Magazine article The Christian Century

New Congress Religiously Diverse, Less Protestant

Magazine article The Christian Century

New Congress Religiously Diverse, Less Protestant

Article excerpt

THREE BUDDHISTS, a Hindu and a "none" will walk into the 113th Congress, and it's no joke. Rather, it's a series of firsts that reflect the growing religious diversity of the country.

When the new Congress is sworn in next month, Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran, will represent the state's Second Congressional District and become the first Hindu in either chamber on Capitol Hill.

The 31-year-old Gabbard was born in American Samoa to a Catholic father and a Hindu mother and moved to Hawaii as a child. She follows the Vaishnava branch of Hinduism, which venerates the deity Lord Vishnu and his primary incarnations.

Gabbard takes over the seat held by Rep. Mazie K. Hirono, who won a Senate race on November 6 and will become the first Buddhist to sit in the upper chamber. There were already two other Buddhists in the House of Representatives, both of whom won reelection: Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a fellow Hawaii Democrat, and Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat.

An analysis of the incoming Congress by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life also notes that Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat who narrowly won a seat in the House, is the first member of Congress to publicly describe her religion as "none"--the popular name of a fast-growing category of Americans who say they have no particular religious affiliation.

After Sinema's win was heralded by nontheist groups, her campaign said she considers herself not an atheist but a secularist.

The Pew Forum--which based its congressional analysis on data collected by CQ Roll Call--says that about one in five U. …

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