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June 16, 2010

S.C. Gov. Race Heats Up over Haley's Religion

GOP front-runner Nikki Haley's conversion to Christianity from Sikhism is causing a stir in the primary race for governor of South Carolina.

CNN reports that her ties to the Sikh tradition have left some evangelicals in the state uneasy. She has said that she regularly attends a Methodist church but occasionally visits a Sikh temple in honor of her family.

Haley, who faces a runoff against her opponent on June 22, recently launched an ad with an appeal to her faith. "I am a woman that understands, through the Grace of God, with him all things are possible," she says at the end.

Gina Smith of The State reports that Haley's conversion came after her marriage.

Haley’s campaign has said in recent weeks that, since her 1997 conversion to Christianity, she consistently has attended a Methodist church and occasionally attended Sikh services at her parents’ request. Haley and one of her brothers converted to Christianity as adults; her parents and two other siblings are Sikhs.

Haley’s conversion at the age of 24 was influenced by her husband, Michael, raised as a Methodist.

The two married in 1996 in two ceremonies, one Methodist and one Sikh.

“(Religion) was something (husband Michael and I) talked about a lot,” Haley said Monday. “He was brought up Methodist, Christian, and I was brought up Sikh, and so you talk about the similarities and you talk about the differences, and even more so when you’re getting married and you’re going to have kids, it becomes a very real thing on how you want to raise your kids.”


The photo on the right was posted on Haley's website before Easter. "This is a wonderful time to remember the greatness of God’s love and His sacrifice for us while we are surrounded by the ones we love," she said.

Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts apologized but refused to resign over calling Haley a “raghead.”

Update: Gerald McDermott, religion professor at Roanoke College and author of God’s Rivals, spoke with CT by e-mail about some of Sikhism's defining traits.

They combine teachings of Hindu bhakti (devotion to a personal god) and Muslim mysticism (direct communion with the divine in Sufism).

Sikhs are monotheists who reject Hindu idolatry and the caste system. Unlike Muslims, they believe there was new revelation after the completion of the Qur’an—particularly to their founder Guru Nanak (b. AD 1469).

They are known for the five k’s: kesa (uncut hair), kangha (a comb to show they have not renounced the world), kara (a steel bracelet), kachh (short breeches to show cleansing), and kirpan (a sword for protection, but often just an outline etched in the comb).

On her website, she recently changed the wording on her website to the question, "Is Nikki a Christian?"

Truth: In Nikki’s words: “My faith in Christ has a profound impact on my daily life and I look to Him for guidance with every decision I make. God has blessed my family in so many ways and my faith in the Lord gives me great strength on a daily basis. Being a Christian is not about words, but about living for Christ every day.”

A few months ago, the response offered different wording:

Truth: Nikki is a Christian. In her words: ‘I believe in the power and grace of Almighty God. I know, and have truly experienced, that with Him all things are possible. I have looked to Him for leadership throughout my career and will continue to do so as governor.


This is hypocrisy; Sikhs and Christians have different Gods and the two cannot be practiced concurrently.

She is trying to please everybody. By claiming as a Sikh, she has received funds from India, UK, Canada, etc. (That is how most of the money she raised for campaign came from out of South Carolina.)

And by pretending Christian, she is trying to obtain votes within South Carolina.

It's really sad to see that not only did she have to embrace a new faith to run for office but she has to vigorously denounce her old faith repeatedly to appease Christians.

What's even sadder is that her character is being called in to question because of her faith and not because of her past sex scandals.

I dont understand why we r still so narrow minded?whts matter frm which religion person belongs, the thing tht matter is, can this person serve our country properly or not?Sadly for many ppl the isuue is, frm which religion particular person belongs, no matter she/he is capable person or not.

If these christians were not so narrow minded and bigoted, then there would be no reason for people like Nikki to pretend to be Christians.

Why cant these crazy christians treat others and their religion with honor and dignity, instead of hatred ?

"Sikhs and Christians have different Gods and the two cannot be practiced concurrently."

