Washington, DC – Today the opening prayer before the United States Senate was led by Chaplain Rajan Zed, the first Hindu to lead either chamber of Congress in prayer.  Chaplain Zed, who was invited to come to Washington by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), illustrates the need for religious pluralism which is not being met by Senate Chaplain Barry Black.  The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of The Interfaith Alliance issued the following statement:


I applaud the United States Senate for inviting Chaplain Rajan Zed to deliver the opening prayer in the Senate today.  The United States enjoys a vastly diverse religious landscape, including one and a half million Hindu Americans.  The Interfaith Alliance is dedicated to promoting a society in which all faith traditions are respected for their immeasurable contributions to our society.  If religious leaders are tasked with delivering prayers before our elected officials, they should reflect that rich diversity.  I hope that Chaplain Zed’s presence will foster greater appreciation for religious pluralism.


This commitment to religious pluralism is needed, considering some recent statements Senate Chaplain Barry Black.  Chaplain Black, a Seventh Day Adventist, came on my radio show, State of Belief, earlier this year and stated said that senators have only one constituent whom they need to please: Jesus.  He also said he does not personally minister to Senate members and staffers who are not Christians because of the differences in their faith traditions.  I hope that Chaplain Black will value, appreciate and learn from Chaplain Zed’s prayer.

Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.