Christianity: The Unspoken Prerequisite for Politicians

Last November Minnesota elected the first Muslim-American to congress, more specifically the House of Representatives. His name is Keith Ellison. After this historic milestone, he now eyes the Democratic National Chair, a position previously held by Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She resigned after significant controversy and protest from Bernie Sanders’ supporters in the wake of some Wikki leaks that may indicate Wasserman Schultz was favoring and assisting Hillary before she secured the nomination.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

That leaves her position up for grabs, and Ellison thinks he is the man for the job. The Democratic National Chair election will take place next week, and Ellison’s chances are looking good, seeing as Raymond Buckley, the New Hampshire party chair, dropped out of the race on February 18th and threw his support to Ellison. This leaves ten candidates running for the position, including Ellison. Ellison told ABC News last week, “I am the only candidate that supported Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both, and I can unite our party around the core idea that the Democratic Party has to be fighting for working people and all working people.”

Ellison’s chances of winning are looking good, but what is most surprising about this story is that Ellison just last year became the first Muslim-American in congress, and next week may be the first Muslim-American DNC. There are no official requirements for a particular religious belief to be elected to a political office in the United States, and yet despite having a population that is seventeen percent non-Christian, few people of other faiths hold office.

Keith Ellison standing in front Bernie Sanders

President Obama came under massive attack for being Muslim. Despite the fact that these claims are not true, it does offer up the question of why few people of other faiths end up in positions of power in American government. Ellison’s recent election is an excellent step forward in increasing religious diversity and thus diverse religious representation in government. If he is elected as the leader of the Democratic party, this will be yet another milestone for Ellison and the country as a whole. With so much policy in the United States being heavily influenced by Christian religion, it is important to get representation for diverse beliefs in congress in order to better separate church and state.

1.) Why are so few members of Congress, and federal government in general, non-Christians? Should the government be representative of constituents in identity factors?

2.) What does the negative reaction to the false claims about President Obama’s religion tell us about religion and politics in the United States? Is there a true separation of church and state? Can/should there be?

3.) Do you think more religiously diverse people, such as Ellison, will continue to get elected or is he an outlier?

4.) More broadly speaking, why do some Americans seem uncomfortable with the Muslim faith? How can we change this?


Ebbs, Stephanie, and MaryAlice Parks. “Race to head DNC tightens as New Hampshire state chair drops out.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 18 Feb. 2017. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.

Langer, Gary. “Poll: Most Americans Say They’re Christian.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 18 July 1970. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.

Lee, MJ. “First Muslim elected to Congress eyes run at DNC chairmanship.” CNN. Cable News Network, 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.

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