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Candidate Blasts Ky. Gov. for Attending Hindu Ceremony

November 10, 2011

Richard Springer

David Williams, a Republican Party candidate for governor of Kentucky, ignited a firestorm of protests nationwide in the Indian American community by criticizing Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, his Democratic opponent in the Nov. 8 election, for participating in a Hindu ceremony to celebrate a groundbreaking for a $180-million manufacturing plant in Elizabethtown, Ky.

Williams lambasted the Kentucky governor for "participating with Hindu priests, participating in a religious ceremony. He's sitting down there with his legs crossed participating in Hindu prayers, with a dot on his forehead with incense burning around him. I don't know what the man was thinking."

The plant is being built by India-based Flex Films, a packaging application firm. The project will create 250 jobs in a state hard hit by the recession. Beshear, the son of a Baptist preacher, recruited Flex Films to Kentucky during a recent visit to India.

The president of the Kentucky state Senate, Williams has steadfastly refused to apologize for his remarks. He was trailing in the polls by over 25 percent at press deadline.

Williams said he objected not to Beshear attending the event, but to his "worship of idols." He added that as a Christian, he would not participate in Jewish, Muslim or Hindu prayers and hoped Hindus would "receive Jesus Christ as their personal savior."

He qualified his remarks later by saying he "strongly" believes 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 Ten Commandments, but apparently has no problem personally participating in displays of non-Christian religions."

Response was swift by Indian American organizations and some elected officials.

"The words of Sen. Williams are not only an affront to Hindu Americans, but all Americans as he conjures up the lowest sentiments of exclusion and bigotry," said Suhag Shukla, managing director and legal counsel of the Hindu American Foundation.

"Williams' remarks are shameful and should be condemned by Kentuckians and Americans alike," added Ohio Rep. Jay P. Goyal, D-Mansfield. "We live in a world today where we should be aiming to be more accepting of other cultures, and instead we have people like David Williams saying very insensitive things that deride others for showing a sense of respect for other cultures."

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