Religious composition of 113th Congress historically more diverse

Feb. 22, 2013 at midnight
Updated Feb. 21, 2013 at 8:22 p.m.

A study released in November by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports the 2012 113th Congress is more religiously diverse than it ever has been throughout history.

The 113th Congress is the current session of U.S. House and Senate elected officials.

While the majority of Congress is primarily Protestant, the numbers have declined from 50 years ago when it made up three-quarters of the body.

Below are some facts about the religious composition of the U.S. House and Senate, including a few historical firsts for Congress.

1. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), was elected the first Hindu to serve in either chamber of the legislative branch of federal government. Gabbard took the oath of office on the Bhagavad Gita, or Hindu scripture, instead of the Bible, Torah or Quran.

2. Sen. Mazie Keiko Hirono (D-Hawaii) was elected the nation's first Buddhist to serve in the U.S. Senate. She previously held Gabbard's U.S. Representative seat. In 2006, Hirono and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) were the first Buddhists to be elected to the House. They were joined by a third Buddhist member four years later, Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii).

3. In 2012, Syed Taj (D-Michigan) lost his bid to become the nation's third Muslim member of Congress. The first Muslim to serve in Congress was Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) elected in 2006. Two years later, Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) became the second Muslim elected to serve in the House.

4. In 2007, Unitarian Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) was the first Congressional member to publicly announce that he does not believe in God. He lost his re-election race in 2012.

5. Catholics in Congress gained more members overall, picking up seven seats, for a total of 163. They make up 30 percent of the body.

6. Protestants and Jews saw the biggest decline in numbers. Jews hold 33 seats, or 6 percent of the body, a drop from 39 seats, or 7 percent from the previous year.

7. Protestants lost eight seats and fell from 57 percent of seats in the 112th Congress to 56 percent this year.

8. About seven in 10 Republicans are Protestant. Fewer than half of Democrats are Protestant.

9. Mormon representation in Congress did not change from the previous year. They hold 15 seats, or about 3 percent of the body.

10. Only one member of Congress, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is publicly religiously unaffiliated, or a self-described "none." Sinema is the first Congressional member to describe herself as a "none."

11. There are no Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or religiously unaffiliated Republicans in Congress.

12. All members who declare their religion as Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Unitarian Universalist or refused to claim a religious affiliation are Democrats.

SOURCE: Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life



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