Sheryl "Sherry" Nuxoll
As Cottonwood Republican Sen. Sherry Nuxoll doubles down on her controversial comments regarding guest chaplain Rajan Zed—who opened a March 3 session of the Idaho Senate with the chamber's first-ever Hindu prayer—more religious leaders are joining in to call for an apology from the senator.
The spotlighted comment: "Hindu is a false faith with false gods."
Now, Rabbi Daniel B. Fink
has joined the ranks of those demanding Nuxoll issue a mea culpa
In a written statement, Fink, who serves as rabbi of Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel in Boise, said, "As people of varying faith traditions, we believe that mutual respect is essential for the well-being of our community and state. If we are to prosper, both spiritually and economically, we must learn to listen to one another with respect."
Fink called Nuxoll's comments "both hurtful and foolish."
He joins Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Native American spiritual leaders in calling on Nuxoll to apologize to Zed.
ORIGINAL POST: 11:15 a.m., March 6, 2015
While the Idaho Senate opened its March 3 proceedings with a Hindu prayer from guest chaplain Rajan Zed, a handful of Republican senators
remained outside the chamber in protest: Lori Den Hartog (Meridian), Bob Nonini (Coeur d'Alene), Sherry Nuxoll (Cottonwood), James Patrick (Twin Falls), Jim Rice (Caldwell), Jeff Siddoway (Terreton) and Steve Vick (Dalton Gardens).
Vick had gone so far as to lodge a complaint
against Zed delivering the invocation, but leadership opted to proceed with the prayer. Nuxoll chimed in against Zed, as well.
"Hindu is a false faith with false gods," she said.
Now, religious leaders from across the country are calling on Nuxoll to apologize.
In a letter to the Idaho Legislative Services Office, Nevada Episcopal Bishop Dan Edwards wrote that it was "disappointing to me that certain Senators protested [Zed's] prayer and spoke disparagingly of his faith. An apology certainly seems to be in order."
According to an email from Zed, more than a dozen leaders representing a range of faiths are also demanding Nuxoll apologize.
Rabbi ElizaBeth Beyer, a Jewish faith leader in Nevada and California, wrote that Nuxoll "should be called upon to offer a public apology and perhaps even be sanctioned by the Senate for her inappropriate, insensitive and insulting remarks."
Father Charles T. Durante, vicar general of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Reno, wrote that "I find it sad that some legislators in Idaho could not respect the importance of religious diversity by their presence at a brief prayer."
This is not the first time Nuxoll's comments have sparked national controversy. In 2013, the three-term House member's comments
comparing the Affordable Care Act to the Holocaust were reported across the country: "Much like the Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps, private insurers are used by the feds to put the system in place because the federal government has no way to set up the exchange."
Zed is also no stranger to controversy. As president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, interfaith ambassador of the Nevada Clergy Association and spiritual adviser to the National Association of Interchurch and Interfaith Families, he has spoken to members of the European Parliament and in 2007 delivered the first Hindu opening prayer in the United States Senate.
His appearance in the U.S. Senate sparked protest from groups such as the American Family Association and Faith2Action, and included several outbursts from members of the group Operation Save America.
Zed opened a meeting of the Boise City Council with a Hindu prayer in 2010, which also prompted protest. His invocation in the Idaho Senate was the first-ever Hindu prayer read in the chamber.