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Muslim, Buddhist House Representatives to Add to Congressional Diversity

When the 110th Congress convenes for the first time on Thursday, Jan. 4, a more religiously diverse Congress will be getting down to work in Washington.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) will be the first Muslim in Congress. (Ellison will also be the first African-American congressional member to come from Minnesota, though as one article noted, Ellison had said in an interview before the elections, “I haven't put the emphasis on my own personal identity.”) Raised Catholic, Ellison converted to Islam as a 19-year-old college student.

Reps. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Hank Johnson of (D-GA) will be the first Buddhists in Congress. Hirono was raised a Buddhist; Johnson converted about 30 years ago. Also worth noting is the fact that incoming Democratic majority leader Sen. Henry Reid (NV) will be the highest-ranked Mormon in congressional history.

Of all congressional members, roughly 29% identified themselves as Roman Catholic, the highest figure for any denomination. Only six members of Congress, all Democratic House representatives, did not cite a religious affiliation. A full list of the members of the 110th Congress and their religious affiliations, compiled by the group Americans for Religious Liberty, is available for download as a pdf.


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