The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Buddhists in Congress?

I’m off to a slow start with blogging in the new year, but have a couple of posts coming up tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s an interesting tidbit I came across while searching for a reference for an upcoming post. Apparently, there are two Buddhists among the new members of Congress who will soon be sworn in.

Representative-elect Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat who ousted Representative Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic primary, became a Buddhist decades ago, though his family does not share that faith. A spokesperson said that Mr. Johnson plans to use a Bible, citing tradition.

Besides, there is no book in Buddhism that’s equivalent to the Bible or the Koran, said Representative-elect Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat. She said she probably would not use any book, but that in the past, when she was sworn in as lieutenant governor, she used a friend’s family Bible.

Ms. Hirono does not practice daily, but she is influenced by Buddhist values. It is “characteristic of Buddhism that there is respect and tolerance for other religions,” she said.

It’s the first one that gave me pause. Hank Johnson, a black Buddhist, got elected in Georgia? The only thing I can guess is that he kept that on the down-low, while making the obligatory rounds to churches on Sunday. He must not have told anyone, because I can’t imagine that a majority of Georgians in almost any district would elect a non-Christian to office.

Then again, it’s Cynthia McKinney’s district, so it probably leans progressive anyway.

But still. That just kinda blew my mind for a minute.

Kudos to the congressman-elect, tho’.


  1. I’m in Hank Johnson’s district. Actually, Cynthia McKinney is also sort of a religious minority for the district… she’s Catholic. Hank Johnson never mentioned religion and ran on a platform of being more serious and understated than Cynthia McKinney. Our district (the east side of inner Atlanta and some of the outer) doesn’t strictly lean progressive but it is majority African-American and very diverse. Republicans don’t get elected here, all the action is in the primary.

    Hank Johnson is associated with Sokka Gakkai International. I doubt he will do anything to draw controversy to himself because of his desire to present himself as the anti-Cynthia. Maybe controversy will find him anyway, like Ellison.

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  3. If I were elected to congress, I can think of a few books I’d like to use to be sworn-in with.

    Starting with “It Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do.”

    It’s way better than the bible.

  4. The number of black Buddhists in Georgia (well, the Atlanta area) is steadily growing. I stumble upon them in the oddest circumstances (like the Barnes & Noble checkout).

    I was a bit surprised Hank Johnson won for other reasons. But McKinney really dug a nice hole for herself. Karma baby, karma!

  5. I must admit that I was a little surprised when you said Hank Johnson was a Buddhist from Georgia. I figured it would be someone from California. But it is very cool that he was elected, because I can’t ever see something like that happening here in Michigan.

  6. We have to defend the long standing history of swearing to the BIBLE in our country. The more we change our customs and acknowledgement that GOD is in our nation’s foundation, we will surely slip away.

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  8. I checked out the Captain’s blog, with it’s homophobic pseudo-Christianism. If that’s what the Bible we’re “supposed” to be swearing on is about, I wouldn’t be caught within a mile of a Bible at a swearing ceremony. How about the Bill of Rights? That would make a nice platform for a hand. Or how about Tom Paine’s The Age of Reason?

  9. Actually, “the Captain” is as dreadfully misinformed as most Americans seem to be on the matter. As the article linked in the post points out, the swearing in of members of congress is a private ceremony that takes place with no religious texts at all. Something Rep. Goode should have known.

    The bible gets dragged out for photo-ops after they’ve taken the actual oath, probably because such photo-ops appeal to the very same people Goode was appealing to with his comments.

    Additionally, even regular citizens don’t have to “swear on the bible” when taking, say, an oath in court. They may swear an oath without “swearing on” any text.

    Fortunately, there are no religious tests are required to qualify for election to congress or citizenship. Not yet, anyway.

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