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June 20 session of the RI House to open with Hindu prayers?



Rajan Zed, a Hindu cleric, has announced that he will open the June 20 session of the Rhode Island House of Representatives “with Hindu prayers, containing verses from world’s oldest existing scripture.”

[UPDATE 1: “The Speaker’s office received a request for a Hindu invocation on June 20,” writes Larry Berman, House communications director, “Since this is recess week, we plan to review the request with him next week. Nothing has been confirmed.” (emphasis mine)]

[UPDATE 2: “I received an email from Anastasia B. Custer, Assistant to the Chief of Staff, Office of the Speaker of the House, Rhode Island State House, on April 18,” writes Rajan Zed, “which included:

“‘I received your request from Rep. Teresa Tanzi about reading an invocation to the RI House of Representatives on Wednesday, June 20. Speaker Nicholas Mattiello approved your request and I will add this reading to the schedule. Note that legislative session is scheduled to start at 4pm and I recommend guests arrive between 3:30-3:45pm.’

“On my asking in another email, she also provided me parking suggestions.”]

From his press release:

Zed, who is the President of Universal Society of Hinduism, will recite from Rig-Veda, the oldest scripture of the world still in common use; besides lines from Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord), both ancient Hindu scriptures. He plans to start and end the prayer with “Om”, the mystical syllable containing the universe, which in Hinduism is used to introduce and conclude religious work.

Reciting from Brahadaranyakopanishad, Rajan Zed plans to say “Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrtyor mamrtam gamaya”, which he will then interpret as “Lead us from the unreal to the real, Lead us from darkness to light, and Lead us from death to immortality.” Reading from Bhagavad-Gita, he proposes to urge Representatives to keep the welfare of others always in mind.

Zed is a global Hindu and interfaith leader. Bestowed with World Interfaith Leader Award; Zed is Senior Fellow and Religious Advisor to Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, Spiritual Advisor to National Association of Interchurch & Interfaith Families, and on the Advisory Board of The Interfaith Peace Project.

In his press release, Zed is also, “urging Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio to allow him to read invocation at Rhode Island Senate also on June 20 as a diversity gesture.”

“We do open every session day with a daily prayer and each day we select a different Senator to do the prayer,” said Charlotte Desautels, Executive Assistant to Ruggerio, as quoted by Zed’s press release.

Rajan Zed is a Hindu cleric best known for delivering the first official Hindu prayer at the United States Senate. Rajan Zed’s prayer was interrupted three times by Bible-quoting Christians who were arrested and removed.

Ironically, Rhode Island was founded upon the concept of separation of church and state.

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.