In an exclusive independent news media collaboration, the Iowa Informer and Meanwhile in Hawaii have obtained previously unreleased video and audio of Chris Butler’s LGBTQ hate speech, in addition to video of Tulsi Gabbard at a recent event worshiping Butler.
WARNING: This story includes graphic homophobic language that may be disturbing to some readers.
When US presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard apologized in January for her history of fighting against basic civil rights for the LGBTQ community, she discussed growing up in a “socially conservative household” and said, “I look forward to being able to share more of my story and my experiences growing up, not as an excuse, but in the hopes that it may inspire others to truly live aloha.”
Since then, however, Gabbard — who is slated to speak this evening at LGBTQ Presidential Forum in Cedar Rapids — has swiftly dodged questions about her “experiences growing up,” particularly questions about her continued devotion to her life-long guru, Chris Butler, and his Science of Identity Foundation (SIF).
Former Butler followers recently leaked decades of his LGBTQ hate teachings to an independent news site in Hawaii, MeanwhileInHawaii.org, including video and audio of Butler’s hate speech. The Iowa Informer has confirmed the authenticity of these files.
Butler’s SIF is essentially a breakaway sect of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krishna movement. Although Butler has a long history of political involvement in Hawaii, Gabbard and her staffers have repeatedly claimed that any questions about Butler’s influence on Gabbard or her campaign amount to “Hinduphobic bigotry.”
The truth is, Gabbard tells only a small part of her story when she discusses her “socially conservative father,” Hawaii State Senator Mike Gabbard, as the root cause of her anti-LGBTQ history.
Audio, video, and over 8,000 pages of transcripts detailing Butler’s teachings over 28 years tell a deeper, more concerning story. Newly surfaced video clips of Gabbard and several of her staffers worshiping Butler at a late 2018 SIF event also raise questions about Gabbard’s continued deep ties to Butler and his sect.
In the undated clip below, Butler, who is now in his early 70s, uses vulgar language in a comment about homosexuality and AIDS.
Gabbard has repeatedly praised Butler, who also goes by Kris Butler, Jagad Guru, Srila Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa, and Srila Prabhupad. She first publicly praised him as her “guru dev” in a 2015 video. She also praised Butler’s “wonderful spiritual practice” in a November 2017 interview with The New Yorker and claimed she had “never heard him say anything hateful, or say anything mean about anybody.”
Gabbard praised Butler again in a New York Times article published this August. “He’s essentially like a Vaishnava Hindu pastor,” she said. “And he’s shared some really beautiful meditation practices with me that have provided me with strength and shelter and peace.”
But in a lecture to his disciples on December 24, 2004, an excerpt of which is embedded below, Butler referred to homosexuals as “demons,” called the ACLU a “demoniacally motivated group,” complained about “fags kissing,” and mocked Kwanzaa as a “phony holiday” started by “some black prisoner felon.”
Former members of SIF interviewed for this story who, like Gabbard, were exposed to the group’s teachings from an early age say it’s not possible that the congresswoman was unfamiliar with Butler’s virulent rhetoric as she recently claimed. The Informer requested comment from Gabbard’s presidential press team about this and other details in this story. Erika Tsuji, a Gabbard spokesperson, responded by requesting that we provide her “the content you have reviewed,” adding, “I’m not sure if the congresswoman will comment, but she will need to see what it is you want her to comment on.” The Informer offered to clarify any specific details. Tsuji did not respond. Gabbard herself also did not respond to a separate message sent directly to her campaign email account.
PFLAG Mom vs. the Gabbards
“To try to act as if there is a difference between civil unions and same-sex marriage is dishonest, cowardly and extremely disrespectful to the people of Hawaii,” then-Hawaii State Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on civil unions in February 2004. “As Democrats, we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.”
Later in 2004, Gabbard replied to a Honolulu Magazine question about her father’s congressional race, “I smell a skunk. It’s clear to me you’re acting as a conduit for the Honolulu Weekly and other homosexual extremist supporters of Ed Case”.
At the time, Mike Gabbard was a Honolulu city council member running as a Republican for the Hawaii Congressional District 2 seat that Tulsi now holds. (Case won that seat in 2004 and currently serves as the state’s Congressional District 1 representative.)
