America's religious diversity on the rise

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 2 2013 2:30 p.m. MST

In this Oct. 19, 2010 file photo, Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii participates in Meet the Candidates Forum at Maunawili Elementary School in Kailua, Honolulu.

Rebecca Breyer, Associated Press

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Our take: The past year has seen many examples of diversity in America's religious landscape. And First Amendment scholar Charles Haynes writes in a recent Washington Post column that the decline of Protestantism countered by the rise in other new and old faith traditions will result in a more vibrant society. "Religious diversity helps level the playing field, giving people of all faiths and none freedom to compete in the marketplace of ideas."

The first Hindu elected to the House of Representatives, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, will take the oath of office in a few weeks — and she has chosen to place her hand on the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text of her tradition.

Meanwhile, the woman she replaces in Congress, Mazie Hirono, will be sworn in as the first Buddhist elected to the U.S. Senate.

Welcome to the new religious America.

Religious diversity, of course, has long been part of the American landscape. But in 2012, religious minorities became newly visible and vocal in a society historically dominated by the symbols, values and leaders of the Protestant faith.

Read more about the rise of a new religious America on The Washington Post.

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