WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 (AP)--A major conservative group is complaining that an invitation to a Hindu priest to give the prayer at the opening of a House session is another indication of the nation drifting from its Judeo-Christian roots.

``Our founders expected that Christianity - and no other religion - would receive support from the government as long as that support did not violate peoples' consciences and their right to worship,'' said the Family Research Council, a leading advocacy group for conservative causes.

``They would have found utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference,'' the group said in a comment posted on its Web page.

Last Thursday, a Hindu priest from Parma, Ohio, delivered the opening prayer to the House in conjunction with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee addressing a joint meeting of Congress.

The guest of Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Venkatachalapathi Samuldrala was the first Hindu ever to give the House invocation.

``As for our Hindu priest friend, the United States is a nation that has historically honored the One True God,'' the council said. ``Woe be to us on that day when we relegate Him to being merely one among countless other deities in the pantheon of theologies.''

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a religious liberty watchdog group, said the statement ``reeks of religious bigotry'' and shows a ``remarkable lack of respect for religious diversity.''

Bridget Fisher, spokeswoman for Rep. Brown, noted that there are 1.4 million Indian-Americans in the country and it is ``unfortunate that the Family Research Council interprets the Constitution to say that religious freedom means Christian supremacy.''

The House has a full-time chaplain, currently a Roman Catholic priest, but on occasion invites guest religious leaders to deliver the opening prayer. Last week, in another first, the prayer was given by a Roman Catholic nun.

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