Congress Is Still Less Religiously Diverse Than the American Public

The incoming 114th Congress is much more Christian than the national population.

Despite deep divides in political ideology, lawmakers in the 114th Congress share other important beliefs with their colleagues in the previous Congress. These beliefs aren't rooted in the tangible, rough-and-tumble world of Capitol Hill, though—they're in the spiritual realm.

When the incoming GOP-controlled Congress is sworn in Tuesday, the ranks will remain overwhelmingly Christian. That's a continued divergence from the American public, which includes more religious minorities, such as Hindus and Buddhists.

According to a Pew survey released Monday, 91.8 percent of the 114th Congress subscribes to varying denominations of Christianity, including Protestantism and Catholicism, compared with 73 percent of American adults who identify as Christian. Lawmakers in the 113th were 90 percent Christian.

Democrats in Congress are marginally more religiously diverse than their GOP counterparts. According to Pew, 81.6 percent of incoming congressional Democrats are Christian, compared with 99.7 percent of Republicans.

Congress is also more Jewish than the American public, albeit by a smaller margin. Five percent of members identify as Jewish, compared with just 2 percent of the general public. And after former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning defeat in his June GOP primary, the Republican caucus has just one Jewish member: Rep. Lee Zeldin, of New York's 1st District. Zeldin, a freshman, also holds the distinction of being congressional Republicans' only non-Christian lawmaker.

Where the new Congress departs from the American people the most, though, is in its unwavering religious piety—or at the very least, affiliation with a specific religion. While Americans are increasingly less religious, with 20 percent saying they aren't affiliated with any particular religion, only one lawmaker—Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who represents just 0.2 percent of Congress—says she doesn't subscribe to any religion.

While political control of Congress has shifted, some things never change.