Members-elect gather for the 115th Congress freshman class photo. The photo is traditionally taken before the start of each Congress on the stairs of the East Front of the Capitol. -Photo: Fred Schilling

Members-elect gather for the 115th Congress freshman class photo. The photo is traditionally taken before the start of each Congress on the stairs of the East Front of the Capitol. -Photo: Fred Schilling

The 115th Congress is predominantly Christian.

Even though the number of American adults who describe themselves as Christians has declined over the years, the United States Congress reflects the early 1960s in its religious demographic. The 115th Congress has 91 percent of its members declaring themselves to be Christians. This statistic is similar to the 87th Congress which was in the house from 1961 to 1962, among the earliest years that such data is available. About 95 percent of the representatives at that time identified themselves as Christian. In comparison, only 75 percent of U.S. citizens follow Christianity.

christians-congressFurther examination has confirmed that although Christians have maintained their dominance, the population of Protestants like practicing Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians, have declined from their 75 percent highs in 1961. In 2017, they constitute only 56 percent. Conversely, the Catholic population has increased from 19 percent in 1961 to 31 percent now. Among Republican Congress members, 291 members out of a total of 293 members are Christians. The remaining two, David Kustoff from Tennessee and Lee Zeldin from New York, identify themselves as Jewish.

The Christian religion dominates Democrats too. About 80 percent of Democrats identify themselves as Christians. Among a total of 242 Democrats present in both chambers, 28 Congresspersons identify themselves as Jewish. There are also three Buddhists, two Muslims, and three Hindus. One member identifies as a Unitarian Universalist and one member terms herself religiously unaffiliated.

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Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat elected from Arizona, is the only non-religious member of Congress. She represents an increasing number of U.S. citizens who continue to be underrepresented on the seat of democracy. Ten Democrats did not state their religious affiliation.

The Pew Research analysis found that a few religious groups, which include Jews, Protestants and Catholics, have a bigger Congress representation compared to general population. To give an example, Jews constitute two percent of the American adult population, but make up six percent of Congress. Other religious groups, like Buddhists, Orthodox Christians, and Mormons have a proportional representation on Congress compared to the U.S. general population. Only one group is noticeably underrepresented, the religiously unaffiliated. The religious “nones” now comprise 23 percent of general population but only about 0.2 percent in the Congress. Baptists suffered the biggest fall in Congress, going down by seven seats.

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