Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat who won a squeaker in the Nov. 6 election for an open U.S. House seat in Arizona, already has gained attention because when she gets sworn into office in early January, she will become the first openly bisexual member of Congress.
Turns out she will notch a second breakthrough.
According to a report released today by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the 36-year-old Sinema will be the first U.S. lawmaker to specify ”none” when asked for a religious affiliation (others before her have simply left blank that question).
The Pew report details other notable faith-related aspects of the next congressional session, including a couple spotlighted previously on Political Capital by our colleague Mark Silva.
Hawaii, already having produced the first black elected — and now re-elected — to the White House (“birthers” and Donald Trump notwithstanding), continues to lead the way in diversifying the nation’s political leadership by sending to Capitol Hill the first Buddhist senator and the first Hindu to serve in either congressional chamber.
The Buddhist is Mazie Hirono, 65, who had been serving in the House. Replacing her in that chamber is the Hindu, Tulsi Gabbard, 31.
Gabbard — like Hirono a Democrat — almost shared her distinction, according to a Pew report footnote. Ami Bera, 47, a Democrat who narrowly unseated Republican incumbent Dan Lungren in a California House race, was raised Hindu but now identifies his faith as Unitarian Universalist. He’ll be the sole member of that group in the next Congress, Pew says.
In terms of representation in the next Congress of America’s predominant religions, Pew finds that “69% of congressional Republicans are Protestant, while fewer than half of Democrats (43%) belong to Protestant denominational families. … Catholics make up a greater share of Democratic members (36%) than they do of GOP members (25%). And while Jews make up 12% of all congressional Democrats (including one independent who generally caucuses with the Democrats, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont), they account for less than 1% of congressional Republicans.”
The exhaustive report can be perused here.