Hawaii is set to elect the first Vishnu Hindu representative to United States Congress, reports state.
Democratic nominee Tulsi Gabbard, 31, is far ahead of her Republican contender Kawika Crowley according to poll results by 70 to 18 percent. She is vying for Congress in Hawaii’s Second Congressional District, which is heavily Democratic.
Gabbard, who was born in American Samoa to a Catholic father and Hindu mother, and is named after a Hindu sacred tree, is known in Hawaii for becoming the youngest state representative to be elected to legislature. At age 21, she served as representative for the local Oahu district.
Following Gabbard’s tenure, she joined the military and served in the Hawaii National Guard. In 2004, she was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, where she worked as a medical operations specialist. In 2008, she trained officials in Kuwait in counter-terrorism.
While many have largely embraced Gabbard in her bid for United States Congress, others have expressed concern in the past about Hinduism being represented and proliferated in the nation’s capital.
In 2007, when Hindu Rajan Zed was asked by Senate Majority leader Harry Reid to open the Senate with prayer, the occasion was met with protest from attendees in the balcony, as a man could be heard declaring, “Lord Jesus, forgive us for allowing the prayer of the wicked. This is an abomination in Your sight. This is an abomination! You shall have no other gods before Me!” Police escorted the protesters out of the room, and later charged them with disrupting Congress, a misdemeanor.
Zed’s prayer began with, “We meditate on the transcendental glory of the deity supreme, who is inside the heart of the earth, inside the life of the sky and inside the soul of the heaven. May He stimulate and illuminate our minds.”
Prior to Zed’s appearance on the Senate floor, the American Family Association condemned the invitation, stating that they were disturbed that our leaders would be “seeking the invocation of a non-monotheistic god.” Representative Bill Sali of Idaho also made remarks that Zed’s invitation was “not what was envisioned by our Founding Fathers.”
As for Gabbard, it is reported that she first became a follower of Hinduism as a teenager, and espouses a belief in the god Vishnu and his “10 incarnations” — a sect of Hinduism known as Vaishnavism. She uses the Bhagavad Gita as her guidebook, which lauds Vishnu as “the Supreme Being.” While not prominent in America, there are a number of Vishnava organizations in the United States, such as the Pure Bhakti Society, which has locations in Hawaii, as well as Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, California, Oregon, Florida, Utah, North Carolina, New York and New Jersey.
Her election comes at a time when Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is also running for the nation’s highest office as president. As previously reported, Mitt Romney has stated several times on the campaign trail that “[w]e’re a nation that believes that we’re all children of the same God.” According to Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Mormons believe that God initially was a man and worked his way up to being a deity, and men can do the same.
“We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea and take away the veil so you may see,” Smith wrote. “[H]e was once a man like us. Yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ did. … [Y]ou have to learn how to be gods yourselves, the same as all gods have done before you.”
The Founding Fathers, however, in historical writings, namely referred to Christianity as being the established religion of the nation.
“It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord,” Abraham Lincoln is quoted as stating on March 30, 1863 in his Proclamation for a Day of Prayer and Fasting.
Following comments earlier this year by former presidential candidate Rick Santorum that Gabbard’s religion “doesn’t align with the constitutional foundation of the U.S. government,” she released a statement in an email to the media.
“It is stunning that some people in Congress would so arrogantly thumb their nose at the Bill of Rights,” she wrote. “When I volunteered to put my life on the line in defense of our country, no one asked me what my religion was.”
Gabbard says that she hopes to further the nation’s embrace of the Hindi culture when elected.
“It is clear that there needs to be a closer working relationship between the United States and India. How can we have a close relationship if decision-makers in Washington know very little, if anything, about the religious beliefs, values, and practices of India’s 800 million Hindus,” she stated. “Hopefully the presence in Congress of an American who happens to be Hindu will increase America’s understanding of India as well as India’s understanding of America.”