Slight Decline in Christian Lawmakers as 116th Congress Begins

Slight Decline in Christian Lawmakers as 116th Congress Begins
A woman clutches a Bible as she prays for divine intervention for the American government on Capitol Hill on May 3, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — The 116th Congress sworn in today includes a 3 percent drop in the number of lawmakers identifying as Christian, with small upticks in members identifying as Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist, and those declining to state.

According to the Pew Research Center, Christians in Congress “are still overrepresented in proportion to their share in the general public” — 88.2 percent of Congress is Christian, while 71 percent of U.S. adults say they are, though in a denominational breakdown 5 percent of Americans are Pentecostal while just 0.4 percent of Congress is.

Out of 471 lawmakers, 293 say they are a Protestant denomination — with “unspecified” denominations and Baptists leading the list — and 163 are Catholic. There are 10 Mormons, including both of Utah’s senators, and 5 Orthodox Christians.

There are 34 Jewish lawmakers this Congress and two Buddhists — Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). There are three Muslims: Reps. Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). There are also a trio of Hindus: Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.).

Just 0.2 percent of Congress claims no religious affiliation — one member, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — while 23 percent of American adults identify that way.

Yet while just one percent of American adults refuse to state their belief or lack of it, 3.4 percent of members of Congress won’t say. This includes Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who says he doesn’t know if God exists and has identified in the past as humanist.

The religious survey of lawmakers’ beliefs didn’t measure the degree of their religious observance.

The 115th Congress was 90.7 percent Christian, with 299 Protestants and 168 Catholics. The biggest decline among denominations from the last Congress to the new Congress was among Anglicans/Episcopalians and Presbyterians. There was one Christian Scientist in Congress, but no longer.

More of the Senate identifies as Protestant — 60 percent, compared to 22 percent Catholics — while the House is 32.5 percent Catholic and 53.7 percent Protestant.