CongressReligion_J12

By now, most political followers are aware that the 116th Congress is the most diverse in history. It includes the first Native American women — Sharice Davids, D-Kan., and Debra Haaland, D-N.M. — as well as the first Muslim women — Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.

It also is slightly more religiously diverse than the preceding Congress, according to the Pew Research Center. While it remains highly Christian — 88 percent of lawmakers in the House and Senate identify as Christian — that is 3 percent lower than the 115th Congress. Of that number, 293 — or 54.9 percent — identify as Protestant, and 163 — 30.5 percent — identify as Catholic.

California has the most Catholic members in Congress — 23 — followed by New York with 17 and Pennsylvania with 13.

Strong Pa. Catholic presence

In terms of percentage of Catholics in office, Pennsylvania is second only to Vermont. While two of that state’s three members of Congress — Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch — are Catholic (Sen. Bernie Sanders is Jewish), 13 of Pennsylvania’s 20 U.S. House and Senate members — 65 percent — are Catholic. That’s a slightly higher percentage than Massachusetts. Seven of that state’s 11 members — 64 percent — are Catholic.

Although the general election produced seven new Pennsylvania lawmakers, the percentage of Catholics in the delegation is the same as it was in the preceding Congress.

Citing the history of immigration in Pennsylvania, G. Terry Madonna, director of Franklin & Marshall College’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs, said he is not surprised that Pennsylvania has a large Catholic presence in Congress, “but I am surprised by the concentration.”

Seven of the 11 Pennsylvania lawmakers who won re-election in 2018 are Catholic. They include Democrats Sen. Bob Casey and Reps. Brendan Boyle, Matt Cartwright and Mike Doyle and Republican Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, Tom Marino and Mike Kelly. They were joined by five Catholic newcomers in the House — Democrats Madeleine Dean, Mary Kay Scanlon and Connor Lamb, and Republicans Dan Meuser and John Joyce. Scanlon and Lamb won special elections in 2018 prior to the November general election.

Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who identifies as Catholic, was not up for re-election in 2018.

Non-Catholic lawmakers include Democrats Dwight Evans, Baptist; Susan Wild, Jewish; and Chrissy Houlahan, who refused to to list a religious affiliation, and Republicans Lloyd Smucker, Lutheran, and Scott Perry, Glenn Thompson and Guy Reschenthaler, who were listed as unspecified Protestant.

Eighty members of Congress now list themselves as unspecified/other Protestants.

Baptists comprise the largest Protestant denomination — 72 — followed by Methodists with 42.

All six members of the Utah delegation are Mormon.

Most non-Christian members of Congress are Jewish (34), but Pew notes there also are two Buddhists, three Muslims, three Hindus, two Unitarian Universalists, one unaffiliated member and 18 who declined to specify a religious affiliation.