Last month, Religious Right activists in the Senate gallery made a scene by attempting to shout down a Hindu clergyman who was scheduled to deliver an opening prayer. You can watch the shameful episode here:
But as if that wasn’t bad enough, Rep. Bill Sali (R-Idaho) managed to make matters much worse last week. Sali warned that the Hindu prayer and the presence of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) – the first Muslim in Congress – were creating “problems for the longevity of this country”:
We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Those are changes — and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers,” asserts Sali.
Sali says America was built on Christian principles that were derived from scripture. He also says the only way the United States has been allowed to exist in a world that is so hostile to Christian principles is through “the protective hand of God.”
“You know, the Lord can cause the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike,” says the Idaho Republican.
Sali’s warning echoes the late Jerry Falwell’s infamous explanation of the cause of the September 11th terrorist attacks. As for Ellison, this is hardly the first time he’s come in for abuse from the Religious Right.
Personally, I’m Catholic, and I obviously don’t feel the least bit threatened by the Hindu prayer or Rep. Ellison. And as an American, and a supporter of the Constitution, I oppose a religious test for office and support religious freedom for everyone — not just those who share my faith.
UPDATE: I was reminded by commentors of the deft way that Rep. Ellison deflected the Religious Right types who attacked his taking the oath of office on the Koran.