The Spirituality of Congress

January 4, 2007

Author: James L. Evans

Source: Dallas News

We may enjoy some level of separation of church and state in this country, but there hardly exists anywhere a separation of faith from public office. There is spiritual vitality in virtually every branch of government; from President Bush's Methodism all the way to the disciplined Catholicism of Justices Alito, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Roberts, faith and government are linked arm in arm.

This is nowhere more evident than with the 110th Congress, which convenes today. According to a story distributed by Newhouse News Service, this Congress will be one of the most religiously diverse bodies we have ever had.

For instance, for the first time in our history, Congress will include among its ranks a Muslim. Keith Ellison, a newly elected Representative from Minnesota, converted from Catholicism to Islam when he was nineteen years old. Throughout his campaign, his religion, as most readers will recall, was a source of contention that culminated when he announced that he would take his oath of office on the Qur'an rather than the Bible.

The new Congress will also feature two Buddhists: Hank Johnson from Georgia, and Mazie Hirono from Hawaii. And for the first time in our history, Jews will outnumber Episcopalians -- not that either of them can boast overwhelming numbers. Overall among the Jews there are thirty Representatives and thirteen Senators. Compare this to the number of Episcopalians, who have twenty-seven House seats and ten Senators. And with Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachusetts, considering a run for the presidency, it is also interesting to note that ten Representatives and five Senators share his Mormon faith. In fact, Harry Reid of Nevada, the new Democratic majority leader in the Senate, is a Mormon.