114th Congress Heavily Religious According to Pew Survey; Close to 92 Percent Christian

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington January 24, 2012.
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington January 24, 2012. | (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

The 114th Congress, which is to be sworn in on Tuesday, is heavily religious in its makeup, a Pew Research Center study has revealed. Close to 92 percent of representatives identify as Christians, which is almost 20 percent more than the general population, while only a single member is religiously unaffiliated.

Pew published the results of its survey on Monday, and included a table offering a side-by-side comparison of the religion makeup of members of Congress as opposed to the general population of America.

The survey queried all 491 members in Congress, and found that 57.2 percent identify as Protestants – more than the 49 percent of the American public. Another 164 members or 30.7 percent of Congress members identified as Roman Catholic, compared to 22 percent of the population. Furthermore, 5.2 percent of Congress is Jewish, while only 2 percent of Americans answered the same.

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While nine representatives refused to answer the survey, only a single one – Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, or 0.2 percent of Congress, selected the unaffiliated option. Pew Surveys have found that as much as 20 percent of Americans, on the other hand, are religiously unaffiliated.

Other national surveys, such as statistics published by Gallup, put the number of Americans without a religion slightly lower for 2014, at 16 percent.

Some atheist observers, such as "The Friendly Atheist" blogger Hemant Mehta, suggested that there are more religiously unaffiliated members of Congress, but "they dare not say so because it would be political suicide where they come from."

Pew's findings for the religious makeup of the 114th Congress are similar to the 113th Congress, when 90 percent of representatives said that they are Christians.

There were also notable differences in religion among party members – while 81.6 percent of Democrats said that they are Christians, a full 99.7 percent of Republicans said the same – with only a single Republican identifying as Jewish. Pew noted that seven members of Congress, all in the House of Representatives, are ordained ministers – four Republicans, and three Democrats.

"Although Congress remains predominantly Christian and majority Protestant, it is more religiously diverse than it was in the 1960s and '70s," Pew said.

"Comparing the 114th Congress with the 87th (1961-1962), for example, the share of Protestants is down by 18 percentage points, while the share of Catholics is up by 12 points. The percentage of Jewish members in Congress is up 3 points."

Back in November, Republicans took control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, winning majority in both chambers of Congress.

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