Religion in Congress: Number of lawmakers who don't identify with a particular faith is on the rise
On January 5, 2013 At 10:44 pm
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The 113th Congress is a different Congress than the ones before in terms of faith–10 members of Congress have publicly said they don't identify with a particular faith according to a Pew Forum analysis. This is a marked change from just a few years ago when not a single member of Congress would say publicly that they don't have a religion or did not particularly identify with one, which shows that a taboo is being broken regarding religious identification. A number of firsts with this Congress are evident as well:
- Democrat Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is the first Hindu member of Congress.
- Mazie Hirono, also of Hawaii, is the first Buddhist senator, although she describes herself as non-practicing
- Kyrsten Sinema, a Democratic representative from Arizona, is the first member of Congress to publicly describe her religion as “none.”
- The new Hindu member of Congress was actually sworn in with the Bhagavad Gita, which is a sacred text for Hindus, with no controversy.
- The two Muslim members of Congress were re-elected–Keith Ellison (D-MN) who was the first ever Muslim elected to Congress, and Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind), who became the second in 2008.
Mormons continue to hold 15 seats in Congress, Catholics gained seven seats for a total of 163 seats, while Protestants and Jews saw their numbers decline in Congress; Jewish members lost six seats, and Protestants lost eight seats, although the research indicates Protestants hold the same proportion of seats as the 112th Congress. About one-in-five U.S. adults describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – a group sometimes collectively called the “nones;" it is this group that shows the greatest disparity between the US population and representation in Congress.
The study also shows affiliation with religion and political party:
Overall, 48% of the members of the new Congress are Democrats, and 52% are Republicans.
Looking at the partisan breakdown of the various religious groups, Lutherans are almost evenly divided between the parties (52% Democrats and 48% Republicans). The other sizable Protestant groups (Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians) – as well as Protestants as a whole – have more Republicans than Democrats. The same is true for Mormons; 12 of the 15 Mormon members of the new Congress are Republicans. Catholics are slightly tilted toward the Democrats (57%-43%). Jewish members are mostly Democratic (97%); in fact, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is the only Jewish Republican in Congress. The other non-Christian groups (Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Unitarians) are comprised exclusively of Democrats. All the members of Congress who did not specify a religion are also Democrats.
Looking at the religious breakdown of the political parties, 69% of congressional Republicans are Protestant, while fewer than half of Democrats (42%) belong to Protestant denominational families. (This includes newly elected independent Angus King of Maine, who has said he will caucus with Senate Democrats.) On the other hand, Catholics make up a greater share of Democratic members (37%) than they do of GOP members (25%). And while Jews make up 13% of all congressional Democrats (including one independent who generally caucuses with the Democrats, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont), they account for less than 1% of congressional Republicans.