Writings and observations

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

The phrase “religious equality” turned up last year in a U.S. Supreme Court decision – in the minority opinion, though there’s no particular reason the majority would have argued with it – defined this way: “the breathtakingly generous constitutional idea that our public institutions belong no less to the Buddhist or Hindu than to the Methodist or Episcopalian.”

The Hindu reference will have some resonance, of various sorts, at the Idaho Senate. Last week, for the first time, the Senate received its morning invocation from Rajan Zed, the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism. It was a choice that must have been approved, or at the least not opposed, by the Senate leaders, primarily President pro tem Brent Hill and Majority Leader Bart Davis. It’s not hard to imagine them giving their assent, or even encouragement.

So credit them, and maybe others as well, for giving the Idaho Legislature an unusual basis for asserting that it’s more open-minded and inclusive than many people think.

And the message from Zed was hardly (or ought not to have been) at all exotic: “Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.”

Most of the Senate was there to hear it. Seven members were not. Four of the absentees said they were late getting to the chamber; that could be the case since traditionally, people don’t walk on or off the floor during the prayer. (Prayer is an official part of legislative business in Idaho; in the Senate it together with the pledge of allegiance is the “second order of business.”)

The other three – Senators Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens; Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood; and Lori Den Hartog, Meridian, all Republicans – appeared to absent themselves from the chamber simply out of protest. Nuxoll, in one of those quotes that fast shot around the world, remarked that “Hindu is a false faith with false gods.” Hartog expressed discomfort with participating in a prayer ceremony from a religion that wasn’t hers.

Nuxoll’s response got most of the attention – it’s not every day a state legislator so derisively dismisses the beliefs of a billion people – but Hartog’s is even more worthy of note. Her unease with the idea of involving herself with a religious activity – a prayer – which is not of her own faith, a discomfort apparently strong enough that she could not be physically present for it, is understandable and not unique. It could in fact give her some cause for reflection. Many people in Idaho are not Christians, and yes there are more than a few, and they understand it daily when governmental services are launched with a Christian (and maybe on unusual occasions a Jewish) prayer.

That means she might adopt one of two positions: Either prayers ought to be dropped as a formal part of governmental activities, so all citizens would be equally comfortable being there; or say that she thinks Christians alone are citizens with a proper role in government, and others are second-class and ought not to show up.

Hill and Davis evidently would reject both of those propositions, in favor of acknowledging a wide variety of perspectives. A question: If asked, how would the people of Idaho come down on this?

In the meantime, the intentionally absent senators might have benefited most of all from hearing Zed’s words: “Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.”

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Idaho Idaho column

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Looking at IACI’s self-review (Boise Statesman)
Unusual winters at Yellowstone (Boise Statesman)
No apology from Nuxoll for remarks on Hindus (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune)
Legislators working on more gun legislation (Lewiston Tribune)
Ammo business exec speakers to Lewiston GOP (Lewiston Tribune)
Levies set for four Latah school districts (Moscow News)
Study suggests hot and dry ahead in western US (Moscow News)
Nampa legislators look into urban renewal (Nampa Press Tribune)
CWI starts a law enforcement training program (Nampa Press Tribune)
Constitutional carry bill fails for year (TF Times News)
State council on federal lands possible (TF Times News)

Eugene mental health clinic erred on medication (Eugene Register Guard)
City rules may delay massive downtown complex (Eugene Register Guard)
Wildlife plan not yet complete at Lower Klamath (KF Herald & News)
Atkins named as secretary of state (Medford Tribune)
School tracks in wet areas, may be upgraded (Medford Tribune)
State debating GMO rules (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Hermiston considers electricity rate increase (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Kitzhaber seeks to keeo emails private (Portland Oregonian)
About Nestle pursuit of Gorge water (Portland Oregonian)
Huckestein named permanent Chemeketa president (Salem Statesman Journal)

30 acres of shellfish shore restored (Bremerton Sun)
Local housing agency leader retires (Bremerton Sun)
New Monroe school superintendent named (Everett Herald)
Body cams coming for Columbia Co cops (Longview News)
North Bonneville plans to open city pot shop (Tacoma News Tribune, Longview News)
Businesses optimistic about economy (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman)
Whaling by Makah could return (Seattle Times)
Idaho senator won’t apologize over Hindu comment (Spokane Spokesman)
Gun activist rally held at federal building (Spokane Spokesman)
GOP rejects plans for oil-safety bill (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima manager doesn’t win Arizona job (Yakima Herald Republic)

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