A new study found that the current Congress has the fewest Christians among its members since surveys first recorded the religious affiliation of those elected to Washington.
The Pew Research Center survey found that the current 116th Congress has 471 members who identify as Christian. That’s a drop from the 505 recorded in the 87th Congress in 1961.
Although 88 percent of the new Congress identifies as Christian, that represents a 3 percentage point drop from the 115th Congress.
The Congress that comes closest to the current one in terms of the number of Christians is the 111th Congress in which 477 Christians took part.
That Congress, like the current one, saw a rise in Democratic members. That’s significant, because in the 116th Congress, 253 of the 255 Republicans elected identify themselves as Christian. The other two are Jewish.
Among elected Democrats, the picture is very different.
Sixty-one of the 282 Democrats are not Christian. Of those, 32 are Jewish and 18 refused to specify any religious affiliation. Among the Democrats, there are three Hindus, three Muslims and two Buddhists.
The survey showed that among Christians, there have been changes in the denominations represented in Congress. Anglicans (Episcopalians) dropped by nine seats, while Catholics lost five seats.
Mormons also lost three seats.
Members of Congress who said they were evangelical Christians or were part of unspecified nondenominational churches increased by 18 seats.
23% of Americans say they are atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” In Congress, just one person – Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. – says she is religiously unaffiliated, making the share of “nones” in Congress 0.2% https://t.co/R7kKIJu5SB
— Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) January 3, 2019
Only one new member — Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — reported no religious affiliation at all.
% who identify as Christian:
Democratic voters: 57%
Democrats in Congress: 78%
— Pew Research Religion (@PewReligion) January 3, 2019
Overall, the survey showed that the members of Congress identify as Christian more than Americans as a whole, of whom roughly 71 percent say they are Christians.
“I think some of this is just that politicians change more slowly than the public in many ways and don’t want to court potential trouble with voters by admitting that they don’t have any kind of religious affiliation,” said John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, NPR reported.
Green also said that because political leaders are affiliated with core institutions in their communities, religious affiliation rather naturally follows.
“Political leaders tend to be deeply embedded in the institutional life of their communities,” he said. “They are much more likely to belong to the Rotary Club or be members of a charity or a professional association, and in most places in the United States, religious institutions are part of the local community infrastructure.”
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