CULTURE DIGEST: Congresswoman to use Hindu text at swearing-in

Baptist Press
Posted: Dec 07, 2012 5:22 PM

NASHVILLE (BP) -- As the U.S. Congress becomes increasingly diverse, the first Hindu House member will use the sacred Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita at her swearing-in ceremony next month.

Tulsi Gabbard is the first Hindu elected to the U.S. Congress, representing Hawaii's second congressional district and she will be the first member of Congress to be sworn in with a Hindu text.

With Gabbard's election, just over 42 percent of the U.S. House, or 184 members, will be non-Protestant, according to the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life. Protestants will comprise 57.2 percent, or 246 members.

Other members in addition to Gabbard will be 134 Catholics, 22 Jewish representatives, eight Mormons, five Orthodox Christians, two Buddhists, two Muslims, eight whose religion is unspecified, one religiously unaffiliated and one Unitarian Universalist.

Anju Bhargava, founder of Hindu American Seva Charities, told The Huffington Post that Gabbard's use of the text, also called the Gita, is symbolic of the growing religious diversity in Congress.

"For Hindu Americans it is a historic moment.... It is a matter of pride that finally someone not only from our own faith, but someone who is a practicing Hindu, will be sworn in the Congress on one of the most sacred books," Bhargava said, according to The Post.

"It is my hope ... that this swearing-in will be another learning opportunity for our country about Hindus and Gita. Another step towards bringing knowledge and values of Gita even more prominently to the American political landscape so that it becomes part of the everyday vocabulary in applying the moral principles in our political arena," Bhargava said.

Gabbard has described the Bhagavad Gita, one of several Hindu texts, as her favorite, pointing out verses from chapter two defining the soul as pervading the entire body, indestructible and imperishable, and saying it cannot be "cut into pieces by any weapon, burned by fire, moistened by water nor withered by the wind."

Incidentally, Gabbard replaces Mazie Hirono, a Buddhist who left her House seat in a successful run for the U.S. Senate. Hirono will be the only Buddhist in the U.S. Senate, which will include 53 Protestants, 27 Catholics, 10 Jewish officials, seven Mormons and two whose religion is unspecified, according to Pew.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD AFFILIATE OBJECTS TO ABORTION REQUIREMENT -- A Planned Parenthood affiliate in New York state has made a break with the national organization over its abortion provision mandate.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) has required its affiliates to include abortion services by next year. The board of directors of Planned Parenthood of South Central New York voted unanimously Nov. 26 to break away from PPFA, according to YNN, a local cable news channel.

The new organization, renamed Family Planning of South Central New York, made the decision because abortions already are provided by other entities in the region, a spokeswoman told YNN. Its resources should be used for such services as family planning and testing for sexually transmitted diseases, an agency spokeswoman said.

News about PPFA's abortion mandate broke in December 2010 when its affiliate in Corpus Christi, Texas, withdrew from the organization and changed its name.

Pro-life leader Marjorie Dannenfelser criticized PPFA for its requirement.

The mandate "is the ultimate evidence that Planned Parenthood's chief concern is making money off abortion -- not the health of vulnerable women and girls," said Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

MINISTRY HELPS 38 WORKERS LEAVE ABORTION CLINICS -- A ministry started by a former Planned Parenthood center director is succeeding in helping abortion clinic workers leave the lethal industry.

And Then There Were None (ATTWN) has helped 38 workers leave the abortion business, Abby Johnson said in a recent update for the organization's supporters, according to a Nov. 26 report by LifeSite News. Johnson started ATTWN after her departure from a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas.

Her organization is helping five workers leave the same clinic in Atlanta, and three already have jobs, Johnson said in the update. It also has assisted three employees of a Houston clinic, she reported.

"hen a worker came to us from a late term abortion clinic in Houston, we were thrilled. But when she was able to reach out to two workers who were still inside the clinic ... and then was able to pull them out with our ministry's help ... we were beside ourselves," Johnson said, according to LifeSite News.

Johnson worked at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan for eight years, serving as its director for more than two years. She left her position and became a pro-life advocate in 2009 shortly after witnessing the destruction of a 13-week-old unborn baby as part of an ultrasound-guided abortion she assisted in.

MOTHER GIVES BIRTH 12 YEARS AFTER EGGS FROZEN -- An Argentinian mother has given birth to twins who were conceived from eggs frozen 12 years before, breaking the previous known record of seven years.

Monica Zapotoczny, 45, of Buenos Aires gave birth to the non-identical twins, Mercedes and Guadalupe, in January, the Daily Mail reported Nov. 18. Her husband, Guillermo Husak, 44, and she tried once more last year to have a child after several unsuccessful efforts at in vitro fertilization.

About 1,000 children in the world have been born from frozen eggs, but only 15 have been born in Great Britain during the last decade, the Daily Mail reported.

Compiled by Tom Strode and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( ) and in your email (

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