A religious leader is calling on Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams to apologize for his recent controversial remarks criticizing Democratic Governor Steve Beshear for participating in a Hindu ceremony.
Earlier this week, Williams said Beshear, who is a Christian, committed idolatry and was whorshipping “false gods” for joining community leaders in a ground blessing for an Indian-owned company.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, president of the Nevada-based Universal Society of Hindu says Williams disparaged an ancient bhumi-pujan (earth-worship) practice and owes Hindus an apology.
“There was no need to drag a sacred Hindu ceremony—which is very ancient, we’ve been doing it for a very long time—it has nothing to do with elections,” he says. “It might be ignorance, because we have the oldest and third largest religion in the world with about 1 billion adherents worldwide and 3 million in the United States. Maybe he wants to gain the political ground, but we’ve been doing this for centuries and it should not be trivialized or taken lightly.”
Beshear participated in the ceremony to celebrate a groundbreaking event for Flex Films, a company that has promised to invest $180 million in a manufacturing plant to create 250 jobs. The ancient ceremony includes participants taking off their shoes while observing a blessing through a haze of burning incense.
Williams described the governor as being involved in “polytheistic situations” and that he wouldn’t pray with Hindus in a similar situation.
Since the remarks, various Hindu leaders in Louisville and other parts of the state have come out against the state Senate president’s comments, but Zed indicates the remarks may gain national criticism as well.
“Kentuckians are a very mature and smart people, and they will not buy into these kind of immature statements. All the politicians, nationally and internationally, have been participating in Hindu ceremonies before,” says Zed. “It is not something that the Kentucky governor did new. President Obama recently celebrated this at the White House and other governors have also been participating in Jewish, Hindu and Muslim ceremonies. It does not make you less of a Christian to be involved in someone else’s ceremony.”
The Williams campaign has not responded to our request for comment.
Dismissing accusations of religious intolerance, Senator Williams sent the following statement defending his criticism of the governor because he believes Beshear—who recently declared November “King James Version of Bible Month—doesn’t stand up for Christian values.
“To be clear, I very much support economic development and strongly believe in freedom of religion. What I cannot understand is why Governor Beshear has a long pattern of opposing outward displays of the Christian faith such as Christmas trees, prayers before high school football games, and posting the 10 Commandments but apparently has no problem personally participating in displays of non-Christian religions.
“I see nothing wrong with a governor attending a religious gathering and respecting other cultures. But for him to engage and participate in a Hindu religious ceremony where prayers are being offered to gods in which he does not believe is not only disrespectful of Hinduism but stands in direct opposition to his own expressed Christian faith which recognizes but one God. It also flies in the face of his previous record of stamping out religious displays in governmental settings, which all happened to be Christian in nature.”