Mike Gabbard has a notorious history in Hawaii of aggressively opposing LGBTQ civil rights. He started a group with other Butler disciples called Stop Promoting Homosexuality America, and he hosted a hate radio show called Let’s Talk Straight. Mike and his wife Carol Gabbard (Tulsi’s mother) also ran an SIF school on the Hawaiian island of Oahu called the Ponomauloa School. Mike still lists this experience on the biographical page of his website.
Also in 2004, Carol Gabbard was on the Hawaii State Board of Education, actively fighting against protections for LGBTQ youth who were being bullied at school. Tulsi helped her mother with that cause, fervently denying that any significant bullying of LGBTQ students was occurring in Hawaii’s public schools.
Carolyn Golojuch, a former president of the LGBTQ-rights organization PFLAG, once ran against Carol Gabbard for a Hawaii school board seat. She says she ran because she knew Carol’s main agenda, like her husband Mike’s and her daughter Tulsi’s, was to oppose LGBTQ rights in schools. Though Golojuch was unsuccessful her bid for a seat, she continued to regularly attend school board meetings to “keep an eye on Carol Gabbard.”
Golojuch says she remembers Carol Gabbard repeatedly bringing up opposition to LGBTQ student rights at the school board meetings, often at seemingly random times.
“The nonsense she would bring up that wasn’t even on the agenda,” Golojuch said. “This one time she went off on transgender youth, and she said, ‘We have to have some laws to prevent these students — they wake up one morning and they decide they’re gonna be a girl, or maybe they decide they’re gonna be a boy.’
“I just wanted to scream,” Golojuch continued, “And so we had to get the ACLU [involved].”
Golojuch’s son, Michael Golojuch Jr., now chairs the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. Shortly after Tulsi Gabbard released her apology video to the LGBTQ community, Golojuch Jr. released a detailed statement on Facebook titled, “Explaining Why Tulsi Gabbard’s ‘Evolution’ is a Farce.”
“I was there in the room on Thursday, February 19 2004 when Tulsi Gabbard broke with protocol to attack not only House Bill 1024, a Civil Unions bill, but also her fellow Democrats, as well as to continue the family business of attacking the LGBTQIA community,” Gololuch Jr. wrote. “Tulsi’s voice on that night was mixed with rancor and glee … On this date she was 22, so not a child by any stretch of the imagination.”
Initiated Names, Political Disciples, and Graphic Hate Speech
Mike, Carol, and Tulsi Gabbard are all still Butler disciples. Their Butler-initiated names are, respectively, Krishna Katha das, Devahuti dasi, and Shraddha.
Butler’s transcribed teachings from 1978 to 2006 include 128 uses of the slur “fag” or “faggot.” In a 2002 lecture, Butler and his disciples can be heard laughing as he viciously demeans homosexuals and refers to God as “the supreme homophobe” and “the supreme anti-faggot guy, the supreme fag-fighter.”
In other lectures, Butler refers to homosexuals as “cockroaches” that should be exterminated, and he engages in alarming, historically inaccurate hate speech against Muslims.
Butler’s underhanded involvement in Hawaii politics dates back to the late ’70s, when the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Advertiser reported Butler’s heavy involvement in his followers’ launch of a political party called Independents for Godly Government. At least a dozen Butler followers have either served or run for public office in Hawaii, including Mike Gabbard, Carol Gabbard, Tulsi Gabbard, Kathy Hoshijo, Bill Penaroza, former Hawaii State Senator Rick Reed, and former Maui council member Wayne Nishiki.
Former SIF members who grew up worshiping Butler and attended SIF schools — as Tulsi Gabbard did — say they were made to repeatedly listen to Butler’s hateful, sexually graphic lectures as children. Ian Koviak of Portland, Rama Ranson of San Francisco, and four other former Butler devotees (who wish not to be named for fear of SIF retaliation), all confirm that the voice in these audio clips is Butler’s. Details in the Butler video, audio, and transcript documents also all correspond.
Koviak, whose mother began following Butler when he was a child, said of Tulsi Gabbard’s claim that she has never heard Butler say anything mean or hateful about anybody, “It’s not only unlikely, it’s preposterous to say that she didn’t hear these lectures. Her father was on the forefront of the anti-gay movement, and those lectures are directly tied to that time.
“And there were a ton more lectures,” Koviak continued, “describing in detail scat, pissing, glory holes, bestiality, and just about every other sex act in gory detail as his disciples laughed.”
