The Washington Post ran a short story on page A17 Friday about the religious makeup of the 110th Congress that highlighted the record-high number of Jewish lawmakers. Reporter Elizabeth Williamson also mentions the other Congress members within the Judeo-Christian tent, but for the most part she focuses on the high number of Jewish Democrats:
About 2 percent of Americans identify themselves as Jewish. But in Congress, the proportion of Jewish members is now four times that. Six new Jewish House members were sworn in last week, bringing the total to 30. In the Senate, the 13 Jewish members include freshmen Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) and Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), according to the National Jewish Democratic Council.
Other faith-related facts: This Congress includes its first Muslim member and, in Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), its highest-ranking Mormon ever. Catholics remain the largest single faith group in Congress, at about 30 percent -- slightly larger than their proportion of the U.S. population. Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians outnumber Jewish members, who outnumber Episcopalians.
In making its count, the NJDC, which bills itself as the national voice of Jewish Democrats, counted only those lawmakers who identify themselves as Jewish. (So even if he had won, Virginia's George Allen wouldn't have made the cut.)
I know everyone finds it deliciously ironic that George Allen found out amid a heady campaign that his family background was Jewish, but it's not the first time this happened to a politician. A more prominent but less local character for the Post to highlight would be John Kerry.
The article mentions that GOP attempts to court Jewish votes have been to no avail. This is true for many reasons -- much of what Republicans believe goes against what a majority of Jews believe -- but there's also the Republican Party in Texas:
Pollsters say the GOP failed to counter Jewish voters' opposition to Republican stands on issues such as reproductive rights, stem cell research and the Iraq war. And then there's the Republican Party platform in President Bush's home state of Texas, which has declared the United States to be a Christian nation.
The religious politics of Republican Texans is a tip-of-the-iceberg issue when it comes to Jews' hesitancy to vote Republican. There's a much bigger story there, but a party platform declaring the United States to be exclusively Christian is a good place to start.
One of our readers, Jason Pitzl-Waters, noted and linked to this piece pointing out that this Congress has the nation's two first Buddhist members, a detail missing from the Post article. What gives? Hank Johnson and Mazie Hirono deserve at least a mention. The New York Times' Caucus blog mentioned it a few weeks ago amid the Koran hubbub. That's one of the only references I've seen to Hirono and Johnson's religious beliefs.
Why did the Post editors overlook Hirono and Johnson? Perhaps they'll revisit it later in a Style section piece?