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Faith of United States Congress members analysed

11 January 2019


Ilhan Omar on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday of last week

Ilhan Omar on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday of last week

THE new United States Congress will have the most non-Christian members of any Congress in modern times, but remains far more religious than the population it represents.

Analysis by the Pew Research Centre shows that 88.2 per cent of Congress members describe themselves as Christian, compared with 71 per cent of US adults. While just one member is religiously unaffiliated, 23 per cent of adults are (defined as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular”).

In total, 63 members are non-Christian, of which 34 are Jewish. There are also two Buddhists, three Muslims (including Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first two Muslim women in Congress), three Hindus, two Unitarian Universalists, one unaffiliated member, and 18 who declined to specify. Only two of the non-Christians are Republicans, both of whom are Jewish.

The biggest change was in the “unspecified/other” Protestant category: the 16 in this group included those who described themselves as Christian, Evangelical Christian, Evangelical Protestant, or Protestant. Presbyterians and Anglicans/Episcopalians lost the most seats in the new Congress: each lost nine.

The percentage of Christians is lower in the new intake (numbering 96) than among incumbents: 81 per cent compared with 90 per cent.

Among the new members profiled by Christianity Today are the Republican Senator Josh Hawley, of Missouri, who served as counsel with the religious liberty legal group Becket; and Ayanna S. Pressley, a Democrat Representative for Massachusetts whose grandfather ran a storefront Baptist church in Chicago.

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