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Religion in Congress: Number of lawmakers who don't identify with a particular faith is on the rise

Religion in Congress: Number of lawmakers who don't identify with a particular faith is on the rise

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.

About Dakota O'Leary

Dakota O'Leary is a freethinker, and often sassy, scholar of theology and literature. She got her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Theology from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and her Master of Arts degree in Theology and Literature from Antioch University-Midwest. She is a contributing writer focusing on eschatology, biblical prophecy, and general religious news. Dakota is a co-host of the God Discussion radio show, offering insight to the news stories of the week. We like to call her "our in-house Biblical prophecy expert" as her articles on eschatology have received over 200,000 views on God Discussion.
  • How about all the female members of Congress which is higher than ever? How do they stand religiously or non-religiously?

    • As the article said, only ten members of Congress total were said to non-religiously affliated. The rest aren't telling, so it's kind of hard to figure that out.

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