Part 2:The presidential candidate, the controversial guru, the Scientology lawyer — and us!
By Tony Ortega | February 2, 2019
[Tulsi Gabbard, Chris Butler, and Anthony Glassman. Not pictured: Your proprietor]
Quote: "We had a fun surprise last night when we realized that Hawaiian media has been buzzing about a story that had a slight connection to, well, us.
You might have heard that among the hordes of people who have announced their bids or are thinking about running for president on the Democratic ticket in 2020 is a US representative from Hawaii and the first Hindu member of Congress, Tulsi Gabbard, 37.
Gabbard announced her candidacy on January 11, but already she’s run into some strong headwinds from the media. There was a piece in the Intercept, for example, that dug into her connections with Hindu nationalists in India, and her tendency to have friendly associations with authoritarian regimes in Syria and Egypt, even though she’s positioned herself as a progressive candidate.
And the press has also been very interested in her family’s background with a Hare Krishna sect that calls itself Science of Identity Foundation, under the guidance of a man named Chris Butler, 70, also known as Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa.
Gabbard tends to play down her association with Butler’s sect, but her parents clearly were very involved in the small movement, which somehow combines vegetarianism, environmentalism, and a rabid hatred of gay people.
And you thought Scientology was weird.
This question about Tulsi Gabbard’s connection to Butler and the Science of Identity Foundation is not new. In 2015, the Huffington Post dug into the story, pointing out that when Tulsi’s father, Mike Gabbard, was running for the same congressional seat in 2004 and was hoping to upset an incumbent named Ed Case, a Honolulu magazine sent an email asking the elder Gabbard about his ties to Butler. His daughter Tulsi responded, saying “I smell a skunk. It’s clear to me that you’re acting as a conduit for … homosexual extremist supporters of Ed Case.”
In 2012 Tulsi broke with her father’s views on homosexuality and embraced marriage equality, but reporters are still asking questions about her ties to the controversial Butler.
“The Gabbard family’s ties to Butler still hound her — in the hallways of the Hawaii State Capitol, on blogs of political observers, on pages of online discussion forums, and in commentary sections of various news sites,” the Huffington Post said, and that was in 2015, well before the intense glare of a presidential run. In the fall, the New Yorker provided a lengthy examination of the controversy, and even got Butler to give a rare interview.
Then, on January 27, Hawaii’s largest daily newspaper, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, looked closely at those ties, pointing out that in a 2015 video, Tulsi Gabbard referred to Butler as her “guru dev,” which the paper said translated roughly as “spiritual master.”
Butler himself turned down an interview request from the newspaper. And the Star-Advertiser turned to cult expert Rick Ross…
Rick Ross, executive director of the Cult Education Institute, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that researches and advocates against destructive cults and movements, estimated he had been in contact with more than 100 people over the years who were involved in the group. He described Butler as a “dictatorial leader” who has exploited followers of his brand of religion.
“He is a hateful person. He is homophobic. He has said horrible things about the LGBT community,” said Ross. “And he is, to say the least, not exactly an icon of either idealistic or ethical living.”
The Science of Identity Foundation responded by having its attorney, Anthony Michael Glassman, threaten to sue the newspaper. Glassman complained that the newspaper was talking to sources who “paint our clients as charlatans and hypocrites.”
An alert local website realized that Glassman was not your run-of-the-mill libel attorney. He was, in fact, one of Scientology’s busiest lawyers.
“Gabbard Cult Hires Scientology Lawyer to Intimidate Hawaii Media,” the website titled its scoop, which came to our attention last night. [POSTED ABOVE]
Oh, if our counterparts in Hawaii only knew." End quote.