116th Congress Contains Lowest Number of Christians in U.S. History

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• January 3, 2019 3:20 pm


The 116th Congress is comprised of the lowest number of Christian lawmakers since Pew Research Center began collecting data in 1961 and is a slightly more religiously diverse body than the previous Congress.

Christians now represent 88 percent of the current Congress, according to Pew Research, a 3 percent drop from the 91 percent of the 115th Congress who identified as Christian. Anglicans/Episcopalians saw the greatest losses, dropping from 44 to 35 members. Catholics lost five seats. Mormons lost three. Christian Scientists lost one seat, meaning there are no longer any Christian Scientists in Congress.  

At the same time, there are now more nondenominational or Christians of unspecified affiliation in Congress. On the whole, Congress members identifying with evangelical or unspecified nondenominational churches gained 18 seats, bringing their representation up to 80 seats.   

Many minority religious groups also made gains. There are four more Jewish members, one more Muslim, and one more Unitarian Universalist. Two of the three Muslim members are Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first two Muslim women ever to serve in the House of Representatives.

A growing number of members decline to specify their religious affiliation (or lack thereof), rising from 2 percent to 3 percent. All 18 members of this group are Democrats. In contrast, 253 of the 255 Republicans identify as Christians. The other two, Reps. Lee Zeldin, (N.Y.) and David Kustoff (Tenn.), are Jewish.

Religious representation in Congress varies greatly from that of the United States population at large. Mainline Protestant groups such as Methodists, Anglicans/Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Lutherans represent numbers in Congress disproportionate to the numbers of those congregations in the general U.S. population. Meanwhile, although Pentecostals make up 5 percent of the U.S. public, only 0.4 percent of Congress is Pentecostal.

The biggest difference, however, falls on those who identify as atheist or claim no affiliation with a religious group. In the general population, 23 percent of people say they are atheist, agnostic or "nothing in particular." But in Congress, only the recently elected Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) claims no religious affiliation—representing just 0.2 percent.

Published under: Congress, Religion