The two self-identified Seventh-day Adventist members of the United States Congress are part of a shrinking cohort of Protestant Christians in the legislative body, a Pew Research Center analysis revealed.
The 115th Congress of the United States, which was sworn in on January 3, 2017, is 91 percent Christian, Pew said in a study titled "Faith on the Hill." That number is not far diminished from the 95 percent claiming Christianity during the 87th Congress, which sat from 1961 to 1962, and is the earliest session for which religious affiliation data is available.
"Protestants made up fully three-quarters of the 87th Congress, compared with 56 percent of the current Congress. Meanwhile, Catholics, who made up 19 percent of the 87th Congress, now make up 31 percent of the body"
The Congress of the United States is constituted for two-year terms, which is also the length of office for an elected member of the House of Representatives. United States Senators sit for six-year terms, but they, too, are members of each two-year Congressional session.
All but two Republican members of the 115th Congress are Christians, the only exceptions being House members Rep. David Kustoff of Tennessee and Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York, both of whom are Jewish. Pew reports 80 percent of Democrats claim Christian affiliations, but there are also “28 Jews, three Buddhists, three Hindus, two Muslims and one Unitarian Universalist – as well as the only member of Congress to describe herself as religiously unaffiliated, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz,” according to the report.
Ten members of Congress declined to provide information on their religious affiliation to CQ Roll Call, the Capitol Hill reporting service whose data Pew analyzed. Those 10 are all Democratic Party-affiliated members of Congress.
There are seven fewer Protestant members of Congress in the 115th session than there were at the beginning of the 114th Congress, Pew said, while four more members claimed Roman Catholic affiliation, bringing the Catholic representation, in both parties, to 168 for the new Congress. Congressional representation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, popularly known as the Mormons, fell to 13 this year from 16 in 2015.
There are more Buddhists and Hindus — three representatives from each of these groups — serving in Congress than there are Muslims, of which there are only two. And, the Muslim representation may diminish if Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., is elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Ellison said he would resign his Congressional seat if he gains the top party leadership post.
As Pew noted, however, it is the Christian composition of the U.S. Congress which has undergone the greatest change since 1961, the year President John F. Kennedy was inaugurated.
“Within Christianity, however, Congress has seen a major shift as the share of Protestants has declined, a trend mirrored in the overall decline of the U.S. Protestant population. Protestants made up fully three-quarters of the 87th Congress, compared with 56 percent of the current Congress. Meanwhile, Catholics, who made up 19 percent of the 87th Congress, now make up 31 percent of the body,” Pew noted.
The complete report from the Pew Research Center, a Washington-based nonprofit research group, can be viewed online at http://www.pewforum.org/2017/01/03/faith-on-the-hill-115/#fn-27321-1.