The governor of the US state of Kentucky found himself at the receiving end of criticism from his Republican challenger, who termed his participation in a Hindu ceremony as 'idolatrous', sparking anger in the Hindu American community.
Kentucky State Senator, David Williams, a hopeful for the gubernatorial post, had lashed out at Governor Steve Beshear, for his participation in a 'bhoomi poojan' or ground breaking ceremony of a manufacturing facility last week.
Williams charged that the actions of Beshear were tantamount to "idolatry".
He stated that as a Christian, he would not participate in Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu prayers, and hoped Hindus would open their eyes and "receive Jesus Christ as their personal saviour".
The comments have enraged the Hindu American community, with the Washington-based Hindu American Foundation (HAF) strongly condemning it as a "blatant attack".
"The words of Senator 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 HAF.
"He's shown he's ignorant and intolerant -- two qualities we hope Kentuckians will reject at the polls," Shukla said.
William is challenging Beshear in the State Gubernatorial elections. He trails the incumbent by a nearly 2-1 margin in the polls.
William also criticised the Governor for sitting cross-legged with a "dot on his forehead", and described the ceremony as "polytheistic".
"He's there participating with Hindu priests, participating in a religious ceremony," Williams said during a campaign stop in Shelbyville.
"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," he was quoted as saying by the local Herald leader.
Governor Beshear's campaign issued a statement calling the State Senator's remarks "pathetic and desperate".
"Gov Beshear is proud that 250 new jobs are coming to Elizabethtown," campaign spokesman Matt Erwin said in a statement.
Nevada-based Hindu activist, Rajan Zed, too condemned William's statement.
"Kentucky governorship candidate David Williams should apologise for the reported comments about the Hindu ceremony, because if elected on November eighth, he would be the governor of all Kentuckians, including Hindu Kentuckians," Zed said in a statement.
The new manufacturing facility being established in Kentucky has come as a result of Beshear's India visit last fall.