While it might be difficult to practice both religions concurrently, both Christianity and Sikhism hold a strict belief in one God.
Opening sermon of the Sikh's holy scriputres are translated as follows:
There is one supreme eternal reality; the truth; immanent in all things; creator of all things; immanent in creation. Without fear and without hatred; not subject to time; beyond birth and death; self-revealing. Known by the Guru’s grace.[25]

I am not buying the Christian conversion, I believe that she knew she would not make it in SC politics if she were not of the Christian faith. Man cannot serve two gods, either you will hate the one and love the other....there is ONE God and One mediator between God and Man, the Man is Christ Jesus...to continue to worship in another religion even to please the parent is contrary to the word of God.

I thought they didn't cut their hair. That's just Sikh.... get it? :)

Only in South Carolina...

RedState did a post on this and comes out pretty strongly that Nikki Haley is being unfairly maligned here, and that her faith is genuine: http://www.redstate.com/erick/2010/06/16/the-christianity-scam/

"either you will hate the one and love the other....there is ONE God and One mediator between God and Man, the Man is Christ Jesus"

Hate...huh. You should not hate.

"“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Yoda, Jedi Master

This is just sad. Who cares what faith Nikki Haley is? This is supposed to be a SECULAR country. (First Amendment, hello?) The question SHOULD BE is she competent to fulfill the duties of the office? If yes, vote for her if you want. If not, then don't vote for her. Is anyone holding a gun to your head on this vote? Nikki Haley should not have to discuss or disclose her religion, her sexual preferences, etc. Her finances- yes, Previous employment yes. What is wrong this country? If we truly believe that we are a nation of immigrants, welcoming to all faiths, then LIVE it- don;t backtrack on it because someone is or was a different religion that you know zip about and feel threatened by.

Wow! I'm so impressed how so many people seem to intimately know what is on Nikki's heart and the nature of her true relationship is with Jesus. I'm as cynical as anyone when it comes to what politicians will do for votes, but UNLESS proven differently, the rest of us should not be so presumptive over Nikki's faith. God knows the truth, which is what really matters.

Religion matters because it determines how you treat other people. If we were a country of Hindus, for example, we would have a country that resembles India. If we were all Muslims, we'd resemble Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or Algeria. Is that what we want? Notice that the best countries are all principally Christian .

Well its up to her which religion she follows but its for sure she should be on one side sikhism/christianity.Sikhs have sufficient devoted successful sangat to profess their faith & we dont require her ..its insulting if she says that she is "ALSO SIKH ".we wont allow any sikh body to honour her on the basis of her sikh heritage in Punjab ...plz dont find this as hardliner statement ....BKI Zindabad

I'm not concern that she is a christian or not but if she can govern. I preferred Mormon Matt Romeny over Mike Huckabee because I thought that Romeny had was better at govening. God can use non-christians as well to governed.

There's a great Indian restaurant owned by Sikhs in Charleston, SC. I'd vote for Haley, just for the appetizers.

Sometimes religion can be a means to achieve political ambitions. I do not know for Haley's intention. You are right Marcia. Religion matters not because of faith element but because of the number of voters.

She doesn't practice Sikhism. She attends teir service with her parents sometimes. How is that any different from when Christian politicians put on a yamaka and go to synagogue?

Sounds like Ms. Haley is like many Americans who are trying to find their way in the world...striking a balance between their own faith with the tradition their parents hold (and their parents' parents). I know a lot of people who struggle with this. It's not hypocrisy, it's how you function in today's world. her efforts to find a balance seems fine with me.

Maybe she really converted to Christianity, maybe she is trying to please her husband, maybe the voters. If she truly became a Christian, I hope she will reexamine whether to attend Sikh services with her parents. The reason many Christians feel it is OK for a Chritian to attend Jewish services and not Sikh services, is that Judaism is based on the Old Testament and worship the same God. Even Jesus and the disciples attended synogogues and the Temple and accepted the Old Testament as Scripture. Sikhs do not worship the God of the Bible.