How Congress’ religious makeup differs from rest of America Jan 6, 2021 20:34:09 GMT 10
Post by Wayne Smith on Jan 6, 2021 20:34:09 GMT 10
How Congress’ religious makeup differs from the rest of America
A new study shows that, when it comes to religion, the Senate and House of Representatives are less than representative of America.
While the religious makeup of the 117th Congress is similar to the one that preceded it, the breakdown by faith reveals a Congress that is both markedly more religious — there isn’t a single self-described atheist among the elected officials — and differently religious than the country it serves. Some faith groups are underrepresented while others have an outsize presence, Pew Research Center reported.
The study also illuminates religious differences between the Republican and Democratic parties, which can add to partisan tensions.
Here are the key takeaways from Pew’s study:
Most members of Congress identify as Protestant
While the number of Christians in America has continued to decline in recent years, the number of Christians in Congress has increased since Pew began tracking the religious affiliation of elected officials in 2009.
Almost 90% of the 117th Congress is Christian, according to Pew, in comparison with 65% of the American public.
The upper and lower houses of Congress have a strong Protestant majority, with Catholics coming in a distant second. The House is 54.5% Protestant and 30.9% Catholic. The gap between the two Christian denominations is bigger in the Senate, where 59.2% of seats are held by Protestants and 24.5% are held by Catholics.
Both Protestants and Catholics are more heavily represented in Congress than they are in the general population, Pew reported. However, nondenominational Protestants, Baptists, and Pentecostals are all underrepresented.
As to why Congress is more religious than America, some clues, perhaps, lie in the incoming or reelected officials who were — or remain — pastors, including Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who sparked controversy on Sunday when he closed a congressional prayer with “Amen and a-woman.”
Speaking to the Deseret News earlier this year, Cleaver explained that he was called to run for political office as another means of serving the public.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) — a freshman representative who is a nurse by training and who got her start in politics as an activist with the Black Lives Matter movement — and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) also previously led congregations.
If elected in the hotly contested Georgia Senate runoff, the Rev. Raphael Warnock will be another pastor joining the congressional ranks.
When it comes to smaller faith groups, only the Jewish community is overrepresented
There is a much higher proportion of Jewish people in Congress than in the country as a whole. Although they make up only 2% of America’s population, Jews constitute 6.2% of the two legislative bodies.
When the House of Representatives and Senate are considered separately, Jewish overrepresentation in Congress becomes even more dramatic: With eight Senate seats, Jews comprise 8% of the upper house.
Similarly, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are represented in the Senate at a higher rate than they are in the House of Representatives. But, when the two houses are taken together, Latter-day Saints come in at 1.7% of Congress, which is roughly the same share of Americans who identify with the faith group.
Muslims, who comprise 1% of the country, are slightly underrepresented in Congress. The three Muslim representatives, who were all reelected after serving in the 116th Congress — make up 0.6% of the 117th Congress.
The religiously unaffiliated are overwhelmingly absent from Congress
While 26% of Americans identify as atheist, agnostic or “none of the above,” only one member of the 117th Congress describes herself as unaffiliated — Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona.
Sinema doesn’t consider herself an atheist, according to Pew.
Nearly 99% of Republicans in Congress identify as Christian
A whopping 98.9% of Republicans in the House and Senate identify as Christian. While 77.8% of Congress’ Democrats are Christian, as well, that 21 percentage point difference points to the fact that the Democratic Party is more generally more diverse than the GOP.
All but two of the non-Christians who have a religious affiliation are Democrats. Among them are three Muslim representatives, two Hindus and a Buddhist.
Republican members of Congress are more likely to be Protestant (68.2%) than Catholic (25.7%). Democrats in Congress are more evenly split between the two denominations with 43% being Protestant and and 33.7% being Catholic.
Of the 33 Jewish elected officials in Congress, only two are Republican. The other 31 are Democrats, which reflects the Jewish people’s long-standing, historical affiliation with the Democratic Party.
The nine members of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints sitting in the 117th Congress are all Republicans, Pew reported, highlighting the retirement of Democratic Senator Tom Udall from New Mexico.