The City of Oakdale will join the list of cities that Reno’s “acclaimed Hindu Statesman” Rajan Zed will appear at, providing the invocation for the July 15 city council meeting.
Zed made national headlines in 2007 when a Nevada senator invited him to read a prayer to the US Senate. The American Family Association called the prayer ‘gross idolatry’ since Hindus worship multiple gods and felt the prayer was outside the American paradigm of “One Nation under God.” The prayer was met with shouting from some fundamentalist Christians in the senate gallery.
Since then, Zed, with no official ties to any of the formal Hindu sects and who has never held a diplomatic post according to the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC, has been launching a promotional spree soliciting himself to be invited to various cities to give their council meeting invocations, often accompanied by lengthy press releases.
Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said Zed approached the city with emails last year and then again in February to see when he could give an invocation at a council meeting. The Oakdale Ministerial Association, which arranges the invocation speakers, had an opening for July 15 and scheduled him for that date.
According to his latest press release, Zed will deliver the invocation from ancient Sanskrit scriptures before the city council. After the Sanskrit delivery, Zed will read the English translation of the prayer. Sanskrit is considered a sacred language in Hinduism.
The Association of Religion Data lists that there are approximately 2,000 followers of the Hindu faith in Stanislaus County with one temple in Modesto. It is unknown how many of those followers reside in Oakdale; however no official from the Modesto temple has previously been invited to Oakdale for the city council invocation.
Additionally, with many practicing Catholics and Jews in Oakdale, and places of worship located in the city such as St. Mary’s of the Annunciation Catholic Church located on Olive Street, no priest or rabbi has been invited either in at least over three years – if at all.
“My preference is we should only allow (invocation speakers) from the Oakdale area,” said Oakdale Councilman Farrell Jackson when learning that the city scheduled Zed for the next meeting. “Not to be discriminatory, but the invocation is meant for members of the community.”
Zed’s appearances have been described as a “self-promotional tour” and have not been warmly welcomed by other Hindu leaders in the USA, recently receiving outspoken criticism in the State of Washington when he attempted similar city council invocation solicitations. Leaders of three Seattle-area temples said they only knew of Zed from news accounts or not at all.
The Universal Society of Hinduism that Zed leads is practically unknown with little data available on what the organization has achieved since its founding outside of its own website.
Zed has been making other headlines and taking up issues in Hollywood. In April Zed demanded an apology from Selena Gomez for performing at the MTV awards in a traditional bindi. Zed previously made waves by protesting Paramount Pictures’ 2008 film, “The Love Guru,” as well as publicly criticizing the divorce plans of Russell Brand and Katy Perry, who incorporated Hindu traditions in their 2010 wedding ceremony.