Legislators start days with act of faith

Each weekday floor session of the Assembly and state Senate has opened with a prayer from ministers, priests, rabbis, Native Americans and, this session, even Teji Malik, a spiritual leader of the Sikh faith in Las Vegas.

This session clergy members from Las Vegas have been given an opportunity to deliver some of the prayers by teleconference. Previously all prayers were delivered in person in the state Senate and Assembly chambers.

Clergy members are paid $35 per prayer. The coordinator of the prayer program is paid $2,000 for the session. Rick Combs, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said many clergy members refuse to take the stipend.

The Sikhs are a monotheistic religion that originated in India in the 15th century. Because members wear turbans, they sometime are mistaken for Muslims, including in August when six were killed in a Milwaukee temple by a neo-Nazi.

Malik’s prayers were warmly received by legislators.

“We may belong to different faiths and religions, but our deeds should manifest our lives towards all we are responsible for,” he prayed on April 2.

Last week Joel Ferguson, a Buddhist leader in Las Vegas, delivered the state Senate prayers. He explained the philosophy of Buddhism and noted members recite the phrase “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.”

Ferguson’s talks were interesting, but senators had a difficult time reciting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

In an April 4 prayer in the Assembly, Rabbi Bradley Tecktiel even said legislators do “holy work.”

Another warmly received prayer was delivered by state Sen. Patricia Spearman, who is a minister of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministers in her private life.

“As you were present at the beginning of time, and brought order out of chaos, be present with us today as we deliberate matters that affect the lives of all Nevadans,” Spearman prayed on April 12, concluding by praising Muslim, Jewish and Christian brothers and sisters.

Back in the 1990s, state Sen. Lori Lipman Brown refused to participate in some of the prayers because many concluded with the mention of Jesus Christ. Lipman was Jewish.

Legislative leaders asked that prayers be less specific, refer mainly to God, using various names by which different faiths call God.

Today, some ministers occasionally mention Christ, but usually prayers are made by the clergy, including Sikh, in ways that all can participate.

— Ed Vogel


U.S. Sens. Harry Reid and Pete Domenici worked side-by-side for 22 years on the Senate subcommittee that funds energy and water programs. They traveled the country together; their wives became close. Reid delivered a heartfelt tribute when the New Mexico Republican retired from the U.S. Senate at the end of 2008 after 36 years.

But talking with Las Vegas Review-Journal staffers on Friday, Reid made a startling, or maybe not-so-startling, disclosure: His longtime friend became persona non grata following his shocking announcement in February he had fathered a child out of wedlock 35 years ago with Michelle Laxalt, the daughter of then-Nevada Sen. Paul Laxalt.

Domenici was 46 at the time. Michelle Laxalt was 24.

Talking Friday about efforts in Congress to boost mental health care, Reid credited the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., with leading the charge.

Domenici also was a strong advocate, Reid said. But, he added, “I don’t mention Domenici’s name anymore because of what he did to Michelle Laxalt.”

Domenici, who is about to turn 81 and is a senior fellow at a Washington think tank, asked for an appointment last week, and, “I wouldn’t let him come and see me,” Reid said. “But anyway, that’s another story.”

— Steve Tetreault

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.