The latest edition of the U.S. Congress, the 113th will be much different that the 112th. The previous one was slow in productivity but rich in obstinacy. The new 113th, which convened on Thursday for the first time will be its most diverse in the history of the United States.
The 113th Congress will include its first Buddhist to serve in the U.S. Senate, its first Hindu to serve in either the House or the Senate and the first Congress member to describe her religious beliefs as “none.” This continues the gradual religious diversification that has taken place in Congress just as it has in the country in general.
Congress remains a mostly Protestant group, but the institution is much less Protestant today than 50 years ago. At that time, close to 75% of all members were members of Protestant denominations.
Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, is Congresses first Hindu American and she took her oath of office on one of the holy scriptures of Hinduism, the Bhagavad-Gita.
Mazie Hirono, a Senator from Hawaii is the first Buddhist in the Senate. She is not currently a practicing Buddhist, but she said she certainly believes in its precepts and that of tolerance to all other religions, honesty and integrity.
Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona was raised a Mormon, but no longer identifies with any faith, which makes her the first official “none” in Congress. Although others previous to her declined to describe what their beliefs were, she is the first to mark none.
In 1845, Congress welcomed its first Jewish member, while in 1851 it welcomed its first Mormon. In 1957, Dalip Saund became the first Sikh and thus far the only one to serve as a member of Congress.