Colleen Hanabusa – What Will You Do for Atheist Voters?

colleen hanabusa committees

To learn about the question campaign, watch this video, and join the “What will you do for the atheist voters?” campaign page.

Colleen Hanabusa, who represents the 1st congressional district of Hawaii, began her political career in 1998 as the State Senator for the 21st District of Hawaii following several decades as a labor lawyer.  Prior to obtaining her Juris Doctorate from the William S. Richardson School of Law in 1977, Hanabusa earned a Master of Arts degree in Sociology in 1975 and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Sociology in 1973 from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  While in the Hawaii State Senate, Hanabusa served as Senate Majority Leader and was elected President of the Senate in 2006, the first Asian-American woman to do so in the U.S.  After several unsuccessful bids for Congress, Hanabusa defeated incumbent Charles Djou in 2010 to win her current congressional seat, where she serves on the Committees on Armed Services and Natural Resources.  Hanabusa, who grew up in Wai’ainae, is a 4th generation American of Japanese Ancestry and the third Buddhist elected to congress.

As a freshman member of congress, Hanabusa has consistently voted the Democratic party line on matters of budget, health care and defense.  While in the Hawaii legislature, she co-chaired the investigative committee on the Felix Consent Decree for Special Needs Children.  She introduced a bill to offer tax credits to a developer with whom she had a close association, not unusual in Hawaii, but when vetoed, she sued to overturn. As President of the Senate, she routinely introduced a speaker to give the “invocation” before sessions, a clear violation of the separation of church and state.  Hanabusa, currently running for re-election against her former adversary Djou, has the backing of veteran Hawaii powerhouses, Senators Akaka and Inouye, in a state that has been controlled by a powerful Democratic Party.

In 2008, Hanabusa married state Sheriff John F. Souza III.  Souza has been involved in a number of controversial business and real estate transactions where there is at least the appearance of benefiting from his association with Hanabusa, including the Ka Olina tax credit bill.

When challenged with the question “What will you do for atheist voters?” Congresswoman Hanasuba replied with the following letter:

“Thank you for your correspondence expressing your support for the separation of church and state. I appreciate your input on this important issue.

“I share your conviction that one of the most important principals in American government is the separation of church and state. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, explicitly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” As a member of Congress, I have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution.

“Hawaii is a state made up of minorities and thus, I believe that representing diverse views is integral to effective law-making. And as your elected representative, I make a conscious effort to listen to and carefully consider ideas from constituents  and colleagues from diverse backgrounds with varying beliefs before making policy decisions and always consider the needs of the people of Hawaii first and foremost. My primary focus is to advocate for legislation that is in the best interest of the people of Hawaii.

“Again, thank you for expressing your views on these crucial issues.  I hope you will continue to contact me on federal matters of concern to you.  If you would like regular updates, please sign up for my e-newsletter at


Colleen Hanabusa