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Hindus, Jews gain ground in new US Congress, Christians remain a majority

world Updated: Jan 05, 2017 12:18 IST
US Congress

Swearing in of the 115 US Congress in the chambers of the House of Representatives at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday.(NYT file photo)

Hindus and Jews have gained ground in the new US Congress, even as a latest research suggests that the members of the legislative body remain overwhelmingly Christians despite significant change in the religious demographic profile of the country in less than five decades.

This is for the first time in American history that the Congress has three Hindus members -- Tulsi Gabbard, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Ro Khanna.

After Jews, who have 30 members in the new US Congress, Hindus and Buddhism, each having three members jointly share the third sport in terms of religious ranking of US Congress members, according to Pew Research Center analysis.

Among members of the 115th Congress, 91% describe themselves as Christians.

This is nearly the same percentage as in the 87th Congress (1961 to 1962, the earliest years for which comparable data are available), when 95% of members were Christian, the research said.

Pew said among the 293 Republicans elected to serve in the 115th Congress, all but two identify as Christians; there are two Jewish Republicans -- Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff of Tennessee -- who both serve in the House.

Democrats in Congress also are overwhelmingly Christian (80%), but there is more religious diversity on this side of the aisle, Pew said.

The 242 democrats in Congress include 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, Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona.

In addition, all 10 members of Congress who decline to state their religious affiliation are democrats.

Among the lawmakers who declined to state their religious affiliations include Indian-American Pramila Jayapal who has been for the first time been elected to the House of Representatives. Her mother is a Hindu.

Washington DC-based Hindu American Foundation (HAF), however, believes that Pramila Jayapal is a Hindu.

Hindus who are about one percent of the US population are now 0.6% in the US Congress, Pew said. There are two Muslim lawmakers in the Congress.

“Among non-Christian religious groups, Jews and Hindus had the biggest gains (an increase of two seats each),” Pew said comparing the religious onfiguration of the new Congress with the last one.

“Jews, who make up 2% of the US adult population, hold 30 seats in the new Congress (6%), up from 28 seats in the 114th (5%). However, Jews occupy far fewer seats than they did in the 111th Congress (2009-10), when there were 45 Jewish members of the House and Senate,” it said.