It seems that yesterday, for the very first time, a Hindu Chaplain gave the morning invocation to the US Senate. This historic event was disrupted by three protesters belonging to the anti-abortion group “Operation Save America.” Ante and Katherine Pavkovic and their daughter Kristen shouted, “Lord Jesus, forgive us father for allowing a prayer of the wicked, which is an abomination in your sight. This is an abomination. We shall have no other gods before You.” Several times Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) ordered them to be removed from the chamber, but as they were escorted out they continued shouting, “No Lord but Jesus Christ!” and “There’s only one true God!”
Personally, I completely disagree with the entire practice of having an opening prayer in the Senate Chamber. As much as the religious right tries to convince us otherwise, the United States is not a Christian nation. Yes, we have Christians. Yes, the majority of Americans claim to be Christians. Also, yes, Christians deserve the right to congregate and speak just as everyone else, but religion, in any form, does not have any place in the US Senate; whether official, or ceremonial, or simply because it is the tradition.
Operation Save America issued a press release rife with inaccurate portrayals of the Founding Fathers and their supposed “[standing] on the Gospels of Jesus Christ!” I’ll ignore how completely wrong they are, but not without saying this: The Founding Fathers did not stand on the Gospels of Jesus Christ, or any other religious text. They stood on the Constitution. That’s it. Though many of them were Christians and much of the constitution was based on Christian principals (and any number of other universal principals), they took painstaking efforts to keep organized religion out of the Constitution and to avoid the institution of an official Church of the United States.
Now, if we are going to allow Christians from a wide spectrum of Christian sects*** to serve as Senate Chaplains and invoke the name of Jesus Christ in prayer when the Senate comes into session, then we ought to extend the same courtesy to other established and credible religions. We should do this because the Founding Fathers made a point to keep religion out of the Constitution and to keep the United States from establishing an official Church.
Until the day when the only invocation allowed on the floor of the Senate is that of the Constitution, I think it is only fair to be fair.
*** - Religious affiliations of Senate Chaplains since 1789
- Episcopalian - 19
- Methodist - 17
- Presbyterian - 13
- Baptist - 6
- Unitarian - 3
- Congregationalist - 1
- Lutheran - 1
- Roman Catholic - 1
- Seventh-day Adventist (current) - 1
Total Christian - 62 Other religions - 0