Update: Christian Protesters Charged and Released

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:32pm EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Three Christian protesters who disrupted the first Hindu prayer ever delivered on the Senate floor have been charged with misdemeanor unlawful conduct and disruption of Congress and will face a court date in the future.

Ante Pavkovic, Katherine Pavkovic and their daughter Christan Sugar were removed from the Senate observation gallery Thursday morning when they began praying loudly during the Senate's routine opening prayer. For the first time in recorded history, the morning invocation was being delivered by a Hindu chaplain.

The three were removed from the chamber immediately and Rajan Zed, a native of India who is now a U.S. citizen residing in Nevada, continued with his prayer. During the prayer, he asked for peace and spiritual unity for the Senate.

The protesters were charged with misdemeanor offenses and released, according to Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Capitol Police.

The Pavkovics and Sugar are members of Operation Save America, a Dallas-based Christian organization that "unashamedly takes up the cause of reborn children in the name of Jesus Chris," according to its website.

"We employ only biblical principles. The Bible is our foundation; the Cross of Christ is our strategy; the repentance of the Church of Jesus Christ is our ultimate goal," the website said.

In a statement released Thursday, Operation Save America President Rev. Flip Benham praised the three protesters. "Not one Senator had the backbone to stand as our Founding Fathers stood. They stood on the Gospel of Jesus Christ!"

"There were three in the audience with the courage to stand and proclaim, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me,'" Benham said. "They were immediately removed from the chambers, arrested, and are in jail now. God bless those who stand for Jesus as we know that He stands for them."

A liberal religious watchdog group said the outburst illustrated intolerance and hypocrisy.

"This shows the intolerance of many religious right activists," Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said in a release. "They say they want more religion in the public square, but it's clear they mean only their religion.

"I don't think the Senate should open with prayers," Lynn said, "but if it's going to happen, the invocations ought to reflect the diversity of the American people."

See Earlier Story:
Three Removed From Senate During Hindu Prayer (July 12, 2007)

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