“In Man We Trust”: non-believers on the rise in Congress

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Considering there are 435 seats in the House and 100 in the Senate, such a small number can seem rather trivial. And in all honesty it is. In fact, since the early 1960s, there has never been more than eight religiously unaffiliated members of Congress. So, no big deal, right? Not necessarily.

While it’s unlikely Congressional caucuses promoting out and out atheism are going to start sprouting up, it’s unsettling to know that after all the time spent debating religious liberty last year that millions of Americans continue to support lawmakers who fail to recognize the importance of religion in their everyday lives.

Then again, perhaps it shouldn’t be all that surprising. According to a Pew study released this past October, one-in-five adults have no religious affiliation at all. And polls indicate that most Americans would be comfortable voting for an atheist for president.

According to Pew’s analysis, “the changes in the religious makeup of Congress during the last half-century mirror broader changes in American society. Congress, like the nation as a whole, has become much less Protestant and more religiously diverse.”

Shockingly, Catholics picked up more seats than any other faith this year by adding seven seats to the 156 they already had in the 112th Congress. Currently, there are 75 Catholics who serve as Democrats in the House and 18 who serve in the Senate. As for Catholic Republicans? 61 are in the House and 9 are in the Senate.

Since 1961, Catholics have gone from 19% of the congressional membership to 30%, even though they comprise only 22% of the adult population. As President Obama is fond of saying, Catholics are “punching above their weight class” when it comes to public office.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org

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About Author

Stephen Kokx is a freelance writer and adjunct professor of political science living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has previously worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Peace and Justice. His writing on religion, politics and Catholic social teaching has appeared in a number of outlets, including Crisis Magazine, The American Thinker and his hometown paper The Grand Rapids Press. He is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars and the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, and is a graduate of Aquinas College and Loyola University Chicago. Follow Stephen on twitter @StephenKokx

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