Religious Makeup of the New Congress Overwhelmingly Christian | Sojourners

Religious Makeup of the New Congress Overwhelmingly Christian

Image via RNS/Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

The United States Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center.

Nearly 91 percent of members of the 115th Congress convening on Jan. 3 describe themselves as Christian, compared to 95 percent of Congress members serving from 1961 to 1962, according to congressional data compiled by CQ Roll Call and analyzed by Pew.

That comes even as the share of Americans who describe themselves as Christian (now at 71 percent) has dropped in that time, Pew researchers noted.

The new Congress does include seven fewer Protestants, four more Catholics, and six fewer Christians as a whole.

Like the rest of the country, Congress has become less Protestant, according to Pew. The share of Protestants in Congress has dropped from 75 percent to 56 percent since the 1960s, while the share of Catholics has jumped from 19 percent to 31 percent.

And 13 percent of its new members affiliate with non-Christian faiths, nearly double the share of non-Christian incumbent members, according to Pew. More than half of those non-Christian freshmen are Jewish (8 percent), the largest share of Jews in any freshman class, researchers noted.

Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, aren’t the only demographic to outstrip the general population in Congress. There also is a larger share of Jewish members of Congress (9 percent) than there is of Jewish Americans in the country as a whole (2 percent).

Representation by Buddhists, Mormons, Muslims, and Orthodox Christians in Congress is roughly proportional to their population size.

But the growing number of religiously unaffiliated Americans, including atheists and agnostics, remain underrepresented.

The “nones” make up 23 percent of all Americans, according to Pew, but just .2 percent of Congress: Only Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, describes herself as religiously unaffiliated.

Pointedly, Sinema does not identify as non-theist, atheist, or nonbeliever, which means there are no openly atheist members of Congress, and haven’t been since Rep. Pete Stark, a Democrat from California, was voted out of office in 2012, according to Hemant Mehta, who writes the Friendly Atheist blog.

There are more atheist Americans (just over 3 percent) than Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist (each, less than 1 percent), according to the 2016 Pew Religious Landscape survey.

Religious affiliation differs in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and by political party.

All but two of the 293 Republicans in the new Congress are Christians. Those are Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York and Rep. David Kustoff of Tennessee, both of whom are Jewish.

The 242 Democrats in Congress also overwhelmingly are Christian (80 percent). But Democrats also include 28 Jews; three Buddhists; three Hindus; two Muslims; one Unitarian Universalist; Sinema, the one religiously unaffiliated member of Congress; and 10 members who declined to state their religious affiliation, according to Pew.

Both the House (91 percent) and Senate (88 percent) are majority Christian – specifically, Protestant (55 and 58 percent, respectively). One-third of the House is Catholic, compared to one quarter of the Senate, and all five Orthodox Christians in Congress are members of the House.

The Senate includes just nine members of non-Christian faiths: Eight are Jewish, and Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, is Buddhist.

Via Religion News Service.