EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated.

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives began its legislative day on the National Day of Prayer with a Hindu prayer, followed by similar displays from lawmakers from various Christian denominations, which the Hindu statesman Rajan Zed claims forced his prayer to be cut short.

Zed was first to the podium, a guest of State Rep. Jeremy Gray (D-Opelika). Zed was interpreted by Arpita Patel a guest of State Rep. Mike Shaw (R-Hoover).

“The fundamental principle of Hinduism is ahimsa, meaning non-violence in thought, speech and action,” Patel said. “With this this sentiment in mine, we would like to offer a prayer with you all for there to be infinite peace, good and enlightenment for all in our great state of Alabama.”

Hindu Prayer 2 Alabama News
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, interpreted by Arpita Patel, present opening National Day of Prayer in Alabama House of Representatves. Photo: Craig Monger.

Zed planned to read from the Rig Veda, an ancient Indian collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns, The Bhagavad Gita, and other Hindu scriptures. Zed recited the reading in Sanskrit, and Patel translated.

After the Hindu prayer concluded, House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) allowed prayers from other House members from different denominations.

State Rep. Margie Wilcox (R-Mobile), a Roman Catholic, subsequently offered a prayer followed by a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.

Next up, State Rep. Phillip Rigsby (R-Huntsville), a Reformed Baptist, offered a prayer of his own.

Lastly, State Rep. Patrick Sellers (D-Birmingham), a Missionary Baptist, offered the final prayer.

After the prayers concluded and the House approved several resolutions, Sellers retook the microphone to praise the “historical day in our House Chamber.”

“I am a Missionary Baptist,” Sellers said. “And if you understand being a Missionary Baptist, then you understand my heartfelt belief, tradition, training. But today, and I’m sure there was a whole lot of chitter-chatter because we started the day with our Hindu friends that were here in this chamber who come, and came, and exist in peace, love, unity, happiness, and not of war.”

“Never let us miss the differences within our culture, our training and our rearing. And me and [State Rep. Russell] Bedsole was just talking: what happens one day [when] we all get to heaven and we see people that we think wasn’t supposed to be in heaven.”

Later that afternoon, Zed sent out a statement saying that his planned prayer was cut short to make time for the other prayers.

"Arpita Patel and Hindu statesman Rajan Zed were scheduled to read their prayers for two minutes each today, which was reportedly the first Hindu prayer since the creation of the Alabama legislature in 1818," the statement read. "Zed, who is the President of Universal Society of Hinduism, travelled from Nevada for it. Dozens of area Hindu community members and friends from other faiths had come to the House to watch the historical first Hindu prayer in the House."

"Instead, a few minutes before the invocation, Zed and Patel were told to share one prayer among themselves, and they did. Usually, one invocation is held before the House session," it added.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email craig.monger@1819news.com.

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