American Falls nixes scheduled Hindu prayer after public reaction

The City of American Falls in Idaho has suddenly cancelled the Hindu invocation (opening-prayer), which was earlier scheduled by its Mayor for May 15, citing “community feedback”.

American Falls Mayor Rebekah K. Sorensen, who earlier scheduled this May 15 invocation on March four, in an email to distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed (who was to read this prayer) on March 25, wrote: “City attorney and Council has decided not permit any invocations”.

Mayor Sorensen further wrote to Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism: “I have no worries about a Hindu invocation and looked forward to the opportunity to bring together different people, cultures, and religions. However, doing so may create future situations that are complicated, unsavory, or not in the city’s best interest.”

“Personally, I am a religious person and believe we, as human leaders, can use all of the divine help we can get”, Mayor Sorensen added.

There has been reportedly some community feedback since news spread about this proposed Hindu invocation at the City Council, which Mayor Sorensen described as: “Some local feedback is positive, some negative”, as “residents reached out via email and in-person”.

Rajan Zed, who has delivered invocations in Idaho State Senate and Boise City Council, besides United States Senate and US House of Representatives in Washington DC; has expressed shock at the unexpected cancellation of invocation at American Falls City Council. Petitioning/pleading the God through prayer for common good helps us to grow in holiness, whichever religious perspective the prayers come from. Since all life comes from God, prayers help to link us to God, with the expectation that God hears us and blesses us; Zed points out highlighting the importance of invocation in legislative bodies.

The plurality of religious traditions has come to characterize Idaho, USA and the world. There is a need to energetically engage with pluralism, actively seek understanding across the lines of difference and remove our ignorance of one another; Rajan Zed indicates. Zed had planned to 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.

Reciting from Brahadaranyakopanishad, Rajan Zed had planned to say “Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrtyor mamrtam gamaya”; which he would then have interpreted as “Lead us from the unreal to the real, Lead us from darkness to light, and Lead us from death to immortality.” Reciting from Bhagavad-Gita, he proposed to urge city council members and others present to keep the welfare of others always in mind.

Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about 1.2 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in the USA.

American Falls, “Where the sun shines in every window”, along the edge of the Snake River with 4,428 population, was settled in 1800. Its City Council Mission Statement includes: Provide a friendly, diverse, and positive atmosphere.