Source: Tampa Bay Online
When Hardy Roberts met the woman who would become his wife, he got a bonus:
A new religion; something completely unexpected.
"When I met Leah, that was the first time I had even heard about the Baha'i faith," says Hardy.
Raised an Episcopalian, he was naturally somewhat wary. Founded in Iran in 1844, Baha'i is the youngest of the world's independent monotheistic religions.
Hardy asked Leah questions, a lot of them. What were its views on Jesus Christ? Did Baha'is reject the Bible? As a young lawyer, he liked to investigate.
Leah encouraged it. That's part of being a Baha'i, she explained. It's a faith that invites examination and queries, and encourages followers to make their own choices.
There's also no set path to conversion. When a person comes to the decision to be a Baha'i, it is generally after a long period of study and reflection. Hardy married Leah 10 years ago and shortly after, on his own accord, adopted her lifelong faith.
The Carrollwood couple now have two children - 8-year-old Jackson and 4-year-old Mercy - who are being raised as Baha'is. But as they get older, they will be encouraged to do their own investigating into the faith, and make the decision that's right for them.
For Hardy, 39, it's been a perfect fit.
"It's a very tolerant, very world-embracing religion that believes there is only one God, and that we're all children of God," he says.
The construction lawyer feels at home with its message that humanity is a single race and that the day has come for humanity's unification into one global society. He concurs with its principles of world peace, equality between men and women, the elimination of racism and that all major religions were founded by God.