDATE: Three protesters were arrested in the Senate chamber after attempting to shout/pray down the guest chaplain. They are being charged with “disrupting Congress”, a misdemeanor offence.
Today, for the first time in American history, a Hindu chaplain was invited to deliver the invocation at the opening of the U.S. Senate session. Naturally, this is being greeted by certain sectors of the right-wing Christian community as a sure sign of the coming Apocalypse… a quick Google search on “hindu senate prayer” will bring you an astonishing amount of hatred and fulminations against the “un-American” act of (gasp) allowing a non-monotheist to have an equal opportunity with Christians, even if only for five minutes.
To these people, my only response is this quote from Thomas Jefferson’s Autobiography (in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom) :
Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination. (emphasis mine)
There’s certainly something un-American going on here, but for a change it’s not on the part of the Senate. I would encourage everyone reading this to write your Senators and express your appreciation (or lack thereof, if that’s how you feel) for this action that really shouldn’t need to be considered brave, but in today’s political climate actually is.