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Study: Congress More Religiously Diverse

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Election Returns

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - You may not have faith in them but Congress has an increasingly wide selection of religious faiths.

The newly elected 113th Congress includes the first Buddhist to serve in the Senate (Democrat Mazie Horono of Hawaii), the first Hindu to serve in either chamber (Tulsi Gabbard, also of Hawaii), and the first member of Congress to describe her religion as “none” (Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona).

A new analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life finds Catholics have seen the biggest gains in Congress, picking up five seats for a total of 161 members, or 30 percent of Congress.

There wasn’t much change in the Protestant numbers, holding steady at 56 percent of Congress. Of the Protestant membership, fourteen percent are Baptist, nine percent are Methodist, eight percent Presbyterian, seven percent Episcopalian, and four percent are Lutheran.

In addition, six percent of Congress is Jewish and three percent Mormon.

For historical perspective, the first Muslim elected to Congress was Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), first elected in 2006. 2008 marked the election of the first Buddhist congressman, Rep. Hark Johnson (D-Ga.). The first Jewish person elected to the U.S. Congress was Lewis Charles Levin of the American Party in 1845. The first Mormon congressman, John Milton bernhisel of Utah, was elected 6 years later. In 2007, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) became the first member of either chamber to declare he doesn’t believe in a Supreme Being and the only Sikh congressman, California Democrat Dalip Singh Saund, first took office in 1957.

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