New York: The US state of Idaho’s Catholic leadership has declared that a state senator’s anti-Hindu views run counter to the teachings of the Church and Pope Francis’s support for inter-religious dialogue.
When Universal Society of Hinduism President Rajan Zed recited prayers for the state senate’s March 3 session in Boise, Senator Sheryl Nuxoll boycotted the invocation and said that she believed the US is a Christian nation and “Hindu is a false faith with false gods”.
Her opinions “do not represent the opinions or teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, (Boise) Bishop Peter Christensen or even our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who has been an outspoken supporter of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue,” a statement from the Boise Diocese said.
“Nuxoll’s comments reflect her own personal opinions,” the statement said. Nuxoll, who is a Catholic, was one of three Republican senators to boycott Zed’s prayer, although Republican Senate President Pro-Tem, Brent Hill, had invited Zed to be the guest chaplain. Zed’s prayer was non-denominational and Hill said, “it refers to deity supreme”.
After the senate prayer, Zed met the Boise Catholic Diocese’s Vicar General for Clergy, Monsignor Joseph A. da Silva, and Chancellor Marcella Wilske. Zed said they had “a dialogue on various interfaith issues”.
Jewish and other religious leaders have demanded an apology from Nuxoll. “Being a public official who is expected to represent all citizens, it is highly inappropriate and insensitive for Nuxoll to unnecessarily label a major religion as ‘false,’ as there are about three million Hindus in US, including some in Idaho,” said a letter signed by 28 clergy members and others last week.
According to ‘The Jewish Daily Forward’, Rabbi Daniel Fink of Boise’s Jewish Congregation Ahavatah Beth Israel organised the letter campaign through the Idaho Interfaith Equality Coalition.
Even before the letter was sent, Nuxoll had ruled out any apology and invoked Mother Teresa. “I said it was a religion with false gods. I’m not going to give an apology,” the ‘Spokesman-Review’ newspaper quoted her as saying earlier this month.
“I felt I had to abstain, because I’m not going to be praying to false gods. I’m a believer like Mother Teresa that everybody should be the best they can,” she added.
She also reiterated her belief that the US Constitution is “based on Judeo-Christian principles”. “I’m in a floor session bound to follow the Constitution,” the Spokesman-Review quoted her as saying. “It is a Christian nation based on Christian principles.” The US constitution is secular and prohibits the establishment of official religion.
According to the newspaper, Nuxoll said she received many emails “running me down”, but also some supporting her. She singled out one email backing her “from a lady who said she had lived with the Hindus”. Nuxoll said that the woman wrote “there was a great amount of infanticide and abortion.”