Sunday, February 10, 2013

In God We Vote

In order to be elected to United States Congress, it is still necessary to affiliate oneself with one of the major publicly accepted religions.

Religious composition of the 113th Congress.
Our current crop of Representatives and Senators are still largely Protestant and Catholic with only a small 13% representing all other religions.

A full 97% of elected members self identify within the Judeo-Christian paradigm.

Although specifically ruled out in the U.S. Constitution as a requirement for any appointed or elected office, declaring a faith of some kind is widely known to be a litmus test for elect-ability by individual voters.

In early January of this year The Pew Forum On Religion & Public Life released its latest survey results of congressional members religious identifications.

This years batch, the 113th Congress, had three unique people one each declaring for the first time to be a Buddhist, Hindu and None.

Detail of protestant sects within Congress.
Protestants Highly Divided

Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopal and Methodists still make up the largest group of protestants in both houses.

Many smaller protestant groups such as Adventists, Pentecostals, Quakers, and Christian Scientists have a member or two each compromising the "other" group.  A significant number of Senate and House members refused to define which branch of protestants they belong to and remained "unspecified".

Party Affiliation Important

When comparing Democrats and Republicans religious affiliation, there is a startling difference in their composition.

Republicans proclaim themselves to be over two-thirds Protestant while many more Democrats identify as Jewish or Catholic.  Further those who do not identify as one of the large Judeo-Christian denominations fall almost exclusively in the Democratic party.

Long Term Trends

Using historical data from similar Congressional surveys, a long term trend away from Protestant faiths toward Catholic and Jewish adherents is small and slow, but clear.

The presidential election of 1961 was when the United States elected its first non-Protestant President in the Catholic John F. Kennedy.  Mitt Romney also may be a bell-weather for the small rise of the Mormon faith in U.S. public life, although their impact is still small in comparison to other major faiths.

For a detailed break-down on the religious affiliation of each member of Congress, The Pew Forum as a PDF file available for download  here.


  1. Can I comment with a question? Do you think it helps,or hinders their job performance? Great article.

    1. Great question. Wish I knew the answer.
      My best guess is that a non-small percentage of candidates associate themselves with a religious group as a means to appeal to voters. They are marginally dishonest about their doubt, struggles with faith, or even lack of belief.

      This can skews the congressional members viewpoint of their electorate. It also skews the the voters viewpoint of the candidate. Further it is a part of a habit of dishonesty in communication between voters and their representatives.

      I would hope we as voters would be more focused on specific values stated by a candidate rather than using the shortcut of "I'm a Christian" as a decision factor for selecting our government. Of course this doesn't always happen, but it happens way to frequently I fear.

  2. I don't understand what religion has to do with being an honest trustworthy person who runs a country.