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Idaho Lawmakers Boycott Hindu Prayer

BOISE (CN) - Three Idaho lawmakers boycotted the state Senate's daily invocation Tuesday because it was given by a Hindu, which one senator called "a false faith with false gods."

Steve Vick of Dalton Gardens, Sheryl Nuxoll of Cottonwood and Lori Den Hartog of Meridian, all Republicans, reappeared on the Senate floor only after guest chaplain Rajan Zed delivered a prayer in English and Sanskrit, which focused on selflessness and peace.

"Fulfill all your duties, action is better than inaction," said Zed, who is president of the Universal Society of Hinduism. "Even to maintain your body, you are obligated to act. Selfish action imprisons the world. Act selflessly, without any thought of personal profit."

Nuxoll said she skipped the invocation because the United States is a Christian nation, and said she wished the Senate had conducted a Christian prayer alongside Zed's prayer.

"Hindu is a false faith with false gods," Nuxoll 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."

Vick objected to the idea of the Hindu prayer on Monday and asked fellow lawmakers to join him in boycotting it. Nine lawmakers were absent for the prayer, but five were in meetings and one was excused, according to The Associated Press.

Den Hartog said her presence during the prayer would have been disloyal to her own religion.

"It was a personal decision," she said. "I didn't want to announce it prior to the event."

State Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, told the Spokesman-Review that "I was just late getting up there - I didn't want to walk in, in the middle of it."

Nonini said he was "disappointed that we didn't also have a Christian prayer."

The Idaho Senate and House convene every day with a prayer by the chamber's chaplains, all from Christian denominations, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

Most Idaho lawmakers are not shy about their religion, citing them in their biographies in the state legislative directory.

Zed, who has delivered Hindu prayers in the U.S. House and Senate and about a dozen state legislatures, reached out to Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill to offer the invocation.

Hill said that guest chaplains often visit the statehouse when the sitting chaplain is taking time off. Last year, a Jewish rabbi delivered an invocation at Idaho's Senate.

"Most of them welcomed me," Zed told the Idaho Statesman. "They came out and shook my hand - some of them hugged me. It was good. There are multiple viewpoints. ... That is what makes the country great, you know? Different viewpoints."

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