February 2021 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

Religious diversity in the United States is on the upswing, with growing numbers of Americans saying they no longer have an official religious identity.

But this diversity isn’t reflected in the U.S. Congress. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center of the 117th Congress found that 88% of members of the House of Representatives and Senate are Christian, a figure that in the general population now hovers around 65%.

Pew found that of the 535 members of the House and Senate, 294 identify as Protestant Christians. Thirty-three members are Jewish, and 158 are Catholic. Congress contains nine members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, three Muslims, two Buddhists and two Hindus. (Eighteen members of Congress declined to specify a religious affiliation.)

Although religiously unaffiliated Americans have been growing in numbers, they remain under-represented in Congress. Only two members, U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), say they have no particular religion. (Huffman refers to himself as a Humanist.) Three members are Unitarian Universalist, a non-creedal religion that includes many Humanists.

Pew found some interesting differences between the political parties. Most of the non-Christians in Congress are Democrats. The Republican Party remains heavily Christian, with 99% of its members in Congress identifying as Christian. Of that number, 68% are Protestant.

Observed Pew, “Since the early ’60s, there has been a substantial decline in the share of U.S. adults who identify as Christian, but just a 7-point drop in the share of members of Congress who identify that way. Today, 88% of Congress is Christian, while 65% of U.S. adults are Christian, according to Pew Research Center surveys.”