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My Take: 113th Congress looks like old America
November 16th, 2012
12:01 PM ET

My Take: 113th Congress looks like old America

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The 2012 election has been widely hailed as a diversity moment — a coming out party for an American electorate no longer dominated by white men. And it was a triumph as well for religious diversity, thanks especially to Hawaii, which is sending the first Hindu to the House and the first Buddhist to the Senate.

But is this religious change more symbolic than real? In “Faith on the Hill,” a study on religion in the 113th Congress released Friday by the Pew Forum, the story seems to be static rather than change.

For all the talk of the election of 2012 inaugurating a new era in American politics, Protestants will continue to be overrepresented on Capitol Hill, where they will account for 56% of our representatives versus only 48% of American adults.

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Moreover, the religiously unaffiliated will continue to be scandalously underrepresented in the 113th Congress. Though 20% of American adults are “nones,” there is only one “none” (Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema) in the new congressional delegation.

That said, there are striking differences between Democrats and Republicans in the incoming 113th Congress.

The GOP delegation will be 69% Protestant, while Protestants will account for only 43% of the Democrats. Mormons also lean heavily Republican, with three Democrats versus 12 members of the GOP.

Catholics, by contrast, lean Democratic, accounting for 36% congressional Democrats and 25% of congressional Republicans. Moreover, all the Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists in the incoming Congress are Democrats. And all but one of the 32 Jewish members (Virginia Republican Eric Cantor) are, too.

The bottom line? I see two takeaways.

First, this data provides evidence for the now common wisdom that Republicans represent old-fashioned America while Democrats reflect new demographic realities. In the 113th Congress, Republicans will be disproportionately male and disproportionately Protestant. Democrats, by contrast, have a higher portion of women and minority religions.

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Second, this data shows that the much heralded “new America” is still years away. Yes, the Senate will be 20% female, but women are more than 50% of the population. And the U.S. Congress will still be far more Christian (87%) than U.S. adults as a whole (70%).

At least when it comes to religion, the U.S. Congress doesn't yet look like the voters who are sending them to Washington.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Catholic Church • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Judaism • My Take • Politics • Polls • United States

soundoff (1,540 Responses)
  1. Thezel

    "Second, this data shows that the much heralded"... it's "these data". Data is plural. Datum is singular.

    November 16, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  2. Mike Hansen

    Leave religion out of it. That causes enough problems around the world.

    November 16, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      "Religions are much like politicians. Either party is subjected to many varying mobs all coming from the same general masses."-A quote by God's Oldest Dreamer

      November 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  3. woodin59

    I don't care what religion anybody is, I just don't want to hear about and and it certainly has no place deciding law and policy. Pure and simple....separation of church and state.

    November 16, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
  4. TomCom

    I agree, Congress is still 80% old white men hanging on to the past. Minorities and women still have a long ways to go. Blacks have been apart of America since the beginning and when one becomes president you would of thought the lynching crowd was coming out

    November 16, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
  5. LWJR

    Only the Antichrist Network would publish such a ridiculous story. (C)ommunist (N)ews (N)etwork.

    November 16, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  6. Charles Horn

    Every article by this guy is more ridiculous than the last. I'm not a protestant, I'm Catholic, but I don't think anyone cares a bit about this. I feel a protestant can represent me just fine. Perhaps Mr. Prothero should research something that matters.

    November 16, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Tell Mr Prothero to research, John 18:36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world!"

      Would make for an interesting read coming from CNN sources own mouth and not from someone being just a commoner like me. :-(

      November 16, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Correction, Congress shouldn't be religious AT ALL! There is no place in International or Domestic politics for God. If you don't believe me look at Israel.

    November 16, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      The internationalized taking of Palestinian lands after WW2 and giving it to a group of jewish friends all based upon christiandumbs revelations in the Gospels is a travesty of unholy reconoitering. :-(

      November 16, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  8. Thezel

    You're shocked by this? Republicans have always looked backward about the "good Ole Days"; Dems always look to the promise of the future.

    November 16, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
  9. bill

    Bill Maher could not have said it better.

    November 16, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
  10. bill

    just a dumb article.

    November 16, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Thezel

      and yet you read it I presume. what does that make you?

      November 16, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • situationalawareness

      @thezel: I assume you have to read the article to know if it's dumb.

      November 16, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  11. lionlylamb

    My God is inside me keeping my embodiment running soundly. You God inside you is doing the same as other people's Gods are likewise keeping their bodies running ever so right! 1Corinthians 3:9 "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building!"

    November 16, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      My God is inside me keeping my embodiment running soundly. You(r) God inside you is doing the same as other people's Gods are likewise keeping their bodies running ever so right! 1Corinthians 3:9 "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building!"

      November 16, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      It is truth that God has troubles within the fractal paradigms of inter-cellular cosmological 'activists' sometimes revolting against the grains of our embodied sanctifications creating many undulations of travesties not uncommonly viewed by us celestial beings as being viral and bacteriological in the way we understand things to be and become. What was first made can never again become that which was made first for only in varying differential constructs can another thing be made to be outdone against that which was firstly made.

      November 16, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Me God is inside me keepin my embodiment running soundly. Yo God inside you is doin da same as other peeps Gods are likewise keeping them bodies running ever so right! 1Corinthians 3:9 "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's laundry, [ye are] God's building!"

      November 16, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      The Kingdoms of God lay where the inner structures of celestial Life do share in the abundancies of Living Fractals in Inter-Cellular Cosmological Paradigms. As mankinds' continual hunting for the Codifying of Life's laws in Cellularized Confinements continues onwards, many folks will ever become unendingly complacent upon our societal grandeurs for wanting sakes, trying valiantly never to be outdone by those who tend to be in broadest simplifications' adjuring. May we be merciful upon those who deservidely aspire to be merciful toward others.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      It is truth that God has troubles within the fractal paradigms of inter-cellular cosmological wherein 'activists' sometimes revolting against the grains of our embodied sanctifications creating many undulations of travesties not uncommonly viewed by us celestial beings as being viral and bacteriological in the way we understand things to be and become. What was first made can never again become that which was made first for only in varying differential constructs can another thing be made to be outdone against that which was firstly made.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  12. PedroGonzalez

    Its so sad to see writers like Stephen Prothero have such lack of respect and contempt for the great nation his parents and grandparents built.

    November 16, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  13. Jeff

    My God, PLEASE shut the F#$% up for 5 seconds.

    November 16, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  14. Tyler

    Would muslims be better?

    November 16, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  15. RichS

    And the media is overblanced to the left so that we get a slanted view. But no one complains about it, because the left control the media. Perfect truth casts out all fear. But our God is an awesome God as ALL will come to realize some day soon.

    November 16, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  16. truthsetsyoufree

    It's way too Jewish (15% of the Congress though 2% of the pop), but it's only logical since the Jews are superior to others.

    November 16, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • truthsetsyoufree

      And there are millions of dogs in the US, and not one dog in congress!

      November 16, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  17. Jo

    Hawaii is sending DIVERSITY. Rep. Gabbard is Hindu!!! Senator Mazie Herona is Buddhist!!! More to come!!'

    November 16, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
  18. Hal

    Wow....this is a sad article.

    November 16, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  19. Locus

    Religion should have zero place in politics. Period. Politicians should not be asked about it, nor should they volunteer the information.

    November 16, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Clint

      Thank you so much! I'm so sick of hearing about religion and politics. Separation of church and state is a two-way street. Keep politics out of religion and religion out of politics. How hard is that.

      November 16, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  20. Levon's cat

    Burn one for big brother!

    November 16, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.