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Religious background of the new Congress

Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver made headlines on the opening day of Congress when he added “a-women” to the close of his prayer. His remarks, which drew scorn from all sections of the political spectrum, drew attention to the religious composition of the House and Senate.

Congress remains overwhelmingly Christian (88 percent), and heavily Protestant (55 percent), the Pew Research Center found. A total of 294 House and Senate members are Protestant Christians out of a possible 535, nearly the same as the last Congress, Religion News Service reported.

Like the previous Congress, too, the 117th Congress is also unlike America as a whole when it comes to faith allegiances. Whereas about a quarter (26 percent) of U.S. adults are religiously unaffiliated — describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or having no particular religion — Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, is the only member of Congress to identify as religiously unaffiliated. Rep. Jared Huffman, a California Democrat, describes himself as a humanist. Both Sinema and Huffman have said they do not consider themselves atheists. Eighteen others declined to specify a religious affiliation.

Pew found a growing number of congressional members do not identify with a particular denomination. Ninety-six members of Congress said they are simply Christian or Protestant. Several religious groups are overrepresented in the new Congress. Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, but 6 percent of the new Congress (or 33 members). Catholics, who make up about 20 percent of the U.S. population, comprise 30 percent of the new Congress (or 158 members). Likewise, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Methodists also are overrepresented. Pentecostals were underrepresented. They make up 0.4 percent of Congress vs. 5 percent of all U.S. adults.

Among other findings:

  • Nine Mormons are in the 117th Congress.
  • The new Congress, like the old, has three Muslim representatives.
  • It also has two Buddhists: Rep. Hank Johnson and Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, the same two who served in the previous Congress.
  • There are two Hindus in Congress — Rep. Ro Khanna and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, both returning members.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice