A crowd of naysayers that ranged from her cousin in the state of Washington, to Buddhist leaders in Boise, Colo., to a rabbi in Nevada has called on Idaho Sen. Sheryl “Sherry” Nuxoll (R) to apologize for calling Hinduism a “false faith with false gods.”
While the self-described mother, housewife and co-manager of a farm/ranch in Cottonwood, Idaho, has admitted she could have turned a better phrase, she has refused to say the words many people want to hear: “I’m sorry.”
Nuxoll and two other Republicans refused to attend the opening of an Idaho Senate session March 3 that was scheduled to include the first Hindu prayer ever heard in that legislative venue. The invocation was delivered by Rajan Zed, the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism.
Republican senators Steve Vick, Lori Den Hartog and Nuxoll returned to the floor of the Senate when Zed finished his prayer. Vick and Den Hartog made it clear that they were not happy with the Senate session being opened with a Hindu prayer.
Other senators also expressed their unhappiness with the decision to open the session with the first Hindu prayer ever heard on the floor of the state Senate. But no one other than Nuxoll came close to saying they were objecting to a false faith.
Hindu and Buddhist leaders have accused Nuxoll of adding insult to injury in an interview with a reporter from the Idaho Statesman.
“Hindu is a false faith with false gods,” she said. “I think it’s great that Hindu people can practice their religion, but since we’re the Senate we’re setting an example of what we, Idaho, believe.”
And the firestorm was lit.
More than one billion people in the world describe themselves as followers of Hinduism. It is one of the world’s four largest religions. More than 1.2 million people are believed to be practicing Hindus in the United States.
“Being a public official, it was highly inappropriate and insensitive for Ms. Nuxoll to call a major religion ‘false,’” Dan Black, the director of the Boise Institute for Buddhist Studies, and other Buddhist leaders in Idaho said in a joint statement.
“To show responsibility, respect and understanding that her words were hurtful to the Hindu community, Ms. Nuxoll should apologize,” they added.
Christian leaders have also said Nuxoll needs to apologize.
“An apology certainly seems to be in order . . . we believe that truth is best discovered where all viewpoints can be expressed,” Dan Thomas Edwards, the Episcopal bishop of Nevada, wrote in a letter to the Idaho Legislative Services Office.
“As a former Idahoan who dearly loves the Gem State, I was pleased that the Idaho State Senate invited Rajan Zed to say the invocation at a recent session. . . . It was therefore disappointing to me that certain senators protested his prayer and spoke disparagingly of his faith,” he also wrote.
Father Charles T. Durante, a senior Roman Catholic pastor, said it was “sad that some legislators in Idaho could not respect the importance of religious diversity by their presence at a brief prayer.”
Rabbi Elizabeth Beyer, a Jewish leader in California and Nevada, crossed state lines to say 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.”
One of Nuxoll’s cousins even got in on the act.
Joan Kopczynski wrote a letter to the editor of the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., to put it on the record that she had been embarrassed by what Nuxoll had said.
“Not long ago, Idaho gained a bad reputation for being racist and intolerant by virtue of the Aryan Nations locating there. Now, it’s receiving negative publicity again over Sheryl’s anti-Hindu remarks and actions,” Kopczynski wrote.
“Although we all have the right to our own bigoted beliefs, the question is whether an elected official has a right to voice those beliefs publicly. I don’t think so.”
Yet through it all, Nuxoll is standing as tall as an Idaho firefighter during the state’s inferno-producing wildfire season.
This is not the first time the winds of controversy have blow against her. Nuxoll compared Obamacare to the Holocaust in 2013, and raised the possibility of an Electoral College boycott because of President Obama’s re-election in 2012.
She didn’t hesitate to tell her fellow legislators that her decision to leave the Senate floor during the Hindu prayer was not an issue of religious freedom.
“Our state Constitution and federal Constitution are based on Christianity, and that we have a Christian prayer every day, and that I was really opposed to having prayer that wasn’t Christian in the Senate that morning,” she told OneNews Now.
Nuxoll also said that she was not about to apologize for her deeply held beliefs.
“I may not have been politically correct in my terminology, on one little sentence, but how can I apologize for what I believe in?”