Tags: religion | capitol | hill

Catholics Rule Congress, But Others Catching Up

Wednesday, 31 Dec 2008 09:23 AM

By Rick Pedraza

Protestants, who account for more than half of the upcoming 111th Congress at 54 percent, are losing ground quickly to other religious affiliations that make up today's diverse American population, according to a recently published study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Using data for Congress from Congressional Quarterly, the Pew study shows Catholics to be the single largest religious group, accounting for 30 percent of lawmakers who will take office on Jan. 6.

Protestants, collectively, are broken into more than a dozen denominations, including Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians. They constitute 51.3 percent of the U.S. adult population, compared with 24 percent of all the U.S. population who profess to be Catholic.

The study, entitled “Faith on the Hill,” shows the 111th Congress to be the most diverse in more than half a century and finds that Catholics, Jews, and Mormons are among religious groups better represented in Congress than in the nation as a whole.

Baptists, who account for 17 percent of the American population, make up 12 percent of the new Congress, followed by Jews (8 percent of Congress; 2 percent of the population), Methodists (11 percent of Congress; 6 percent of the population), Presbyterians (8 percent of Congress; 3 percent of the population), Anglicans/Episcopalians (7 percent of Congress; 3 percent of the population), Lutherans (4.5 percent of Congress; 3 percent of the population), Mormons 3 percent of Congress; 2 percent of the population), and Orthodox Christians (1 percent of Congress; 0.6 percent of the population).

Members of the new Congress from religions making up less than 1 percent of the American population will include two Buddhists and two Muslims, but no Hindus or Jehovah's Witnesses, the study shows.

Among congressional leaders, three are Catholics (Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio; and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill.), three are Baptists (House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.), one is Methodist (House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C.), one is Jewish (House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va.), one is Mormon (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.), and one is Presbyterian (Senate Minority Whip Joh Kyl, R-Ariz.)

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