"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Them what don’t belong

On Monday we noted that most of what had surfaced about freshman Republican Representative Bill Sali‘s tenure in Congress has been ordinary – the usual run of national and regional issues, discussed with ordinary conservative slant. Look on his web site and that’s what you’ll see: Nothing out of the usual for a Republican congressman.

Which doesn’t mean, as we semi-pointed out, that there isn’t more to the picture. As emerges, for instances, in the fallout from the July 12 Hindu prayer in the U.S. Senate. That event marked the first time a person of that faith had delivered the prayer, and that expression of religion was met with sounds of protest in the gallery – three people who shouted “No Lord but Jesus Christ,” “There’s only one true God,” and called the prayer an “abomination.”

Sali did not issue a press release on the matter. But he did have this to say to the American Family News Network:

Although the event generated little outrage on Capitol Hill, Representative Bill Sali (R-Idaho) is one member of Congress who believes the prayer should have never been allowed.

“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.

According to Congressman Sali, the only way the U.S. can continue to survive is under that protective hand of God. He states when a Hindu prayer is offered, “that’s a different god” and that it “creates problems for the longevity of this country.”

When we asked Wayne Hoffman, Sali’s press spokesman, about the context of the comments (and whether they were accurate), he at first couldn’t recall the comments, then quickly corrected himself: “Ah, I get it now . . . Congressman Sali was invited to be on American Family News, a nationally syndicated talk show. This would have been last week, and the comments were made during that show. . . . I would hasten to add that several bloggers have gone into a weird place with regard to this comment, adding bizarre analysis onto this. I’d take it for what it says, nothing more.”

Okay . . . So, first, the Family News article is evidently accurate enough, and fairly represents what Sali said – at least, Hoffman didn’t indicate it didn’t. You don’t have to stretch far to see a reasonable source for some of the critical comments piling up, on matters from the apparent misunderstanding of the Hindu faith to the idea that a prayer delivered by a member of a faith adhered to by many Americans (more than 900,000) would endanger the nation’s future. (Not to mention the constitutional ban on religious tests for office.) By all means scan the debate (66 comments at this writing) at the American Family News article on Sali – you’ll see the religious conservative nerve touched here, and get a sense of some of the counter arguments.

Sali’s critics may have to look farther afield than just the official record to find their best grist. Evidently, though, it’s there.

RESPONSE A comment from Hoffman on the precedingpost: “Randy, I feel the need to clarify the post you have on your website. Congressman Sali was merely expressing a personal opinion, based on his strong belief in the need to reach out for God’s guidance at the start of each day. That’s all. He bears no ill will toward Hindus, and he has no issue with working with Representative Ellison, nor with the fact that people of his district elected him. If you have questions, please ask.”

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  1. Bubblehead said:

    My question for Congressman Sali, which I’ve asked him before (and gotten no response) is this: If it’s his personal opinion that non-Christians shouldn’t be heard in Congress, and since the national leader of his church teaches that Mormons aren’t Christians, is it Rep. Sali’s “personal opinion” that Mormons shouldn’t be heard in Congress? I’m sure there are a healthy portion of his constituents who would like to know the answer to that one.

    August 9, 2007
  2. Bubblehead said:

    I was also interested to notice Rep. Sali’s description of the Hindu prayer as being to a “different God” rather than a “non-existent God” — does this mean that the Congressman actually believes that there are a multiplicity of Gods? Very progressive of him…

    August 10, 2007

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