Like Koviak, Ranson was raised in SIF by parents who worshiped Butler. He began cutting ties with the sect as a teenager when he began to view it as a cult. His brother, Sudama “Laks” Ranson of Kailua, Hawaii, and his mother Robyn Ranson, of Twizel, New Zealand, both remain deeply devoted to Butler. Ranson says Butler disciples excluded him from his father’s funeral in New Zealand, where SIF is highly active.
The 8,000-plus page document of Butler’s transcribed lectures was first leaked to Ranson by a former Butler follower in Eastern Europe, who came across one of Ranson’s anti-Butler Facebook pages. SIF is also active in both Poland and Russia, as documented by the Polish mother of a young man who became involved in worshiping Butler.
After obtaining the transcript document, Ranson emailed it to MeanwhileinHawaii.org. When this reporter then confirmed and released excerpts of the transcripts via Twitter, another former Butler follower — who also wishes not to be publicly named for fear of retaliation from SIF members — saw the tweets and came forward with the Butler audio and video evidence.
After listening to the newly surfaced audio evidence, Ranson said, “Hearing that is just haunting. It takes me back to hearing that stuff when I was a young child and just both how ridiculous the things he’s saying are and how ridiculous our situation was to be subjected to that as young kids.”
Tulsi at Late 2018 SIF Event
Unlike Koviak, Ranson and others who left, Tulsi Gabbard chooses as an adult to remain in SIF, devoted to Butler. She can be seen worshiping Butler in two video clips recently uploaded by a SIF member at a September 2018 kirtan, or devotional chant, gathering in Hawaii.
In the first clip, Gabbard dances and chants before an altar with her mother Carol, her congressional Chief of Staff Kainoa Penaroza, and her fundraiser Alana Penaroza (Kainoa’s wife). Abraham Williams, Gabbard’s campaign videographer and husband, plays drums at the event next to Gabbard’s father on guitar. Gabbard, in a black shirt and white camisole, dances to the right of her mother and to the left of Alana Penaroza, who wears a long yellow dress, beginning 8 seconds into the clip.
The gathering appears lovely, with many young people peacefully dancing and chanting Hare Krishna and the names of other Hindu deities. The altar, however, departs significantly from ISKCON tradition. Small statues of the Hindu deities Krishna and Radha and a painting of Hindu lords Chaitanya and Nityananda are overwhelmed by an enlarged photograph of a young Chris Butler’s face on stretched canvas. There are no pictures of other humans on the altar. Noticeably absent is any depiction on the altar of ISKCON founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
In the second video clip at the same event, Gabbard stands with her mother and her father-in-law, Tim Anthony (Williams’ step-dad). Carol Gabbard appears to hand Tulsi something to bring to the altar 6 seconds into the clip as Anthony looks on immediately behind them.
Butler, now in his early 70s, has become reclusive and suffers from hypochondria. He rarely attends SIF gatherings in person, though he does still occasionally attend via video conference. He requires his disciples to wear respiratory masks in his presence, covers the walls of his home with aluminum foil, and implements a quarantine policy for new disciples who come to Hawaii to serve him.
Neither Butler nor SIF has ever apologized for Butler’s decades of LGBTQ hate speech. The Informer reached out to SIF President Jeannie Bishop for comment by phone and email but she did not respond.
Many in the Hawaii LGBTQ community say they consider Gabbard’s apology insincere, as she continues to serve and worship Butler.
“Due to Gabbard’s ugly past LGBT stances and the facetious way she handled her evolution around marriage equality — at first stating that she believed the US government should not be involved in any sort of marriage licensing — I knew that she had not changed her thinking,” said Eileen McKee, an LGBT Caucus representative with the Democratic Party of Hawaii. “Couple that with her continued support and devotion to the homophobe Chris Butler, many of us in the gay community of Hawaii know she is not being sincere with her recent apology video.”
The Informer also reached out to the sponsors of today’s LGBTQ presidential forum in Cedar Rapids: One Iowa, the state’s most prominent gay-rights group; GLAAD, a national watchdog organization focused on anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the media; and The Advocate, a prominent gay-rights news magazine. None responded to our requests for comment by deadline.
As the truth about Butler’s LGBTQ hate teachings and his underhanded political involvement become better known beyond Hawaii, will Gabbard still look forward to sharing her “experiences growing up”? Will she tell her constituents the truth, or continue protecting and serving Chris Butler?