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Religious Minorities Elevated in Election

The 2006 elections brought the first Muslim, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), to Congress, and now the 2012 elections will bring new firsts for both the House and the Senate. 

Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) will become the first Hindu Congresswoman when she is sworn in to office in January. Gabbard, a 31-year-old Iraq War veteran, follows the Vaishnava branch of Hinduism. The Washington Post reports she hopes her Hindu faith will aid U.S.-India relations, noting that she said, “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?”

Gabbard will be moving into the seat of Mazie Hirono, a Democrat who won Hawaii’s open Senate seat on Tuesday. Hirono will be the Senate’s first Buddhist and first female Asian-American Member. 

The first openly atheist Member of Congress, Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), was defeated in his re-election bid this week.  However, another declared atheist, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), may fill that role if she wins her race against Republican Vernon Parker in an election that is still too close to call. 

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations

Published: November 9, 2012