Buddhist congresswoman sworn in, urges tolerance

By Dennis Camire, Gannett News Service, January 6, 2007

WASHINGTON, USA -- While a new, Muslim member of Congress sparked a controversy for taking his oath of office with a Quran instead of a Bible on Thursday, another new member who is Buddhist was sworn in with no book at all.

<< Mazie Hirono, sworn into Congress on Buddhist precepts

Rep. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat who was raised in the Buddhist tradition, said, "I don't have a book. ... But I certainly believe in the precepts of Buddhism and that of tolerance of other religions and integrity and honesty."

Members of the House for the 110th Congress were sworn in en masse, then had individual swearing-in ceremonies with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. In many cases, members rest a hand on a Bible while taking the oath, but they're not required to do so.

Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat, took his oath on a Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Prior to his taking the oath, he was criticized by Virginia Republican Virgil Goode, who warned of an influx of Muslims being elected to public office.

In an op-ed piece in USA Today, Goode wrote, "I believe that if we do not stop illegal immigration totally, reduce legal immigration and end diversity visas, we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to infiltration by those who want to mold the United States into the image of their religion, rather than working within the Judeo-Christian principles that have made us a beacon for freedom-loving persons around the world."

Of the controversy, Hirono said, "It's about time that we have people of other backgrounds and faiths in Congress ... what happened to separation of church and state and religious tolerance? I believe in those things."